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Wireless Networking Communications Network Networking Technology

Roombas Will Soon Build a Wi-Fi Coverage Map While They Clean (techcrunch.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The feature is arriving later this month on the iRobot app, making it possible for WiFi-enabled Roombas to create a map of indoor signals. The map exists alongside the existing Clean Map feature, letting users toggle between the two, like they would, say, satellite and standard imagery in Google Maps. The maps themselves won't go into too much detail -- no upload and download speeds like you see on many mobile speed test apps. Instead, the information will show up as decibel readings. Really, it's intended as a handy way of showing off where you might want to toss a range extender, to help get rid of dead spots. All of Roomba's vacuums, save for the lowest-end model, will support the feature. The beta program launches January 23rd and appears to only be available for U.S. users.
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Roombas Will Soon Build a Wi-Fi Coverage Map While They Clean

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  • by Seven Spirals ( 4924941 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @06:05PM (#55858943)
    If they can spy, they will. They've fully monetized the spying. Nobody seems to be able to "just" make something honest anymore. It's made me pathologically distrust every thing made in the last few years. There must be enough folks who just don't care if they are being used like that so that these scammy corporates can keep the system floating.
    • You are a product for targeted advertising, thought manipulation and surveillance. Why would corporations or governments want anything else?
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Rest assured some fine-print on page 147 of the "license agreement" will allow "selected affiliates" to use the data to "enhance customer product information and shopping experiences" (spam).

    • Can corporations make anything that does NOT spy?

      Now that you mention it, I should probably read the EULA for these baby wipes...

  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @06:13PM (#55858973)

    This is exactly what I needed for all those times I use my laptop under the couch.

    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @06:32PM (#55859081)
      I came home the other day and caught my Roomba watching a video of an arduino plugging into a raspberry pi.
      • What you didn't see was the 3D printer in the dark corner of the room, oozing white PLA while watching those two getting interconnected.

        • Do Rhoombas still enjoy making abstract art in your living room when it encounters a puddle of cat throw up? Or have they solved that, so now they've moved on to wi-fi maps?
          • Roomba, all the way up to the 8xx serie (and Scoobas, btw), still do "random dance around".
            They aimlessly go in any random direction, bump into things, etc. eventually, they'll end up covering the whole surface by the end of the program.
            At no moment do they have any idea where they are. They just notice the dock when they happen to come by in front of it during the random dance.

            (Also they don't have any Wifi. They either have some weird custom proprietary of ZigBee (up to 700 series) to communicate with th

      • eww, interracial computer porn. :(

        is nothing sacred?

    • +1. Nobody uses their phone or laptop on the floor, so measuring the coverage there is pretty questionable. It's easy to image walls, furniture, appliances and interference patterns changing the signal strength from the floor to desk/chair height.
      • I was going to write that too, just before I came on slashdot yesterday I stepped over my wife lying on the floor with her laptop and 2 textbooks doing some homework for her masters.

  • Will it account for Cat cause interference?

  • Dad Describes What Happens When Roomba Meets Dog Poop [neatorama.com].

    I suppose it can do both though.
    • Roomba 900 are mapping robots (unlike their predecessors).
      They don't do random dance. They know their exact position in the map and are bit more orderly in their path.

      So, instead of a poopocalypse, you're look in forward, for a very meticulous precise and neat poop grid zig-zaging across your floor.

      The by-now-4-yo kid will smell like poop when walking to your room all the same.

  • If I am in a corner where things don't work - Cell/WiFi, I know it. Don't need confirmation.
    If that device would make an internal map of it's cleaning thoroughness, i. e. how often it covers an area, that may be useful for trusting this thing but ....
    gadgets, gadgets, sales, sales and - we know what's good for you, you won't need a choice anymore ...

    In particular what kind of web interface you need - mobile or desktop. Sure won't use /. on a mobile because I hate the interface!!!

    • If that device would make an internal map of it's cleaning thoroughness, i. e. how often it covers an area, that may be useful for trusting this thing

      Actually, that the whole purpose of Roomba 900 series (and Braava) : they are able to know their exact position,
      and thus can draw a nice map of where and how often they've been.

      (But in the end, they actually aren't that much more efficient that their "random dance" predecessors)

      Making a map of wifi signal basically comes free for a device that already automatically maps its surroundings and has an always-on wifi antenna.

  • What is this penchant so many engineers have for adding needless complexity to (what should be) relatively simple, single-purpose devices?

    When I read this news, two things immediately come to my mind:

    - This will likely turn into another massive violation of people's privacy
    - This is now just another thing that can and will go wrong with an already-expensive device, almost certainly shortening its usable lifetime

    Followed soon on by a third thought:

    - Never buy a Roomba

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:11PM (#55859571) Homepage Journal

      What is this penchant so many engineers have for adding needless complexity to (what should be) relatively simple, single-purpose devices?

      Orders. An engineer's job is to answer marketing's question with "yes, I can do that."

      I had a brief moment of weakness/curiosity so I decided to look at what these guys are selling, and I think I spotted what they're up to. Check out their Roomba model comparison chart [irobot.com]. Go ahead, you don't have to buy anything. Look. What do you see?

      The first thing I saw, is that they have multiple models. Gotta admit, I didn't know that.

      Check out the bullet points. There are some dubious "features" there, but a couple stand out, almost as negative things where you might think "WTF, some Roombas can't do that?" Don't you want tangle-free rollers? Of course you do, unless you're a tangle-lover! The multi-room cleaning "feature" shocked me too. Does that mean with the cheaper Roombas, you have to get one for every room? Fuck that.

      It's about upselling. I think that's 100% of it. But maybe we all have different buttons to press, and what gets me to think "I have to get a Roomba 960 or else there's no point in getting any Roomba at all" is different from what might make you decide to get a 960 or none at all. ;-)

      Of course, the easiest solution is to get none at all. But let's say your spouse wants one, and it's decided: you're getting something. Maybe another stupid fucking bullet point would push your button. Obviously, silly stuff like wifi mapping ain't it, but everyone has their eccentricities, and if they keep piling on weird features, something could tip you into the upsell.

      Maybe?

      • It's not even always about upselling needed features. Having useless features on the higher end models is a form of price discrimination. You are always going to have a certain group of people that will buy the highest model because they can afford it. By having those useless features, you can get more money from those people while still be able to sell the normal model to more price sensitive people. It's the same reason that you see "limited edition" models of certain products for $50 more where liter

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        It's about upselling. I think that's 100% of it. But maybe we all have different buttons to press, and what gets me to think "I have to get a Roomba 960 or else there's no point in getting any Roomba at all" is different from what might make you decide to get a 960 or none at all. ;-)

        And everyone is doing it now. I bought a Neato Botvac about 3 years ago, and back then you had your choice of the base model or upgraded brush. Now their model chart [neatorobotics.com] shows 5 different models across 2 different product generations. But unlike the Roomba, there is almost no difference between the models except for battery capacity and all the various wifi features. If you just want a robot vacuum that maps the rooms (Roomba's multi-room feature), ALL the botvacs have that feature going back at least 3 generations.

        Not to mention that these robot vacuums need more maintenance than normal vacuums. I have a 10 year old Wal-mart upright vacuum that has had no problems whatsoever- the washable filter has been washed dozens of times and the non-washable one looks brand new. Our botvac needs a new battery every August (anniversary of purchasing it) and the brush is usually in tatters after 1 year also.

        • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
          My normal vacuum needs maintenance all the time. If you have kids with long hair, take the rolller off the bottom and cut all that hair off every 6 months or so, you'll thank me.
          • by thomn8r ( 635504 )

            If you have kids with long hair, take the kids and cut all that hair off every 6 months or so, you'll thank me.

            FTFY

      • It's about upselling.

        Sort of, but not exactly. It's about having a product in every price point. The value of a robot vacuum is not the same to every person, both because some get more value from it, and because some value money less. The Laffer curve says that to maximize profit with a single product you lower the price until the marginal increase in profit due to volume matches the marginal decrease in profit due to lower sale price. But if you do that, you're leaving money on the table because a lot of people would have been

      • Roomba model comparison chart. Go ahead, you don't have to buy anything. Look. What do you see?
        The first thing I saw, is that they have multiple models. Gotta admit, I didn't know that.

        Check out the bullet points. There are some dubious "features" there, but a couple stand out, almost as negative things where you might think "WTF, some Roombas can't do that?"{...} The multi-room cleaning "feature" shocked me too. Does that mean with the cheaper Roombas, you have to get one for every room? Fuck that.

        Well most of the things on this list are exactly that : stupid arbitrary checkbox points, nothing more.

        Basically cheaper roomba have smaller batteries than more expensive one (so they can only clean for a shorter amount of time until they need to dock back for charging). But that's about the main difference.

        Newer roomba (since the 800) have a bit better roller which might get a little bit less mess, but not by much. But they still sell the olders because they still have them in their warehouse and they are

    • I don't think this is much of an invasion of privacy. Roomba already builds (and sells the data from) maps of people's houses.

    • have for adding needless complexityto (what should be) relatively simple, single-purpose devices?

      Given there's an industry for mapping your indoor WiFi coverage to help you fix the problems in your house, your word "needless" needs some redefining.
      Given that this device effectively already has WiFi, already builds maps of the house, already moves around, is technologically anything other than "simple" your entire post actually makes very little sense.

    • What is this penchant so many engineers have for adding needless complexity to (what should be) relatively simple, single-purpose devices? {...} This is now just another thing that can and will go wrong with an already-expensive device, almost certainly shortening its usable lifetime

      This xkcd [xkcd.com] is actually relevant here.

      In this case it's not complex at all.

      The 900 series is already making a map of its surrounding as it works (unlike its predecessors, it doesn't random dance. It constantly tracks its exact position using a camera a bit like an upturned mouse).
      It already records per-position information from its sensors in this map (mostly related to sensors that detect presence of dirt).

      It has an always-on wifi antenna,
      so recording the strength of signal as goes around drawing it's map co

  • No upload speed (Score:4, Informative)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:13PM (#55859585)
    Indeed, the device gives no clue about upload speeds, since it only report the strength of the received signal. Getting information about the upload channel would require an agent on the Access Point.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Indeed, the device gives no clue about upload speeds, since it only report the strength of the received signal. Getting information about the upload channel would require an agent on the Access Point.

      So does your broom or vacuum need WIFI? If not, why does this?

      • The robot logs received signal strength. If you want to log how the signal it sends is received at the Access Point, you need some software on the Access Point.
  • That would useful. Wifiâ(TM)s are so early 2000â(TM)s.
  • as clean as a whistle...

    why don't they map cellphone signals instead? that would probably be more useful because I have no problems with my wifi...

  • I really think that roombas randomly move around rooms hoping to eventually get around all the furniture legs and other assorted obstacles. Eventually, with enough time, they can hope to reach every location. Limited time and insidiously placed chair legs mean they, for some reason miss portions of rooms. If the roomba engineers could focus on getting to ever part of a room (perhaps do something like "map" a room and put in a bigger dust bin) that would be an achievement.

    I *know* where my wifi signal is
    • I *know* where my wifi signal is low.

      Even if you didn't, the procedure is pretty simple: don't get a signal where you are? Move.

    • Heh, my first Roomba would obsessively clean one corner of our kitchen about 5 times, go off to another area, then end up back in the same corner for another 3 or 4 cleaning rituals. Their mapping algorithm was seriously borked. We got a newer one about two years ago, seems to be better.
  • ...so you want to inspect at once what is hidden in the dust of my flat, and hack my WiFi AP!
  • A colleague of mine was describing his Roomba - he said it is quite simply the best way to move the dust around from one location in the apartment to another, than anyone has ever invented. that put me off somewhat.

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