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Smart Home

Alexa, have Roomba clean this floor ASAP

Amazon's Alexa will soon boss Roomba robot vacuums around the house.

Geoffrey Stein

Alexa will soon command iRobot Roomba 900 Series vacuums.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Alexa will soon extend its powers of voice control to iRobot Roomba vacuums. iRobot will enable Alexa command for its current line of app-connected robovacs, the $700 Roomba 960 and $900 Roomba 980 models. They will join robot vacuums from Neato and Samsung on the ever-growing list of devices with Alexa support.

Vocal commands Alexa will accept cover basic start, stop, and pause functions. They're enabled through an Alexa skill so must be phrased exactly. For example you can say, "Alexa, ask Roomba to begin cleaning." and so forth substituting common words describing the activity you want your Roomba to do.

Thanks to an update to the iRobot Home mobile app, these top-end roombas will also be able to intelligently map the layout of your floor as well as generate reports of their cleaning performance. Called "Clean Map" reports, compatible Roombas will tally the number of times they encountered a large amount of dirt and communicate the area of space covered in each run.

The app presents maps in a form you're free to interact with on screen either by rotating, scrolling, or zooming in and out for extra detail as you would a typical digital photo. In such a way users can also locate problem spots their vacuum tends to miss or runs into trouble.

View cleaning maps and performance in the iRobot Home app.

iRobot

All this sounds compelling but Roomba 900 series owners may have wait in store. iRobot said it expects the enhanced abilities to roll out to U.S. customers in. "Q2 2017". That could be as early as April or as late as June.

iRobot isn't the first company to offer robot vacuums with a similar level of smart home sophistication either. Notably Neato was the first out of the gate with a Wi-Fi connected robotic floor sweeper. That machine, the $700 Botvac Connected, earned our Editors' Choice award for cleaning exceptionally well on our battery of rigorous tests.

Neato has continually updated the Botvac Connected's feature set too, which gained floor coverage mapping in December 2016. The company brought Alexa voice control to its flagship model earlier still, back in November 2016. You can even launch any of Neato's Botvac Connected vacs through a quick Facebook chatbot message. This includes the $400 Botvac Connected D3, $600 Botvac Connected D5, and $700 Botvac Connected.