iRobot Roomba 960 Is a More Affordable VSLAM Vacuum

The latest robot vacuum from iRobot is $200 cheaper, without sacrificing the features you care about

2 min read
iRobot Roomba 960
Photo: iRobot

Last week, iRobot quietly launched the Roomba 960, a new addition to the flagship 900 series of robot vacuums. The 960 doesn’t offer anything new at all in terms of technology. In fact, it’s a minor downgrade from the top of the line Roomba 980 that we reviewed back in December. But we’re fine with that, because it’s US $200 cheaper.

To be clear, the 900 series is still a premium Roomba for people who want Wi-Fi connectivity, an app, and VSLAM (visual simultaneous localization and mapping), which lets the vacuum keep track of where it is and clean in nice straight lines. If you just want clean floors without paying so much, the 500 series is (still) totally decent, and you can find refurbished units for less than $400 bucks. Having said that, we did like the 980 very much, and here’s what you have to sacrifice if you go with the 960 instead:

  • You won’t get the enormous battery, meaning that you’ll get only 75 minutes of runtime instead of 2 hours. But that’s okay, because the robot will return to its base to recharge when necessary and then finish its cleaning job. This might be annoying if you’re running the robot while you’re home, but if you run it while away (using the scheduler or app), you won’t even notice.
  • You won’t get the more powerful vacuum motor, meaning that you’re getting a Gen 2 motor instead of a Gen 3 motor. But that’s okay, because you’re getting a vacuum motor that’s been working quite well, thank you very much, in generations of Roombas well before the 900 series. I’m sure the 980’s Gen 3 motor makes it more effective on paper, but in practice, I’m really not sure how much you’d notice on a day-to-day basis, especially if you run your robot relatively frequently. 
  • You won’t get to pay $900 and you’ll pay $700 instead, meaning that you’re saving $200 on a 900-series Roomba with VSLAM and Wi-Fi that’s very nearly as good as the 980. And that’s definitely okay.

iRobot Roomba 960Photo: iRobot

At $700, the Roomba 960 is going head-to-head with Neato’s own top-of-the line BotVac Connected, which we also like and also maps rooms and responds remotely to an app. To be honest, though, we’re hoping that the next year will result in both of these companies coming out with new software that leverages the connectivity and mapping features to get these vacuums doing some very clever things.

The iRobot Roomba 960 is available now at your local robot emporium, and online.

[ iRobot Roomba 960 ]

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

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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