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Image credit: iRobot

There’s finally a Roomba that can empty itself

iRobot put a vacuum in its robot vacuum charging base.

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Since 2002, iRobot's Roomba has been something of a status symbol: a robot vacuum that can clean your floors while you sit back and relax. It's steadily become better and more efficient at cleaning since it debuted -- the last flagship model, the Roomba 980, added floor mapping three years ago. But once your Roomba finishes up, you still have to unload the dustbin manually. It's a stark reminder that we haven't reached the automated cleaning utopia of The Jetsons. That changes with the $949 Roomba i7+ -- it's smarter than ever before, and it can unload up to 30 dirty bins on its own without any help. Rosie the Robot, here we come.

Gallery: iRobot Roomba i7+ | 8 Photos

In true Pimp My Ride fashion, iRobot basically added a vacuum to its vacuum to suck the dirt out. The Roomba i7+ Clean Base doubles as both a charger and a dirt bin. After a cleaning job, it automatically sucks the debris out of the robot and stores it. When the Clean Base is full, you'll get an alert from the Roomba Home app to change it. Then, you just replace it with another custom Dirt Disposal Bag ($15 for a pack of three). I'm not a fan of specialized bags for vacuums, but at least you only have to change it every few months. And best of all, it can help you avoid the dreaded dust cloud from manually emptying your Roomba.

The i7+ also has an upgraded version of the mapping feature we first saw on the Roomba 980. Now it can actually remember floorpans and learn to clean more efficiently over time. Once it gets a sense of your layout, you can also label individual rooms on the iRobot Home app, and afterwards you can remotely control where, exactly, the Roomba cleans. The i7+ also integrates with Amazon's Alexa and Google Home, which lets you use voice commands to have it clean specific rooms or an entire floor.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

iRobot got into hot water last year after reports that it would sell mapping data, but the company quickly corrected that as a misinterpretation. Still, the idea of a Roomba storing your floorplans is a bit concerning. Representatives tell us that the company will protect your data "in all parts of the stream" — information is encrypted as it's being sent to the cloud, as well as once it gets there. iRobot also hires third-party companies to assess its architecture for potential security holes. As with any connected product though, there's an inherent risk with Roomba's floor mapping.

As for how well it cleans, iRobot claims the i7+ has twice the suction power of the $530 Roomba 960. It doesn't have the "Power Boost" feature from the 980, which helps suck up more dirt on carpets, but the company says the new model's ability to clean automatically should make up for that. Another useful feature: It can also spit out cables and carpet tassels by running its rollers in reverse. The i7+ dust bin also holds more dirt than before, because the company moved the motor into the vacuum (it used to be part of the bin).

Gallery: iRobot Roomba i7+ Press Gallery | 18 Photos

During a brief demo in a swanky NYC hotel, the Roomba i7+ had no trouble emerging from its base, cleaning a room, and then automatically emptying its bin. Thankfully, it's also quieter than the 980, so you won't mind it as much when its roaming around your home. This is the sort of gadget that's best judged over several weeks of testing, so we're planning to get our hands on one soon.

iRobot is also introducing a new lower-cost model to the Roomba family, the $449 E5, which also features Amazon Alexa and Google Home integration. That's a better option if you're looking for a modern entry-level Roomba today, compared to buying one of the earlier models.

You can preorder the Roomba i7+ today, and iRobot expects shipments to start on September 12th. If you're intrigued by the i7+ and can't shell out $949 for the entire system now, you can also buy the i7 on its own for $699 and pick up the Clean Base later for $299.

Presenter: Dana Wollman
Script: Devindra Hardawar
Script Editor: Terrence O'Brien
Camera: Taylor Ligay
Editor: Chris Schodt
Producer: Michael Morris

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