Does iRobot’s Roomba Learn Your House Floor Plan?

I’ve been working from home for quite some time now, and it’s hard to focus on work when there are household chores to be done. So I got myself a little Roomba to take care of vacuuming the floor.

I marveled at my cute little robot and its efficiency and watched it effortlessly glide over the floor, confident in its straight-line paths.

Using the Mapping Feature, I’d managed to get it to learn my home very well, to the point that I knew where all the sharp drops were, to avoid falling. Being a tech enthusiast, I was pretty excited about this technology.

However, once the excitement wore off, I realized that the Roomba essentially knew my house plan, and I wondered whether or not this was a good idea long-term, so I decided to do some research.

I read through whatever I could find, from its user manual to online documentation, to articles detailing its features, as well as user forums, where like-minded Roomba owners sharing similar concerns voiced them on a public platform. 

An iRobot Roomba uses its various emitters and sensors, ranging from Infrared to LIDAR, to create a digital map and learn your house. iRobot stores this data in the cloud, and at the moment, does not sell the data they’ve collected to third parties. 

I’ve gone into detail about various other aspects, explaining the various mapping protocols, hazard recognition features, and some privacy concerns.

Does Roomba Learn Your Floor Plan?

Roomba being a smart assistive device, is capable of mapping your floor plan as it needs to avoid bumping into other furniture and appliances while it is at its work.

This feature was introduced in the newer generation of iRobot Roomba Robot Vacuum cleaners, starting with the Roomba 980.

The Roomba 980 and the models that follow are indeed capable of intelligent navigation, localization, and mapping along with wireless integration.

This is made possible thanks to vSLAM or Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping, enabling the robot to vacuum larger spaces in an efficient and satisfying motion pattern.

One primitive system utilized in the older units is a simple collection of collision wheels, brushes, and cliff sensors that tell the robot when they hit something (perhaps something set up in the room).

However, it had its own downsides as they operate in their own random fashion, with incomplete floor coverage and inefficiency in terms of time taken.

The vSLAM is a more optimized system where it can locate and identify landmarks on the ceiling and can judge the distance between walls.

It can also confirm the vacuum’s relative position in the room in real-time and create maps as they clean.

These robots are more systematic than their predecessors that rely on the simple random motion.

The drawbacks, however, are that they require a bit of ambient lighting as their sensors are mostly nothing more than cameras or visual sensors, which will make them go blind without light.

However, there is an additional method of mapping that, when teamed up with vSLAM, is exceptionally accurate and grants the user to tamper their detailed maps of the floor to set up virtual boundaries within the map or create restricted sections that the robot will avoid at all costs.

This method, namely  LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), is used by High-End Eco Roombas.

This sophisticated system uses lasers to illuminate objects and determine their location and distance.

They can also detect the size and shape of the object before them with active scans and thus cover every nook and corner of the floor with extreme efficiency.

They are used in conjunction with SLAM algorithms.

IR Receivers

The use of IR or Infra-Red bouncers is the exclusive feature of such robots, and they are known to be used in IR bouncing, which after being received back, decides the room space, size, and the time expectancy to tidy up the room.

However, as with the case in the newer models, it’s been replaced with lasers, the method being LIDAR.

Floor Plan Mapping

As I mentioned before, the two technologies, LIDAR and vSLAM, available on the latest models, make it possible for the vacuum bot to map the room efficiently and add the functionality to set up physical boundaries and restricted zones through the Android or iOS application.

It is only understandable why the newer generation of robots are able to get the job done in a lesser time (around 20% of the expected time) given their mapping functionality which enables it to have a mental map or the layout of the house with IRs and LIDAR constantly updating the changes made to it if any.

However, these changes to the layout are put in place after approval from your end.

They also stop cleaning when the battery drops under 20% and immediately prepare themselves for docking to make sure that the charging cycle is maintained for the Li-ion battery to be in good health.

Hazard Recognition

This particular feature is what I consider imperative but only available to the latest in line, such as the iRobot Roomba j7+, the s9, and the “+” series.

It’s to make sure that it avoids what it should and shouldn’t in the case of dust or debris. A good example of this would be an earpod or coins that have a tendency to clutter its roller or vacuum chamber that might hinder its function or even lead to a malfunction.

For you to trust your bot to clean up the mess the right way while you are away or not noticing, they have introduced the Pet Owner Official Promise to make sure that it avoids running into surprises from your furry little friends.

The company has also promised and has even gone to great lengths to state, “they’ll replace your vacuum with a new one” in the case of an unfortunate incident due to the said accounts.

How to Set the Mapping Run on an iRobot Roomba

It’s a good idea to shine up your room before sending in your Roomba robot out on a mapping mission.

Anything that might hinder its mapping processes, such as tangled earphones, shoes, or anything you tend to reposition and move around a lot, should stay out of the way.

Also, it’s suggested that you put away any obstacles that might prevent it from accessing a certain area and make sure to keep doors to all potential areas you want the robot to access in the future open.

If you have got a larger home, it’s suggested that you train your Roomba on a single run rather than multiple cleaning runs.

Your Roomba, however, can’t go as far as its battery life will soon get exhausted with the cleaning and mapping down together.

So it’s suggested to do the mapping alone in that case.

In the case of a smaller house or if you want to map a single room or two small rooms, your Roomba will be quick on this matter and get both cleaning and mapping done in one charge cycle.

It’s up to you to decide how you want it after you map out your own home first and determine the method of your choice.

How to Use the Smart Map Feature on an iRobot Roomba

Smart Map is a feature where it gives the superuser the ability to clean specific rooms of your house after your entire house has been mapped.

You can label which areas you want your Roomba to clean, and it’ll get to work for you.

This particular feature is ideal if you have pets and you don’t want to deal with the trouble of pet hair tangling up the rotary brushes. It also traps almost all cat and dog dander allergens.

Below are the steps to set up your Smart Map:

Step 1: Connect to your Roomba with the iRobot Home app.

Step 2: If you already have your entire house mapped, we can move ahead, and if not, click on the “Map” icon and click on “Start Mapping Run“.

This will enable your Roomba to map your entire house and get trained on its layout.

It might take up to 75 to 80 minutes as per your house’s square footage, and then it’ll return to its dock.

Step 3: Let the Roomba Charge if it was made to map the room.

You’ll also find that the map is saved to the server cloud. (It might need a second or even a third training run based on the model) 

It will mention the same as a notification once it has completely mapped your house.

Step 3: Now select the map, and you’ll find the customization section that will allow you to tag each room of your house by naming them and enabling you to add dividers to each room

Drag divider lines to divide each room from the rest and name/label them individually.

Step 4: Save your customization progress, and now as per your convenience, you’ll be able to select rooms to clean and even set up timers for each room to be cleaned sequentially at different hours.

How Long Does it Take an iRobot Roomba to Learn your House Plan?

Depending on the model and its mapping mechanism, each Roomba has its own set specific time period and, as mentioned, will notify you of its completion once it’s done with the learning process.

Some models will require as much as 3-4 mapping sessions of 75-80 minutes each (based on the house’s square footage) to get it made into a mental map for the Smart map feature to be enabled and collision-free cleaning.

Does iRobot Store your House Plan Data, and does it share your House Plan with others?

Your iRobot Roomba may be vacuuming more than you think as Higher-end Roombas do map your house plan for efficiency reasons, as mentioned before, and it also has a passive feature of storing it on the cloud, which might translate as red flags for some customers of the brand who have severe privacy concerns.

This particular prospect stirred some alarm when iRobot’s chief executive, Colin Angle, said a deal could come up in the upcoming years.

But iRobot disputed that account, saying in a statement in 2017: “We have not formed any plans to sell data.” and stated it as a misunderstanding, saying Mr. Angle was hoping to share the maps free with customer consent, not sell them.

This, however, made the customers realize that this data could open up a new frontier of privacy concerns as companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon could use this as fuel for their product category recommendations based on what the owner owns at his house.

There is also the possibility of revealing to the companies an idea of the individual’s financial state based on their furniture, appliances, and house layout.

Final Thoughts on iRobot Learning your House

The very idea of a robot enabling us to live our lives to the fullest while it takes care of our household chores makes me reflect on how far we have come in technology and the possibilities ahead of us.

Regardless of what model Roomba you own or are willing to purchase, it’ll do its part in making your life easier and reducing your stress levels.

Uncanny levels of automation and mapping have made our lives easier and more efficient than it was in the days of the past.

While iRobot does not currently share your data with third parties, data breaches are a regular occurrence in today’s world, where our data is the most valuable commodity.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does Roomba decide to stop?

Roomba uses infrared sensors to figure out where dirt is located, so when there’s none left, it goes home to dock. Additionally, it maps the rooms in your home. Resultantly, it knows where it can look for the dirt.

However, the latest Roombas, which function on the vSLAM algorithm or LIDAR method, are known for their precision and make their movements orderly, covering the entire room.

This eliminates the need to reroute its movement at any point in time and stops only when the need for recharging arises.

Can I pick up Roomba and move it?

Yes, you can pick up and move the Roomba. However, it should be made sure to keep the Home base in the same space as the Romba.

It’s also suggested to wait till the cleaning cycle has ended.

You’ll find out how much time it’ll take for the Roomba to reach the end of its cleaning cycle by using the Roomba or its Home base app.

If you have to pick up your Roomba while it’s in the middle of a cleaning cycle, you should pause the cycle. 

To pause the Roomba at any moment, follow the below:

  1. Press ‘Clean’ on the Roomba’s Home Base or iRobot app. 
  2. After pausing it, pick it up and relocate it.
  3. Press ‘Clean’ again. 

Pausing your Roomba in the case of an emergency will prevent it from getting damaged and will enable the system to find the optimal cleaning route and reroute accordingly.

How long does a Roomba last?

The battery being the heart of any machine and the component most subjected to degradation, which is the same case as in a Roomba, it’s estimated to last for approximately 400 charging cycles.

However, most statistics state that with optimal functioning and maintenance, it’ll last between 2-3 years.

Routinely Cleaning the brushes once a month changing batteries as it is depleted every year will extend your Roomba’s lifetime and allow it to work more efficiently.

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