iRobot has long said its robot vacuums can clean up pet hair. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the mess our furry friends are capable of making. Now the Bedford, Mass.-based developer of the Roomba is working on cleaning up after pets in other areas.
iRobot was granted on Nov. 5 a patent for “cleaning of pet areas by autonomous cleaning robots.” The patent goes through several examples, including cleaning around a bird cage, pet door, bunny cage, food and water dish, and more. To explain how the technology works, here is how the patent describes cleaning around a litter box.
There are sensors to monitor the litter box. The sensors are looking for the presence of a cat in the litter box and debris (hopefully just litter) scattered around the outside of the litter box. A signal is sent to the cleaning robot that the area around the litter box needs to be cleaned. The cleaning robot then goes and does it job.
The patent says the cleaning robot can alter its suction power based on the area that needs to be cleaned. The patent says a “single autonomous cleaning robot can be configured for both vacuum cleaning and mopping.” It’ll first vacuum the area and then come back to mop it. The patent also says in some cases a team of cleaning robots can work together. “For instance, a first autonomous cleaning robot can vacuum clean the pet area, and subsequently a second autonomous cleaning robot can mop the pet area.”
When the Roomba s9+ robot vacuum and Braava jet M6 robot were introduced in May 2019, iRobot also boasted about the ability to have a fleet of cleaning robots. They used iRobot’s Imprint Link Technology that allows the robots to communicate with each other and share maps of the environment.
Boston Business Journal first reported the news about iRobot’s new patent for pet cleaning technology. As the Journal points out, and as we’ve often been told, iRobot doesn’t comment on “potential, unannounced, or speculative products and technologies.” So there’s no indication as to when, or if, this new technology will come out.
This isn’t a perfect analogy as the tech used in the pet system isn’t as complex, but there had been talk of an iRobot robotic lawn mower since 2006 at the latest. iRobot finally introduced the Terra robot lawn mower in January 2019 and recently said the commercial launch in the U.S. will start in 2020.
And, perhaps most importantly, iRobot announced last week it has commenced production in a new Malaysian factory earlier than expected. This is a huge step for iRobot as it has been hammered by tariffs resulting from the US-China trade war.