Neato Robotics XV-11 Robot Vacuum Uses Laser Mapping To Navigate, Will Be Available In US

Posted Dec 17, 2009 3:26 AM

We're continually bemoaning the fact that the selection of practical robotic vacuums is extremely limited here in the US (although not so much elsewhere). Besides iRobot's Roomba, you've got... Well, you don't have much. Today, Neato Robotics (yep, their real name) unveiled the first new model of consumer robot vacuum we've seen in the US in quite a while: the XV-11.

Now, I hate to describe the XV-11 in terms of the Roomba, but for better or worse, that's just kind of the way it is. The Roomba has a virtual monopoly on home robot vacuums, so any challenger is going to have to prove itself as good as, or better than, the status quo (as it were). And I think the XV-11 may do just that. Here's the rundown:

Vacuum: Uses a "centrifugal compression impeller" which creates sustained, high powered suction on any surface. Gets pet hair out of carpet.

Interface: the XV-11 has a LCD on top that lets you schedule it and notifies you of any issues. Comes with a self-charging home base that's drive-up, rather than drive-on. Operation is as simple as pressing the start button and letting it do its thing. Also, a nice little feature is that the XV-11 will automatically "snug up" to its charging base if it gets accidentally knocked askew.

Navigation: This is what sets one robot vacuum apart from another, and the XV-11 is pretty impressive with its navigation technology. It uses lasers. LASERS! Laser distance sensors, to be exact. When you first tell it to clean, it will scan the entire room to detect walls, furniture, and doorways up to 4 meters away. It then calculates the optimum cleaning path and cleans the room, vacuuming in generally straight lines and covering the entire floor once while continuously updating its map in case you try to trick it by moving stuff around. Once it's done with the room it starts in, it proceeds to one of the doorways it located and repeats the process in a new room. If it runs out of battery before it's finished cleaning a room, it will remember where it was, return to its charging base, charge itself, and then go back to finish the job where it left off.

Looks good, right? As I see it, here's the deal on robot vacuums: if you want a good and inexpensive model, you should probably still go with the iRobot Roomba 535 or one if its derivatives for a couple hundred bucks. But if you want something better, the more expensive Roombas don't really offer any new technology beyond a bigger battery and larger capacity dustbin. The Roomba 560, 570, and 610 cost $350, $450, and $550, but don't fundamentally clean any better than the 535, which you can find for $200 - $250.

If you're willing to spend a little bit more money on a fancier vacuum, then, the Neato robot appears to offer a bunch of innovative features that the Roombas don't. At $399, It's a substantial premium over the Roomba 535, but unlike the professional Roombas, you actually get a robot that (potentially) actually vacuums better, and includes a lot more options as well.

The Neato XV-11 should be available in February online and also at some unspecified retail partners.

[ Neato Robotics ]\[ Press Release ]

Edit: It's somewhat interesting that the XV-11 shares its basic form factor (square front, round back) with this iRobot patent from 2008. Not sure what, if anything, to make of that.\