In a recent fireside chat with TechCrunch, iRobot CEO, Colin Angle opined that one of the key issues in providing enough intelligence in the home is understanding the physical layout. You cannot ask Alexa to get you a refreshing beverage (okay, a beer) from the fridge if Alexa or Amazon’s drone based beverage delivery service doesn’t know 1) where the kitchen is and 2) where you are in the house. Angle’s point is that since these vacuums are already roaming our homes, they are positioned best to capture and maintain the ground truth of your home’s layout and even understand where you are.
Given Roomba and their competitors already map our abodes, trundle back to charge themselves, and have been used by makers and hackers alike as mobile robotics platforms, Angle’s suggestion is a great one. Vacuums have proved themselves easier to set up than the rest of the Smart Home DIY Pantheon and could be the missing link in effective aging in place capabilities today. Social robots like Jibo, created by fellow MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab alum Cynthia Breazeal, have proven effective at engaging with consumers on an emotional level. Amazon’s Echo has given our homes a personality, but there is little a wall mounted Nest Thermostat can do if I’ve falling in my bathroom. Since mobile robotics can be where we are, and thanks to the growing proliferation of voice controls, be interacted with in more natural ways, companies like iRobot can be what drives the next wave of Smart Home adoption. Mobile robotics can also leverage the multi-user interfaces proving so popular with the Echo, meaning that anyone in the home, without having a specific app installed, or particular brand of handset, can enjoy the benefits of a more acute abode.
Will iRobot be the firm that ushers in the next phase? Don’t worry, we’ll let you know as soon as it happens. We are gathering in real time all of the bread crumbs left by consumers and companies alike in the journey towards true home intelligence. You can sign up for our free Smart Home newsletter or check out our consumer insights tools for the product managers driving this innovation. The whole idea for this post came from using these tools to find what was making the market pop over the weekend!