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Neato robot vacuums get a multifloor mapping update

Neato's Botvac D7 robot vacuums can now make floor plans of multistory homes.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Neato's flagship robot vacuum now adds multifloor cleaning to its arsenal. Announced today, this new feature is part of a software upgrade to the $799 Neato Botvac D7 Connected. D7 owners can apply the upgrade via an updated version of Neato's mobile app. That done, the Botvac D7 can create and remember many separate floor plans in a single home. Neato says that's enough working knowledge to cover up to three levels of a multistory house.

The Neato Botvac D7 is the first robot vacuum to pull off this trick. Many competitors offer mapping functions. Ecovacs' line of DeeBot robot vacuums can tell the difference between carpeting and bare floors. Ecovacs' app also displays, in real time, the position and movement of linked robot vacuums.

Unfortunately, DeeBot vacuums can hold only one map in their memory at a time. So, if you move a DeeBot machine to a new floor (or a new location), it starts mapping from scratch. The software tosses any saved maps out the window.

Veteran robot vacuum maker iRobot's Roomba products can also map their surroundings, generate coverage reports, plus communicate their status. Like DeeBots, Roombas clean multiple rooms to canvas a whole floor. At the moment, they can't commit floor plans to memory. Instead Roombas create entirely new maps each time they clean.

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Shorter charging in more places

To support its robot vacuums on multiple floors, Neato will also sell its Base Charger modules for $40 each. It's the first time the company has offered up the base as a stand-alone accessory. Neato says a software tweak, called "quick boost charging," will help its Botvac D7 clean in less time too. 

The idea behind the software is increased efficiency. If the robot needs a recharge while cleaning, it will return to base. It'll fill its battery just enough to finish its task, not perform a complete recharge. To do that, the software must calculate and balance multiple factors. These include projected run time, expected time to vacuum the rest of the floor, current battery level, charge rate and so on.