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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Have to entice a Roomba? You don’t want something extra subtle than a rug

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iRobot not too long ago launched a brand new robotic vacuum cleaner that uses AI to avoid dog poop, however the firm’s Roombas have lengthy struggled with a extra fundamental downside: complicated darkish patterns on carpets and rugs for perilous drops.

A video recently shared on Twitter by IBM researcher Dmitry Krotov exhibits precisely the issue: a Roomba rolling round inside an oblong field sample on a rug, refusing to drive over the traces as if have been bodily partitions. Normally, iRobot’s software program flags this kind of downside as a harmful “cliff,” and a fast search on Twitter for “roomba rug cliff” exhibits it’s a reasonably frequent error. As one consumer complains: “I swear that Robby the Roomba is a proper drama queen!! That is NOT a cliff Robby. It’s a rug!”

The precise mechanics behind this error are fairly fascinating, although. And it has nothing to do with machine studying, however relatively the fee constraints on the robotic vacuums’ {hardware}.

As iRobot analysis scientist Ben Kenhoe explained in response to Krotov’s video, the fundamental downside is that Roombas detect sudden drops like stairs and steps utilizing a mix of an LED and a photodiode — a sensor that detects gentle. As Kenhoe puts it: “Does the photodiode detect mirrored gentle from the LED? Nice, the ground is there! No mirrored gentle? Uh oh, that have to be a cliff. Darkish black carpet->no mirrored gentle, it seems like a cliff!”

The issue, notes Kenhoe, is balancing the accuracy of the Roomba’s sensors whereas holding unit prices low. “Our newer fashions don’t endure from this, however it took YEARS to determine the best way to make the sensor sturdy to this whereas remaining value efficient,” he tweeted.

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