LG's Hom-Bot robo-vac to challenge Roomba?

Smart Hom-Bot can monitor your home, feed your pet, and do the floors--not bad for an oversized hockey puck.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Brainy vac: LG's Smart Hom-Bot vacuum maps out your room with a dual-camera system. It can also activate a pet-feeding machine while you're away. Tim Hornyak

LAS VEGAS--LG Electronics is showing off its Smart Hom-Bot robot vacuum this week at CES 2011, part of its Thinq smart home appliance lineup.

With iRobot introducing an upgraded series of its dominant Roomba vac-bots at CES, the onus was on the Korean electronics giant to distinguish its product.

The Smart Hom-Bot, weighing about 7.7 pounds and standing 3.5 inches tall, can clean hardwood floors and lightweight carpets. Like Roomba, it also has edge-detect sensors so it doesn't plunge over drop-offs.

Watch this: LG's Smart Hom-Bot can monitor, clean

But unlike Roomba, it cleans by mapping out the room with a ultrasonic and infrared sensors as well as a dual-camera system. One camera points at the ceiling and detects corners to navigate. The other points at the ground and identifies obstacles.

Apparently, the machine can also remember whether a piece of furniture has been removed from or added to the room. It also knows whether obstacles are moving (like pets) or stationary (furniture), and will react accordingly.

Hom-Bot is a Wi-Fi networked device and can be controlled through any online interface such as a smartphone or tablet. So you can use its video cameras to monitor your abode while you're on the road, or tell it to start cleaning if you suddenly decide to bring guests home. It also has spot and automatic cleaning modes that can be activated at the push of a button.

The vac can also do some pet-sitting duties. Hom-Bot can serve dinner to Fido as long as it's within range of a networked automatic pet food dispenser.

It's all part of LG's Thinq smart home system that loops in washers, dryers, fridges, and other home appliances into a network designed to lower energy costs and increase user control.

LG says it's still doing market research for the Smart Hom-Bot and hasn't decided when it may launch. Earlier generations of Hom-Bot have been sold for some time, and they have a dominant position in the Korean market. We'll see whether other makers respond by introducing more robo-vacs for smart homes.