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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 ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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