Robotics company iRobot has announced two new versions of its robot vacuum cleaner, the Roomba. Upgrades include a larger dustbin, the ability to suck up larger objects (like pennies; dog food; and, on occasion, a rat), a "lighthouse" system that controls movement from room to room (in the 560 model), more graceful transitions from hard floors to carpet, and a system that prevents the Roomba from sucking up rug tassles or stray cords.
Household pets will be glad to hear that iRobot has eased up on the force with which Roombas bash into objects. Sensors alert the Roomba that it's approaching an object, and it will actually slow down to soften the blow. Sensors around the body also detect how much dust is being kicked up, so if the Roomba has reached an especially dusty area, it will spend a little extra time there to clean up the mess.
The new Roombas will also be upgradable, so people who get attached to their little robots can rest assured that they'll be able to grow with them. iRobot plans to release firmware upgrades over time and to base new features on the chassis of the 500 series.
CNET News.com's Michael Kanellos recently put the 560 to a serious challenge, cleaning his own house. You can get more details about what the new Roomba can do here. But be sure to check out this video of the intrepid 560 daring to go where, apparently, few vacuums have gone before.