Cute doesn’t scrub a floor spotless, but it’s a nice bonus for any hardworking robot. And while nobody will confuse the Braava Jet mopping robot for Ava, the beautiful machine in the film Ex Machina, iRobot’s latest creation is indeed a pretty little thing.
Good looks weren’t at the top of the list of priorities while it was being conceptualized, so iRobot cofounder and CEO Colin Angle said this robot’s physical appeal surprised him.
“It’s been described as ‘cute,’ ” he said. “The usability and fun with which this robot completes the job for which it was designed is what makes it so special.”
Marrying usability and fun has long been a goal of Angle’s, seeing as one of his biggest influences is Rosie, the robot maid from The Jetsons. And, like Rosie, iRobot is no stranger to the floors in the kitchen and bathroom. They’ve had machines doing that dirty work for a while now. But the Braava jet mopping robot might be their best answer yet for a task that almost everybody hates doing — and almost nobody does enough of. All the more reason to abandon the five-second rule, Braava jet or not. (Don’t eat that cookie—throw it away!)
The focus for this floor-scrubber was to make the chore simple and affordable so the kitchen and bathroom get the attention they deserve. Part of iRobot’s solution was to make using the Braava jet as mess-free for the user as possible.
Angle said mopping is a much more difficult chore than vacuuming—and that’s true for a human or a robot. The robot has to use water in several challenging ways, Angle said, and the goal was to keep the robot clean, your hands clean, and the floor clean at a price point “so low that customers will say this makes sense for cleaning my kitchen and bathroom, and not face any sticker shock.”
Angle said this is why they decided on a pad-based system. The robot knows what kind of cleaning it’s going to do based on the type of pad that’s inserted. The only dirty water that accumulates is in the pad and it can be ejected into the trash without ever touching it.
There are three types of pads: wet mopping, damp sweeping, and dry sweeping. It uses a spray and a vibrating cleaning head to do its job, but knows when something is in its way so it doesn’t ruin baseboards, carpet, chair legs, or anything else while functioning well on hardwood, stone, or tile.
It also boasts some of the mapping technology that went into the latest incarnation of the Roomba but not all of it, which Angle said it doesn’t need.
“It operates in a smaller area,” he said. “The spaces are small enough it doesn’t have time to get lost.”
The Braava jet costs $199 and will be in stores on April 1 (no fooling). A box of 10 cleaning pads costs about $8.
“We think of this as the perfect complement to the Roomba,” Angle said.
This robot isn’t quite Rosie, but it’s close. Unlike the Roomba, no word yet on whether cats will ride the Braava jet.