iRobot taps Alexa for spot-jobs and Roomba hunches

iRobot is upgrading the Alexa support in its latest Roomba robot vacuums and Braava robot mops, building on existing voice control with task-specific commands and hunches. The new features allow owners to request an spot-clean job – such as "Roomba, clean around the kitchen table" – rather than loading that job via the robot's app.

Alexa support has been offered on select Roomba models since 2017, though the functionality has been relatively basic. Owners have been able to start jobs by voice and, if rooms have been established in the app, command the robot vacuum to a specific location in the house.

However, this new update builds on that with far more focused instructions. Relying on iRobot's Clean Zones system, it means the vacuum can head straight to areas where mess is more likely, such as near couches or kitchen counters. It taps the new Roomba Genius Home Intelligence OS, which iRobot began pushing out earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the new integrations also support iRobot Scheduling via Alexa. That includes natural language instructions – such as "Alexa, tell Roomba to clean the bedroom every weeknight at 7 pm," or "Alexa, tell Braava to mop the bathroom every Monday morning" – as well as feedback from Alexa smart speakers. Using Alexa Announcements, owners can get reminders of when a job has been completed, or be notified if there's been an incident or that the robot is stuck somewhere.

In due course, iRobot says, there'll be "Do Not Disturb" support, within which periods Roomba and Braava models will not operate. If owners try to begin a cleaning job during that period, they'll need to confirm that they want to override the block.

Perhaps most useful – and most intelligent – though, are Alexa Hunches. Announced at the start of the year, it builds in proactivity to Amazon's assistant, and the smart home devices it's connected to. If, for example, you typically leave a few smart lights on at night even as you turn the rest of the lighting off, Alexa will presume that a "goodnight" routine should still leave those nightlights switched on.

For Roomba and Braava, that will mean Alexa figuring out when you're likely to be away from home, and triggering a cleaning job during those periods. The robots can also communicate with each other, such as launching a mopping session only after the vacuuming has been completed.

While we're still some way from a Jetsons-style cleaning robot, we're also getting mercifully further away from robot vacuums gobbling up cables (or things less savory). The new Alexa intonations are rolling out to iRobot models that use the iRobot Genius Home Intelligence platform like the recently-announced Roomba j7+ or Braava jet m6 now.