Neato Introduces New Robot Vacuums, Adds Zone Cleaning to D7

Persistent maps enable another useful feature for Neato's flagship Botvac D7

2 min read
Neato Introduces New Robot Vacuums, Adds Zone Cleaning to D7
Photo: Neato

At IFA in Berlin this week, Neato Robotics is, as we speak, making a bunch of announcements that promise to make the lives of people who like clean floors just a little bit better. In addition to a pair of new(ish) and more affordable(ish) Botvac models, Neato's ultrafancy D7 Connected is getting a new feature that allows it to clean specific zones that you specify, meaning that "Robot, go clean the kitchen" is now something that works.

Neato D4

We've comprehensively reviewed the technology underlying Neato's Botvac Connected series, and the new models that Neato is introducing offer a more affordable way to take advantage of Neato's laser-based mapping tech. The Botvac D4 Connected is US $500, and for $700, the D6 Connected adds a side brush, turbo mode, and a more filter-y air filter for people with pets that are going bald. Honestly, most people will probably be perfectly fine with the D4, especially since Neato is updating these lower end models with most of the same clever software (including, so far, no-go lines and plans for multiple floors) that first appears on the D7.

Usually, the new hardware is the exciting thing, but not today! Barely a month ago, Neato introduced the first D7 software update based on persistent maps: custom no-go lines that you can draw on a map of your place that tell the robot where not to go. Neato is now announcing the inverse of that: "Zone Cleaning," where you can tell the robot to clean only specific areas:


Today, Botvac D7 Connected is also evolving, with the introduction of Zone Cleaning. With Zone Cleaning, you can now target those trouble areas in your home more frequently. Make a zone for the dinner table, and take care of all those crumbs that fall to the floor. You can create your zones on the Neato app, with a few swipes. Then select that zone when you want it cleaned, giving more freedom and control over how you clean your home. The Neato Zone Cleaning feature will be available this Fall for new and existing Botvac D7 Connected owners.

It's nice of Neato to keep on introducing these useful features for free, and extra nice of them to gradually trickle those features down to its other vacuums—if you have an older Botvac D3 or D5 Connected, you'll get a software update this fall as well. As we've said before, it's features like these that are going to make home mapping worth paying a premium for when it comes to robot vacuums, and this is just the start of what's possible.

The Neato Botvac D4 and D6 are available online as of today, and you'll start seeing them in stores next month. 

[ Neato Robotics ]

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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