We're sure to see more app-enabled robot vacuum cleaners in 2016, and if the latest release from LG is any indication, they'll be banking on unexpected features to help win us over. In LG's case, it's the new LG Hom-Bot Turbo+, which claims to put "augmented-reality technology" to use. Simply put, if you pull out your phone and snap a picture of a dirty spot in your living room, the vacuum will hurry on over and get to work. There's no word on the price just yet, but we expect that it won't come cheap, given that previous Hom-Bot models have retailed for $800 or more (about £540, or a little over AU$1,100, converted roughly.)
The augmented reality feature makes use of the Hom-Bot's multiple cameras, along with processors that allow it to recognize where it is that you're telling it to clean. It sounds cool, but the practicality might be questionable, given that the app also allows you to manually steer the cleaner like a toy car and guide it directly to the spot of your choice.
The feature's real function might be to set this robot vacuum apart from the other app-enabled models we've seen thus far: the iRobot Roomba 980, and the Neato Botvac Connected. Both pair with your smartphones to offer app-enabled steering and scheduling, but neither one offers anything by way of "augmented reality."
The new Hom-Bot also claims that it can use its cameras to serve as a sort of roving security droid for your home. If the Hom-Bot ever senses movement, it will snap a picture and send it to the "Home-Joy" app that controls it, allowing users to check in remotely.
That sounds similar to the way that robot vacuums have been pitched as a potential part of the SmartThings connected home platform, which is owned by Samsung. Samsung doesn't currently offer an app-enabled version of its own robot vacuum, the PowerBot VR9000, but that seems almost certain to change in 2016.
2016 might also bring more news about Dyson's app-enabled robot vacuum, the 360 Eye. Currently available in Asia only, the long-awaited smart cleaner could bring even more competition to a category that's continuing to grow.
As for the Hom-Bot Turbo+, LG isn't committing to a release date yet, or specifying where it will ultimately go on sale. We'll be sure to track it down at next month's Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, where it's set to make an official debut.