It looks like the iRobot Roomba is going to have some more competition. A company named Neato Robotics has introduced their own robot, named the XV-11, due out in January 2010 (estimated price is US $399). The XV-11 robot vacuum resembles a Roomba in that it is short, but instead of being round, it has two square corners in the front of the robot. Neato explains that these make the robot more able to vacuum into corners.
While that’s the most obvious difference, it looks like there are others worth noting. The XV11 users lasers and a mapping technology known as SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) to create a map of any room before it starts to vacuum. The vacuum will start by circling the perimeter of a room to create a map. Large rooms are broken up into fifteen foot square areas. A laser on the top of the robot is used to identify walls, furniture, and doorways. Then the robot vacuum concentrates on path finding and obstacle avoidance. Once the initial map is made, the robot will start at one end of the room and methodically go back and forth across the room like it’s swimming laps to cover all the space. This is in contrast to the iRobot Roomba, which uses a few different “behavioral” algorithms to cover all the floorspace in a room, and which works in a more chaotic manner.
Unlike the Roomba vacuums, which use virtual walls and lighthouses to control how the robots go from room to room, the Neato can distinguish doorways. So you can set it in “Room Mode” and it will stay in one room. If you want it to clean the whole house, you set it to “House Mode” and it will go from room to room. The vacuum is designed to clean each room completely before moving on to the next.
Like a Roomba, the Neato XV11 can locate its charger and automatically charge. Some other features it shares with Roombas are: cliff detection, scheduling, a removable bin, and variable floor vacuuming. So it can vacuum linoleum, carpet, etc. The Neato robot is much more loud than the Roombas, which the company explains is due to the fact that the vacuum has more suction. The Neato vacuum also has a LCD display so you can see its status. Battery life is estimated at an hour.