Need to trap a Roomba? You don’t need anything more sophisticated than a rug

iRobot just lately 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 had 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 fairly widespread 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 reasonably the price 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 mixture of an LED and a photodiode — a sensor that detects mild. As Kenhoe puts it: “Does the photodiode detect mirrored mild from the LED? Nice, the ground is there! No mirrored mild? Uh oh, that have to be a cliff. Darkish black carpet->no mirrored mild, it appears to be like like a cliff!”

The issue, notes Kenhoe, is balancing the accuracy of the Roomba’s sensors whereas conserving unit prices low. “Our newer fashions don’t undergo from this, however it took YEARS to determine methods to make the sensor sturdy to this whereas remaining value efficient,” he tweeted. | Have to entice a Roomba? You don’t want something extra refined than a rug


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