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SYFY WIRE Artificial Intelligence

Finally! A robot vacuum with AI that can sniff out (and avoid) dog poop

By Benjamin Bullard
iRobot Dog Poop

They’re finally going there…so to speak. In what may be the biggest boon to animal lovers since pet food in a can, rolling robot vacuum maker iRobot has come up with an AI-assisted way for its newest model to tell the difference between pet poop and regular floor clutter.

The new j7+ Robot Vacuum uses newly-developed artificial intelligence to smartly sniff out any nasty surprises your canine or kitten may have left while you’re away, all to swerve right past any unwanted animal offerings and carry out its pre-programmed cleaning chores without smeary incident.

That’s a pretty big deal for any pet lover who’s walked in on a house or apartment that was supposed to be freshly vacuumed — only to find that their robo-servant had instead spent the afternoon blithely spreading doggie doo to every corner. The company is pretty confident in the AI’s ability, too: Check out this explanation from iRobot CEO Colin Angle, who delicately lays out the new vacuum’s poop-dodging value proposition:

Turns out technology can be mustered to do far more than hijack a cleaning cycle to diligently destroy your floor. The Verge reports that iRobot used Play-Doh to carefully craft every conceivable shape and size of feces both feline and otherwise, in the process building “a huge database of fake pet mess” that served as artificial intelligence homework for the j7+’s new detection system.

“We built over 100 physical models of poop. We trained our algorithms on over 100,000 images. At the end of the day, it worked,” Angle declares in the video. And while competing vacuum makers are sure to eventually catch up with failsafe scat-sniffing systems of their own, iRobot seems certain that theirs — at least for now — is number one. “We felt the need to really put a line in the sand and say, this is real, it’s not a gimmick. If you have a pet we’re not going to let you down here,” he told The Verge.

That’s a breath of fresh air to any pet owner who’s developed a love/hate relationship with their current robot vacuum over all those times it transformed into a doggie doo-spreading disc of destruction. Check out iRobot’s landing page to scope out the new j7+’s innovative olfactory achievements…if, that is, entrusting such a big responsibility to your AI cleaning partner is worth the smart device’s $849 (base) asking price. For grizzled veterans of the robot vacuum / pet poop wars, we’re betting that no price is too steep.