There’s a new vacuum robot in Silicon Valley: Neato has officially launched and it aims at grabbing the top spot from Roomba, the current champion in the robotic vacuum category. To take on Roomba, Neato is said to solve old problems that iRobot (the company behind Roomba) never really improved (because of the lack of competition?).
Smarter: Roomba is pretty dumb. It does not know where it is, and it keeps bumping into stuff. Neato uses an internal mapping system (RPS or Room Positioning System)that tells it where it is, where it went and what to avoid. Instead of cleaning randomly, it does so methodically.
Carpet friendly: Roomba is not carpet friendly, but Neato claims that it is. This could prove to be the tipping point for many users. If you are renting, chances are that you are getting the horrible beige carpet (it needs vacuuming nonetheless). I wonder if the Neato engineers live in Sunnyvale, CA…
Corner-friendly: I don’t see it as a big problem, but it is true that Roomba does not clean corners very well. Neato claims that it can fundamentally do better
Self-docking for recharge: This is a feature that Roomba has, but if you room is large and complex enough, it can happen that Roomba gets lost and runs out of battery before finding the dock. With its map, Neato should go home without searching much.
Of course, the pricing is competitive. At $399, it is cheaper than the best Roomba and we can’t wait to organize the ultimate Roomba versus Neato contest. There’s one thing where Roomba wins hands-down: it looks a lot better. I can’t decide if this was a design by committee or if the engineers did the industrial design at Neato.