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Ecovacs' new Deebot robot vacuum uses AI to avoid sucking up your socks

Because cleaning up so your robot can clean is stupid.

Ry Crist/CNET

Ecovacs makes likable robot vacuums that seek to suck up some of the Roomba's market share, and at CES 2019, the company is using artificial intelligence to smarten up its automated cleaning pitch.

The cleaner in question is the Deebot Ozmo 960. Ecovacs hasn't locked down a price yet, but the company tells us it'll arrive in the second half of 2019. When it does, the marquee feature will be its AI-enhanced ability to recognize objects, as well as their distance from the cleaner. If it sees something like a sock on the floor, it'll know to navigate around it instead of sucking it up.

In theory, that means that you won't need to clean the crap off of your floors before starting a cleaning cycle. Ecovacs tells me that they heard from a lot of potential customers who stopped short of buying a robot vacuum because of that very concern -- perhaps this feature is just what they've been waiting for.

Technically, that's my whole foot, but hey, well-spotted nonetheless.

Ry Crist/CNET

One note: The cleaner won't store or any of that image recognition data, nor will it upload it to the Ecovacs servers or to third parties. You can, however, opt in to share your data with Ecovacs.

"This data is exclusively to aid the company in designing, testing, and improving its AI technology based on robust research and training data," the company says. I'm fine with that approach, and glad that data-sharing is off by default.

Along with the object recognition, the new Deebot supports virtual walls for sectioning off its cleaning route, as well as Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands that let you tell it to get cleaning without needing to get up off the couch.

We're planning a fresh crop of robot vacuum tests back at CNET Appliances HQ in Louisville, Kentucky, for 2019 -- expect to hear more about this connected cleaner when it arrives in the back half of the year.

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