CNET Smart Home CNET Smart Home 24 Electrolux iRobot Neato Robots Inside our test room are objects and challenges designed to mimic what a robot will encounter as it cleans a room. That includes constructs designed to mimic large furniture like sofas or dressers, smaller objects like lamps or table and chair legs, and even surface irregularities like carpets, transitions between flooring and electrical cords. A camera mounted above captures a bird’s-eye view of all the action. From there we can figure out the path each vacuum takes during its cleaning cycle. This system also allows us to calculate how much of the floor a machine actually covers, and the time it takes to do it. 15 Photos Aug 31 • Best smart light bulbs for 2019 (plus switches, light strips, accessories and more) reading • Your Roomba takes a weird path to clean the floors in your home. Here’s why it matters See All Preview • Electrolux’s robot vac scans objects to map its path See it Aug 30 • iRobot Roomba S9 Plus vs. Neato Botvac D7 Connected Pure i9 Vacuum Cleaners Aug 30 • Battling bot vacs: iRobot Roomba S9+ vs Neato Botvac D7 Connected Electrolux Pure i9 The way a robot vacuum travels around the room as it cleans really matters. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET Any robot vacuum cleaner will remove at least some dirt from your floors. How much ground it covers, though, and its behavior moving through rooms will vary a great deal from model to model. The most important factor behind this is a robot’s navigation system. Its navigation technology, together with software, determines a vacuum’s actions. That plays a massive role in how well a given robot cleans a space, or even hunt for garden weeds. As you might expect, some robot vacuums perform the task better than others. Read more: How to prep your house so your robot vacuum won’t get stuck.Fortunately, our brand-new robot vacuum testing room at our warehouse lab in Louisville, Kentucky, can help us show the differences between robot vacuums, including how well they perceive, interact and otherwise move around in a physical space. To break in our new test room, we ran nine current robot vacuum models across its floor. Tyler Lizenby/CNET Robot navigation on a budget There are three main types of systems robot vacuum cleaners typically use to navigate a space. The first is a simple collection of collision, wheel, brush and cliff sensors. They tell robots when they hit or are about to hit objects. With that information, they can slow down or change course altogether. Additionally these sensors help vacuums avoid falls down flights of stairs. You tend to find these systems in budget robot vacuums. The upside is they cost a lot less than more complex machines. The $349 SharkNinja Ion S87 and $199 Eufy Robovac 11S are examples of products with this style of navigation. Basic robot vacuums equipped with collision and proximity sensors, like the Eufy RoboVac 11S Max here, bounce around obstacles to find their way, but miss a lot of open floor space. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET The downside is that they operate in a random fashion, bumping into things and veering willy-nilly around the room. The very first iRobot Roombas did the same. Sadly that results in incomplete floor coverage. Spots in tight places (corners, table and chair legs) get lots of repeat attention. Open areas, however, are likely vacuumed once (or perhaps not at all) since the robot travels in a straight line until it detects something in its path. This image is designed to show the actual area the robot covered for cleaning. As you can tell, the Ecovacs Deebot 500 was very inconsistent. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET These machines take a long time to run too, roughly three times as long as the most advanced robot vacuums need to attack the same area. Sure, long clean times won’t matter much if you tend to vacuum when nobody’s home, and have all day to do it. When company is due to arrive in 45 minutes, or other time-limited situations, that’s a problem. Visual or optical navigation Other robot vacuums combine the basic array of collision sensors with a main visual sensor that’s augmented by a lens. These vacuums use a navigation algorithm called VSLAM (or visual simultaneous location and mapping). The optical system can identify landmarks on the ceiling, as well as judge the distance between walls. The iRobot Roomba i7+ shows a more logical, thorough navigation path thanks to its optical technology. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET VSLAM also calculates the vacuum’s relative position in a room in real time, letting the bot create a map as it cleans. Robot vacuums that operate this way navigate a room with greater efficiency, systematically cleaning the floor in a logical pattern. They won’t waste time vacuuming areas of a room the robot knows it has already travelled over. As a result, they can cover the same area in a shorter time, and with better coverage than a robot based only on physical sensors. iRobot’s current line of Roombas, such as the $1,099 i7+ and $1,299 S9+, have this kind of navigation system. The same is true of higher-end Ecovac models like the $499 Deebot 711. That optical navigation translates to much more thorough coverage across our test room floor. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET Visually driven robot vacuums have a few drawbacks. Since their optical sensors need at least some amount of ambient light present, they have trouble finding their way in completely dark rooms. Compared with basic models, you’ll pay extra for these more intelligent robots too. Laser navigation Another way robot vacuums can sense their environment is with lidar (light detection and ranging). It’s the same sort of technology you’ll find in many self-driving car prototypes such as those from Waymo and Uber. All Neato Botvacs use this method, including the $829 Botvac D7 Connected, the company’s current flagship model. Here’s a view of the Neato Botvac D6 Connected using its laser LIDAR SLAM system in our test room. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET Top-tier Ecovac Deebots like the $549 Ozmo 930 have built-in lidar too. In this sophisticated system, a turret-based laser mounted on the top of the robot vacuum illuminates objects to help the robot figure out their location and distance. Vacuums equipped with lidar can also detect the size and shape of things in their path. Guided by lidar, the navigation pattern of Neato’s Botvac D6 was very systematic, optimizing its pathing to get the job done completely, and in a short amount of time. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET They actively scan their surroundings too. That’s why these machines tend to cover floors with extreme efficiency For instance, both the Neato Botvac D7 and Botvac D6 cleaned our test room floor in just under 21 minutes. The $349 SharkNinja Ion S87, with its basic navigation, spent 1 hour and 9 minutes cleaning the floor of our test room. Likewise, two budget Ecovacs machines, the $279 Deebot 500 and $249 Deebot 600, both had cleaning times of over 1 hour (60 and 64 minutes respectively). The longest though was the $199 Eufy RoboVac 11S Max (100 minutes, 34 seconds), also the cheapest model in this group. Even with a pathing plan that looks sparse, the Neato Botvac D6 managed to cover essentially the entire test room floor. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET Shorter runtime isn’t the only benefit to lidar. Paired with the SLAM (or simultaneous location and mapping) algorithm, these robots also create detailed maps on the fly. You can perform useful interactions with those maps too. For instance, you can drop virtual boundaries within them, or make restricted zones at will for the robot to avoid. These vacuums also navigate in the dark if necessary. All that is great. Just remember you’ll pay a premium for these machines. They typically occupy the ultra-high-end rung of the market. Hybrid systems A new approach a few robot vacuums take is to combine multiple navigate technology into one system. That includes brush, cliff, wheel and optical sensors, as well as laser emitters. There aren’t that many products that do this at the moment. One you can buy today is the $499 Electrolux Pure i9. This unique robot vacuum is equipped with a pair of front-firing lasers. Sitting in the middle of them, on the vacuum’s front face, is also a big optical sensor behind a lens. The Electrolux Pure i9, using a hybrid navigation and sensor system, definitely missed areas of our test room floor. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET Even with all that tech, the Pure i9’s movement through our test room appeared confused. It didn’t roll along confidently like the Neato and Roomba machines. Instead it muddled through it in fits and starts, constantly pivoting in different directions. The Electrolux Pure i9 uses a hybrid optical and laser navigation system. Even so, it often looked confused rolling across our test room floor. Brian Bennett/CNET With so many tools, as well as enhanced software and processing power, robots with hybrid navigation have the potential to offer unheard of levels of automation and intelligence. I think the upcoming Ecovacs Deebot 960 looks especially promising. Ecovacs says the vacuum will be able to actually identify objects like shoes, clothing and piles of toys. Robot vacuums with hybrid sensor systems have promise. The Electrolux Pure i9 is one, but it didn’t cover our test room floor as well as other machines. Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET And the company says the robot’s AI-based recognition will learn new objects over time. Perhaps that list will include pet messes and other wet, goopy or sticky debris. That would be a welcome update, potentially saving your flooring and your carpet from becoming even messier than before the robot vacuum started cleaning. A note on our new robot vacuum testing room We’ve conducted straight-line, cleaning performance-based tests for robot vacuums in the past, but that really only tells part of the picture about how well a robot vacuum will clean your home. How well it can navigate a space, how much area it actually covers and how long it takes are all important factors, too. To help us capture that information, we built an industry-standard testing room, as specified by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the international standards body that, among other things, governs robot vacuum testing methods for manufacturers. Look for more robot vacuum testing from us in the near future. For now, we can at least say conclusively that not all robot vacuums are the same, and the way a bot navigates around a room will impact not only its cleaning performance, but also how long it takes to get the job done. $499 Aug 31 • Alexa can tell you if someone breaks into your house Share your voice See It 3:43 Mentioned Above Electrolux Pure i9 Lasers, sensors and robots, oh my: Some robot vacuums… CNET may get a commission from retail offers. $614 Some robot vacuums have a better sense of direction than others Tags Now playing: Watch this: Comments •
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shake hands with Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir in Riyadh. Photo: ReutersWashington’s new chief diplomat was to meet Saudi and Israeli leaders on Sunday to rally coordinated opposition to Tehran and brief them on President Donald Trump’s threat to end the Iran nuclear deal.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Riyadh on Saturday shortly after Tehran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen fired missiles across the kingdom’s border.US officials travelling with Pompeo told reporters the Huthi missiles had been supplied by Iran, and cited the attacks as evidence that regional powers should work together.Pompeo had dinner with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and on Sunday he was due to meet his father king Salman.Then he was due to fly on to Jerusalem to meet Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then on to Amman in Jordan, wrapping up a weekend of talks with some of Iran’s most fervent foes in the region.Trump is due to decide on 12 May whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, putting in peril the landmark 2015 nuclear accord, which most world powers see as key to preventing Tehran from getting the bomb.But Trump and America’s Middle East allies argue the deal, approved by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, was too weak and needs to be replaced with a more permanent arrangement and supplemented by controls on Iran’s missile program.Pompeo set off on his first diplomatic trip within two hours of being sworn in on Thursday and on Friday—after talks with the NATO allies in Brussels—he appeared to suggest that Trump plans to nix the deal.“Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May,” Pompeo told reporters in at NATO headquarters.Perhaps the last chance to fix these supposed shortcomings came from talks between Washington and its European allies Britain, France and Germany on a supplemental agreement to sanction Iran’s missile program.But both President Emmanuel Macron of France and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel left Washington this week after talks with Trump having failed to secure any promise that he might keep the core deal alive.Air strikesThat may be music to the ears of the Saudi and Israeli leaders, who both support a tougher line on Iran.“This administration has made it a priority to address Iran’s missile programs,” a senior US official told reporters in Riyadh, condemning the latest Huthi volley of missiles, themselves in part a response to Saudi air strikes.“Iran supplies the missiles that the Huthis fire into Saudi Arabia, threatening civilians,” he said. “Today alone the Saudis shot down four Huthi missiles, the latest in a string of such attacks.”Earlier, a civil defense official had said that at least one Saudi had been killed by falling shrapnel as his government’s air defense batteries attempted to intercept the missiles near the Yemen border.A Saudi-led coalition air strike overnight Friday to Saturday killed dozens of Yemeni rebels including two commanders, state media said.Prince Salman and his father will welcome US solidarity against Iran—just as Israel will want to see greater US support for its efforts against Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon—but Pompeo has come with requests too.According to US officials, while Riyadh has a right to self-defense, it must come to see that the solution to Yemen’s civil war will be a political one and its forces must not exacerbate the massive humanitarian crisis there.Washington also wants to see an end to the Gulf crisis that has seen Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates impose a diplomatic and trade embargo on fellow US regional ally Qatar.And, perhaps most importantly for Trump, Pompeo will urge Saudi Arabia to provide personnel and funding to help US efforts to stabilize northeastern Syria in the wake of the expected defeat of the Islamic State group.“The president has made clear that he wants to see meaningful participation from states in the region,” another senior US official travelling with Pompeo’s party said.“We want to see the kind of participation, for financial efforts, not just kinetic efforts that would match, parallel, would assist, the US role,” he said. The United States has more than 2,000 troops in Syria.On Qatar, the US officials said they do not blame one side or the other, but want Riyadh and Doha to sort out the stand-off themselves.Humanitarian tragedyAnd on Yemen, they warned the Saudi-led coalition not to again block or bomb ports that supply vital civilian aid, warning that there is no military solution to the crisis.“The humanitarian situation in this tragic country cannot be allowed to become worse. It needs to get better. And that means full and free access to humanitarian goods, to commercial goods, to fuel,” one said.Pompeo will conclude his first diplomatic trip on Monday after talks with senior Jordanian officials and then fly back to Washington to move in to his office in the State Department.
Attend this free webinar and learn how you can maximize efficiency while getting the most critical things done right. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. April 4, 2017 Free Webinar | Sept 5: Tips and Tools for Making Progress Toward Important Goals Chatbots are wonderful tools for productivity and efficiency. They allow you to automate tasks which would otherwise take forever to complete, thereby enabling you to focus on other more important things related to your business.Bots are also potent enough to render app fatigue irrelevant. With the sheer number of apps these days, downloading a new app for undertaking just about any task — and being inundated by a range of notifications and instructions — can be energy-sapping. To circumvent this, you can create chatbots online to augment the efficiency of your existing apps.Using bots, you can engage more efficiently with your colleagues and/or clients in popular chat platforms where they are most likely to spend time — Facebook, Whatsapp, Slack, Twitter — as well as your own smartphone. Chatbots also give you the flexibility of remaining within the platforms and apps that you use most frequently, which reduces the chances of unnecessary distractions and impeding your productivity. Let’s take the case of Jarvis, which serves as a reminder bot embedded within Facebook messenger. Bots like these offer great convenience and streamline processes that would consume a lot of time, money, and energy.Related: Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots for Your BusinessUtility at its best.You can use bots for just about anything, be it work-related purposes, shopping, buying tickets, addressing customer service issues, or influencer marketing. They can be utilized to heighten your business prospects by attracting new customers and retaining existing ones while lowering the dependency on time-consuming human intervention. Thankfully, the technology of artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly sophisticated, thereby constantly expanding the scope of chatbots. In the parlance of managing your brand, these bots can take a lot of burden off your shoulders and help you become more productive.Related: How to Create a Facebook Messenger Chatbot For Free Without CodingSimplify things; don’t complicate them.Most of us have already been utilizing automation, even on a small scale. Whether it’s the self-service kiosks, touch screens, or the numerous features in our smartphones, we’re subconsciously wired to the benefits of automation — as long as it makes things easier and doesn’t complicate them. As a business or an entrepreneur, you may want to ensure that you communicate with your customers in a manner with which feel comfortable and knowledgeable. When you do that, a lot of things begin to fall in place and your overall productivity increases. Using new technologies merely for the sake of using them when the customers are simply not ready isn’t going to get you anywhere.Related: 7 Ways Chatbots Can Benefit Your Marketing StrategyEnsure adequate engagement.As you progress further in your business or entrepreneurial journey, you’re likely to develop a steady online following. Remember, they are going to be responsive only if you offer something that holds their attention. Not adopting a thoughtful approach while curating your chatbot can seriously hamper productivity, because negative publicity spreads faster than positive publicity. To that end, understand the needs and preferences of your customers before having them interact with bots. When a bot-customer conversation is initiated, ensure that it is engaging, interactive, specific, and yes, time-saving. No one is going to wait beyond a few minutes for your chatbot to respond.Related: Top 7 Chatbot Monetization Strategies You Need to KnowProductivity benefits within an organization.Chatbots can be used by members of a company or organization to keep them updated about new agendas and projects, which in turn helps plan out their workload accordingly. Bots can set up daily reminders and create an inclusive community that unites the entire workforce for a dedicated cause. As opposed to setting up manual calendar reminders, you can leverage chatbots as an accessible, centralized reference point within existing online communication platforms. In addition, brands can use chatbots for their training programs where they can brief new employees about the various company policies and ensure they have a smooth transition. The good thing about bots is their quick response times, reduced errors, and ability to tackle multiple tasks simultaneously. For instance, Riot aims to identify a chatbot within its web messaging community to simplify mundane tasks for its customers by launching close to three fresh bots per weeks (internally).Related: 10 Facebook Messenger Chatbot Marketing Expert TipsRespect your customers and their choices.Customers may become irritated when they are forced into engaging with a peripatetic chatbot when they actually look forward to interacting with another human with clear-cut responses. In your zest to develop an amazingly cool chatbot, you may want to remember the timeless golden rule: it is the customer that counts — always.Understand and respect what your customer expects out of you and deliver it. If they are comfortable with a button within the chatbot window that they can click on to begin interacting with a real person, then do exactly that. If done appropriately, chatbots can make a lot of contribution to your business’s overall productivity. They can also make your employees perform better and with heightened clarity by sharing some of their burden, which takes a lot of their time. Since chatbots are all set to become more evolved, you may want to integrate them intelligently to position your brand in the right place and make the most of what technology has to offer. Register Now » 5 min read