Competition can be seen as an intense form of flattery—and in the world of consumer electronics, clones and copycats of popular products are almost inevitable.
There was plenty to see at this week’s Pepcom Holiday Spectacular in New York, from Marvel’s Avengers fighting villains to a smartwatch with old-school style (see slideshow above).
IRobot brought out its new Roomba 980, which got its wide retail release on Thursday and is priced at $899. The latest model of the floor-vacuuming robot has new internal sensors and a camera to map and clean an entire level of a dwelling, with some pit stops to recharge along the way.
According to the iRobot representatives at the show, the Roomba 980 has double the cleaning performance of the prior versions. Earlier editions of the Roomba used external “lighthouses” to guide them from one room to the next; the new model is guided by its mapping feature. IRobot, based in Bedford, MA, also introduced its first app, letting people name their robots and schedule cleanings.
Just as the company was shining up its latest bot, a rival emerged on the horizon.
On the other side of the event hall, Bissell, a veteran maker of vacuum cleaners, hit back with its entry in this fight: the SmartClean Robot Vacuum, which is available online. A wider retail release is due later this month.
Bissell’s bot is priced at $299, which the reps at the show said makes it more accessible for consumers. It does not map rooms like the latest Roomba, but it has a navigation system to follow a cleaning pattern. Based on what the reps said, it can handle a couple of rooms. Cleaning an entire level of a house sounded outside of its performance capacity, though.
There are many rival robot vacuums in the market or on their way from companies such as Neato, Samsung, and Dyson. IRobot has been leaning heavily on its line of Roomba vacuums, and apparently will try to diversify a bit with a possible robotic lawnmower. In the meantime, the company’s Roomba 980 will be bumping into more and more competitors also out to clean up households.