New Roomba promises “poopocalypse” horror stories are a thing of the past – Ars Technica5 min read

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/09/new-roomba-promises-to-not-smear-dog-poop-all-over-the-house/

Robot vacuums are a great investment for a pet owner, since they give you a helper that can stay on top of all that dirt and pet hair. With a noisy motor and lots of scheduling options, people are often tempted to run the robot while they’re away, but if you do that, you’d better be very confident in your pet’s potty training. If you’ve never seen what happens when a robovac encounters Fido’s little accident, consider yourself lucky.

iRobot is out to fix this robovac edge case with the new Roomba j7+ Robot Vacuum. It has a new “Genius 3.0” obstacle detection system, a new front camera, and some AI-powered software. And one of the obstacles it looks out for is poop.

If you’ve never heard of this “poop+Roomba” phenomenon, you definitely shouldn’t ever Google it and click on the results that pop up, like this one or this or this. To save you some trauma, robo vacs have a lot of moving parts, like wheels and spinning brushes. This is great if you’re driving over and picking up dry dirt, but if the robot encounters a soft mass of something that it can grind up, those spinning brushes quickly become paint rollers. Then the robot drives all over the house. It’s bad.

After a story of one man’s “poopocalypse” went viral in 2016, iRobot commented that it actually sees this situation “a lot” from Roomba owners. At that time, a spokesperson recommended that owners not run the robot unsupervised if they’re worried about something like this, but today the company actually guarantees the new Roomba won’t run over pet waste. “This robot is even backed by the Pet Owner Official Promise (P.O.O.P.),” the press release reads, “where iRobot will replace any Roomba j7+ that doesn’t avoid solid pet waste.” If your Roomba actually doesn’t avoid the dog poop, though, needing a new robot vacuum will be the least of your problems.

Besides the really gross obstacles, the new Roomba can also be on the lookout for charging cords, toys, socks, and other stuff that can end up on the floor. The robot remembers each scan of your house, so it can flag new obstacles in the app and ask you how it should handle them in the future. Areas that are expected to be tricky forever, like the underside of a computer desk, can be marked as no-go zones so the little robot doesn’t get stuck. The rooms get labels, so you can tell it something like “clean the kitchen” via the app or a voice assistant (Google and Amazon), and it will know where you want it to go. The new “Genius 3.0” options can also have you schedule the robot to clean while you’re away, using the phone’s location services, and show cleaning estimate times.

Other than that, it’s a pretty old-school iRobot package. Unlike the more expensive “S9” series, this robot doesn’t have a “D” shape for better corner cleaning and a wider cleaning path. It’s still a circle with a spinning brush for the corners and stubby little brushes that have to be packed in between the wheels. Dual counter-rotating brushes on the bottom handle dirt pickup, and when it’s all done, it docks at a bigger vacuum and charging station, which cleans out the robot. Supposedly you don’t have to empty the bag for up to 60 days. The Roomba j7+ is out now for $849.99, which includes the dock.

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