A couple of former Google employees have created what they claim to be the “world’s first fully autonomous indoor” robot vacuum called the Matic.
In the official announcement, the pair state they’ve equipped their robot with various technologies allowing it to navigate a household without running into things or getting caught up in wires. First, the square-shaped Matic houses five RGB cameras giving it the ability to see where it’s going. In theory, this should make the Matic less prone to accidents.
As TheVerge points out in their coverage, most other robo-vacuums utilize a combination of “sensors, bumpers, and lidar tech” to move around which isn't perfect. Roombas, for example, have been known to get stuck under furniture. Advancements have been made to lessen accidents, but the Matic appears to be on another level.
The device takes its video feed and processes the information using an internal “Neural Network” AI in order to map out in real-time the floor it’s cleaning. Matic co-founder Mehul Nariyawala told TheVerge that because their device has a higher level of “semantic understanding”, it can “identify far more items than the competition”. The robot vacuum will categorize whatever it sees into three categories: dirt, non-dirt, or unknown. Anything placed in the last two categories will be actively avoided.
The little guy’s capabilities don’t stop at avoiding obstacles. It can also double as a robot mop because the arm on the front comes with a “wet/dry” vacuum to handle spills alongside dirt. The Matic can automatically switch between the two depending on the mess it sees and the surface it detects through its cameras. Nariyawala explains the robot vacuum avoids getting carpets wet by moving forward when vacuuming. For mopping, it drops the front arm and begins to move backward.
What’s really interesting about this robo-cleaner is it can understand commands. It comes with a series of microphones plus a speaker allowing it to respond to what you tell it. For example, you can say “Matic, go clean up the bathroom” and off it'll go. Judging from the demo videos, owners will need to physically point in the direction of what or where they want the vacuum to clean. Verbal commands aren’t enough.
Once the internal bin is full, it’ll drive itself over to your trash can where it will alert you that it needs to be emptied. It’s unknown how the Matic will let you know when it's time to throw away the trash. One of the demo videos hints it’ll send out a notification through the mobile app.
The bin where it puts everything has a one-liter dirt capacity. For liquids, TheVerge says the bag has “diaper crystals” for absorbing fluids. At launch, users can subscribe to an optional, $15-a-month Matic membership to receive “a steady supply of bags, brushes, [plus] mop rolls”. We don't know if people will be able to purchase bags or other accessories individually, although we did ask. If we hear back, this story will be updated.
Don’t worry about any information getting leaked as all the information this device collects, be it a map of your house or personal preferences, is all stored inside the Matic’s memory. It “operates locally – with no cloud component at all.” It doesn’t need an “internet connection to run”. The only thing leaving your house is dirt the robot picks up.
The potentially quite-capable Matic is expensive. Normally, it retails for about $1,800, but you can pre-order right now at a discounted $1,500. It ships in March 2024. You will need to reserve your unit before December 31 to get the deal. Otherwise, you’ll be paying full price.
If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, check out TechRadar’s list of the best robot vacuums for 2023.
Update 11-3-2023: A company representative told us customers will be able to purchase individual accessories like the vacuum bags on the official website. Also, if you pre-order now, you'll receive a free one-year subscription to Matic's membership program.
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Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.