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iRobot Introduces New Looj, Updated Roombas

Need to clean your gutters and your floors? iRobot's got your back with some new 'bots

3 min read
iRobot Introduces New Looj, Updated Roombas

Just in time for the gutter cleaning season (that's a season, right?), iRobot has come out with an updated version of their gutter cleaning robot, the Looj. The Looj 3 is designed to keep you from having to do dull and dirty work, and in best iRobot fashion, it's also designed to take over something dangerous, making it less likely that you'll fall off a ladder and kill yourself.

The new Looj is smaller, more adaptable, and more capable. The handle is a brand new design that's a lot easier to, uh, handle, and it works with an included belt hook to let you carry the Looj up a ladder while keeping two hands for yourself. There a new lithium-ion battery that's lighter and more powerful. Interchangeable nose attachments makes the robot better at cleaning. There's even a very deliberate new color scheme, where all the orange bits are places that you interact with the robot in some way. Clever.

What might be the biggest upgrade is that instead of having to drive Looj up and down your gutters manually, there's now an autonomous "clean" mode, that uses motor feedback to decide whether to move forward or backward and how fast to go.

We can definitely appreciate how well thought out the Looj is, and it's great that iRobot continues to make updates based on feedback from their customers. Looj might be a bit of a tough sell for a lot of people at $300, but if you have gutters and trees and a tendency towards clumsiness, this robot could save you from getting dirty and wet and (eventually) ending up in the hospital.

Also new: the Roomba 600 series!

Roomba 630

First, if the Roomba 600 series sounds a little bit familiar, that's because iRobot had a 610 a while back that was a sort of "professional" version of the 500 series with all the trimmings plus a fancy faceplate for over $600. This new 600 series is, as far as I can tell, not related to the 610 at all, although in an attempt to not completely confuse everything, there's no new 610, just a 630 and a 650 and (maybe) a 660, which share many features with the 610 (the old 610) as well as some of both the older 500 series and the also older but not quite as old 700 series. Glad we got that all straightened out!

Seriously though, the 600 series is the replacement for the 500 series, and you'll notice that (unlike the fancy 700 series) the design of the 600s is very similar to the 500s. As such, we don't even really have to do a blow-by-blow feature comparison: just think of the 600s as the new 500s and try not to get too confused by all the numbering shenanigans. You're getting basically the same robot with basically the same incremental feature upgrades, with the 630 acting as the base model at the moment, and the 650 adding the on-board scheduling feature.

We're still having a little bit of a hard time recommending that you go out and buy any of these new Roombas, though. As much as we love it when iRobot comes out with new stuff, it's possible to find refurbished 560s for about $250 online without looking very hard, and as far as we can tell you'll be getting almost exactly the same feature set as the 650 minus the new styling but plus Lighthouses for multi-room cleaning (which are otherwise only available in the higher-end 700s). The 560 may have brushes and bins from one generation earlier, and slightly outdated firmware, but unless you're running a well-carpeted zoo like I am, you probably won't notice. It'll still clean very, very well.

From the look of the iRobot website, the company is trying to consolidate and simplify the Roomba family (a good idea), with just five models currently available (there doesn't seem to be a 660 at the moment). These are great robots, and we're big Roomba fans, but again, the problem is that iRobot has done too good of a job with the older models and in our opinion, these newer ones don't offer enough new features to justify getting one over a decent 500 series if you can find one for cheap. If not, the 630 is a reasonably good deal at $330, as long as you don't need the scheduling offered by the 650.

[ iRobot Roomba 600 series ]

[ iRobot Looj 330 ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page
Blue

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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