Colin Angle, CEO and co-founder of iRobot shared its knowledge and insights about artificial intelligence behind its robotic vacuum cleaner Roomba on Monday at TechCrunch Beijing.

“The real challenge for robotics is not AI, it’s about making robots to understand the environment,” Mr. Angle said.

There has been 20 years of AI research to make Roomba to understand two sentences, ‘please go to the kitchen and vacuum’. If the robot doesn’t know where the kitchen is, then it’s not going to work. So the primary understanding of the rooms should come first, then users can designate which rooms to go. As soon as the robot understands the rooms, the robots can help the security part of the house as well, he explains.

“We not only create the vacuum, but is also creating the person that pushes it: AI,” he says. “This requires more sensors than any other players in the market because we’re actually trying to make Roomba to mimic the way you vacuum the floor.”

For example, when we vacuum dirty area, we push the vacuum back and forth multiple times, and the company is trying to enhance its AI’s understanding of the environment to do just that.

“20 percent of vacuums in the world are now robots, and over 70 percent is our market share,” Mr. Angle says.

Image Credit: TechNode

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at