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Neato's auto vac gets down and dirty with Roomba

Neato Robotics, a Silicon Valley start-up, is launching what it says is a smarter, better automated vacuum in February for $399. It uses laser technology to map a room before cleaning it.

The Neato Robotics XV-11 vacuum goes on sale in February for $399. Neato Robotics

Roomba has been king of the robotic vacuum market for a while, but Neato Robotics, a start-up out of Menlo Park, California, will be trying to usurp the throne in February with a new automated vacuum that will cost $400.

While the company expects to have multiple robotic housekeeping products in the future, its debut product is called the Neato XV-11. What makes it better than Roomba vacuums? Neato says it's smarter because it features a high-tech laser-powered Room Positioning System (RPS) to map your room and avoid most obstacles. And since it's smarter, it cleans a room in a more efficient manner, allowing it to finish the job more quickly.

We saw the Neato XV-11 in action and were pretty impressed with what it could do. It runs for about an hour on a replaceable, rechargeable battery and automatically returns to its base station for recharging when it's running low on juice. Once it recharges, it will continue cleaning, and can be programmed to vacuum multiple rooms at various set times. Indeed, in the demo we saw, it managed to avoid larger obstacles without getting stuck and was able to roll over smaller items such as electrical cords.

"Using RPS Technology, the Neato XV-11 has a 360-degree view of a room, allowing it to map the details, including walls, furniture, doorways and other obstacles up to four meters away," the company said in a press release. "Unlike other cleaning robots that randomly bounce around a room, the Neato XV-11 maps the room with its RPS Technology. It then methodically cleans floors using SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) technology and path-planning algorithms to outline the area to clean and then fully clean within the space in a back-and-forth pattern."

According to the press release, here are the XV-11's key features:

  • High-powered suction: At the vacuum's core is a centrifugal compression impeller that follows jet engine airflow principles. It creates sustained high-powered suction, allowing the Neato XV-11 to thoroughly pick up dirt and debris.
  • Scuff-free navigation: The robot's RPS technology constantly updates its internal map so it can accurately detect objects greater than 4 inches in height and carefully clean around them without damaging furniture and walls.
  • Low-profile access: The robot vacuum cleaner's low profile (less than four inches high) allows it to clean under beds, sofas, and toe-kicks in the kitchen.
  • Smart design and large dirt bin: The robot vacuum cleaner's D-shape allows it to better clean the corners of a room compared to other circular-shaped robotic vacuums. This industrial design also allows for a larger dirt bin (660cc or .69 quarts).
  • Self-docking to repower: After completing its cleaning, it returns automatically to its base to recharge itself. By utilizing the charging base, the robot is charged and ready to go when it's needed most.
  • Cleaning scheduler: With its easy-to-use interface, consumers can schedule the robot to clean every day, resulting in a more spotless home.

We look forward to testing the Neato XV-11 out in a real-world environment in the near future. Until then, let us know what you think of these types of robotic housekeeping products.