source : www.theverge.com
The Matic is a new robot vacuum cleaner with a different approach to cleaning your floors. Built by two former Google Nest engineers, it’s designed to move around your home the same way most people would, processing things visually rather than spatially. It uses five RGB cameras to navigate, instead of the sensors, bumpers and lidar technology found on most of today’s robot vacuums. In theory, this makes it less susceptible to common pitfalls of robot vacuums, such as shag carpets, cables and tight spaces, because it can see where it’s going in real time rather than relying on a pre-programmed map. It also works locally – without any cloud components. The mapping is done on-device and does not require an internet connection, so your data should never leave your home.
After initially launching as a subscription model earlier this year, Matic is now fully sold. You can pre-order it at maticrobots.com for the discounted price of $1,495 (regularly $1,795), with delivery scheduled for March 2024. I haven’t had a chance to see or test the new robot yet, but the demo footage I have seen made an impression on me.
Matic has been in development for six years – ever since its founders, Mehul Nariyawala and Navneet Dalal, left Google Nest to use their combined experience developing facial recognition and gesture detection at startup Flutter to tackle the problem of creating a real autonomous house robot cleaner.
“We are both fathers and I have a Golden Retriever, and we were just not impressed with the ability of most robot vacuums to keep our house clean,” Nariyawala said. The edge in an interview. So they started looking for a better bot.
The key difference, says Nariyawala, who worked with Dalal on Google’s Nest Cam IQ cameras and the Nest Hello doorbell, is that Matic creates a 3D-powered, street view-like map of your home that, when combined with computer vision on the device, it allows him to maneuver in the same way a self-driving car might drive through a city, guided by Google Maps.
Instead of bumping into chair legs or sniffing shoes like most robot vacuums do these days, Matic glides around the mess you leave on the floor while switching between sucking up dirt and cleaning up spills. “Hardware has never been the bottleneck of robots; it is the brain, the ability to map and navigate, to get precisely from point A to point B, ten times out of ten that has not been done before,” says Nariyawala. “That’s what we solved.”
The Matic also doesn’t look like the round robot vacuum cleaners we’re used to. With a square, stubby white case, big wheels and an extendable vacuum head, it’s more Wall-E than Roomba. It can also “mimic human perception and machine learning through cameras and neural networks that enable image recognition, decision-making and 3D mapping,” Dalal said in a blog post.
This semantic understanding allows for a higher level of AI-powered obstacle avoidance, the company claims, allowing it to navigate through any object in your home in no time. While competitors like iRobot and Ecovacs have AI-powered obstacle avoidance, Nariyawala says Matic can identify many more items than the competition, classifying them into dirty, non-dirty and unknown, the last two of which it will avoid.
Matic can respond to gestures and commands such as “Matic, clean up there”
The Matic can both mop and vacuum and is also a wet/dry vacuum, so it can clean up both spills and dirt – something no other robot vacuum is capable of. His computer vision allows him to identify different floor types and autonomously switch from vacuuming to mopping, Nariyawala says. He avoids mopping your carpets by vacuuming when you move forward and then turning his head down to mop when he moves backward.
Another unique feature is gesture commands. The Matic has a speaker and microphones on board and should be able to respond to commands such as ‘Matic, go clean up there’ or ‘Matic, go mop the bathroom’. It can also autonomously track down and clean dirty areas of your home. According to Nariyawala, it will wander around every few hours looking for dirt. “Eventually the appliance will learn your preferences and know things like it should clean the kitchen after eating,” he says.
When the onboard waste bin is full, it parks itself next to your bin and notifies you that it is ready to be emptied. The waste bin is a small bag that you take out and throw away. It has a capacity of one liter and can hold a month’s worth of dust or a week’s worth of dust and liquid, according to Matic.
It’s also very, very quiet. Nariyawala claims that Matic has the same effectiveness as a stick vacuum cleaner, but does not get louder than 55 dB. That’s the quietest level of almost any robot vacuum I’ve tested, and no robot vacuum can get a carpet as clean as an upright robot vacuum. The key here, according to Nariyawala, is that the suction isn’t as important as the agitation and the brushroll’s ability to pick up dirt. That theory is one that is held up in my testing of robot vacuum cleaners.
Two tank-like front wheels allow the Matic to travel over shag carpets and room transitions without getting stuck, and the mop pad is a roller mop inside the robot that wipes itself clean so you don’t have to.
The robot does not have a large docking station that empties its bin or refills its water tank, as is popular with most advanced robots today; you have to do that yourself. Instead, it has a 600 ml water tank and a one liter capacity container.
Matic has tried to make disposal as simple and mess-free as possible. Both liquid and dirt go into the same bag where “diaper crystals” absorb all the liquid, and you simply throw the sealed bag in the trash. With an optional Matic membership ($15 per month), you get a steady supply of bags, brushes and mop rolls and are assured of accidental damage coverage.
Now that we’ve talked about the vacuum skill, let’s take a closer look at how it actually works. With its AI-powered navigation and cleaning capabilities, Nariyawala says it can quickly adapt to dirt and situations. If there is a large stain on the floor, he will mop back and forth until it is gone, and if he sees popcorn, he will slow down the speed of the roller head to prevent small white granules from spraying around the room. “When he sees tassels on carpets, Matic reduces the suction so he doesn’t suck them up,” he says.
The navigation system uses SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) technology, which is found on most high-end vacuum cleaners, but Nariyawala says the Matic has a ten times better implementation thanks to its semantic understanding, made possible by software algorithms and data processing on the edge.
When I see a demo of the Matic in action, its navigation skills remind me of Amazon’s Astro home robot, which also makes quick, autonomous navigation decisions. Both move more freely through your home than a robot vacuum cleaner, which tends to move in a straight line until it encounters an obstacle and then has to readjust once it knows what the obstacle is and what to do about it.
On paper, the Matic seems to address two of the biggest problems with today’s robot vacuums: getting stuck or getting lost and being too noisy to get the job done. Even today’s smartest bots can be foiled by obstacles like carpet tassels or debris like popcorn, and any robot will be taken out by an annoyed family member trying to watch TV while blasting through the vacuum as loud as a blender.
The way the Matic switches between mopping and vacuuming to avoid damp carpets is an interesting solution, but how effective it will be compared to the oscillating mop pads on some bots today remains to be seen. However, the ability to suck up wet liquids is a first. (Well, and keep functioning after it’s done!)
Even at its introductory price of $1,495, Matic will be a tough sell
Keeping everything local has great appeal from a privacy perspective. Currently, if you want to use a robot vacuum without a cloud connection, you lose the mapping capabilities (unless you do a lot of hacking). The downside is that this limits smart home integrations. There are no plans to support Amazon Alexa or Google Home at launch, although Nariyawala tells me they are exploring Matter integration in the future.
Even at its introductory price of $1,495, Matic will be a tough sell. The only other robot vacuum cleaner that comes close to that price is the excellent Dreame L20 Ultra, but it is regularly on sale. Amazon’s Astro home robot costs $1,600 and doesn’t vacuum. But Nariyawala says this is Matic 1.0: “We are taking a Tesla-like approach and introducing a high-end version with plans to launch more affordable models.”
With former Tesla engineers working for Matic and financial backing from the likes of Nest founder Matt Rogers, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and AI expert and ex-GitHub CEO Nat Friedman (among others), the potential is certainly there. But whether this will all lead to a giant leap forward in home robotics remains to be seen. I’ll have to get the Matic in my own home to test it before I can pass judgment, but the concept is intriguing and feels like a step closer to the Rosie the Robot of my smart home dreams.
Matic can be pre-ordered today at maticrobots.com for an introductory price of $1,495 (a savings of $300) and includes a one-year Matic membership ($180 value). Shipping is scheduled for March 2024.
source : www.theverge.com