iRobot adds an automatic mop to its flagship Roomba

There are plenty of robots that say they can vacuum and mop your floors, but never to anyone’s satisfaction. With some, you have to futz with the system to add the mop halfway through, others it’ll drag the dirty pad across your clean carpets and rugs. It’s a problem that iRobot has spent plenty of engineering resources trying to solve, saying that the new Combo j7+ is the solution. Co-founder and CEO Colin Angle describes it as the “first legitimate 2-in-1 vacuuming and mopping robot ever created.”

Instead of requiring a user to make changes partway through a mission, the j7+ has a standard vacuum body up top. When it’s finished, however, a pair of recessed arms pull down a mop pad that’s housed in the top of the chassis down to the floor. From there, it’ll drag the pad along your hard floors, before pushing it back away if and when it has to cross carpet. All a user has to do is change the bag and refill the water, which could take up to 60 days at a time.

Image of the Roomba Combo j7+
iRobot

Angle and iRobot’s product manager Praj Shyamkant said that the plan was to ensure that the mop would never, ever, come into contact with your soft surfaces. And that users could expect the device to do what you should expect from its description without any micromanagement. Given that the unit sits on the same footprint as the standard (poop-detecting) j7, it required a lot of engineering nous to shrink all of the fancy new gear into its body, too.

At the same time, iRobot wanted to show off the power of its new iRobot OS 5.0, its latest and greatest operating system. This is includes better integration with home and phone assistants like Siri and Alexa, the ability to denote more clean zones for extra attention and better hazard avoidance. You can also amend mission plans on the fly, banishing your Roomba from a room where you’re about to take a Zoom call, for instance. iRobot also wanted to affirm its pledge to protect user data, never to sell it on to third parties, and that it’s secured a TÜV SÜD Cyber Security certification for its data hygiene.

The Roomba Combo j7+ is available for pre-order today, and will cost $1,099 in the US, with shipments due to begin October 4th. It’ll be available in the UK for £999, but you can also pick up a version without the Clean Base for £799, while other countries can expect it to appear through the rest of Q4, 2022.

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iPhone 15 ‘Ultra’ could replace next year’s Pro Max model

Next year’s iPhone could introduce a change to Apple’s naming convention. According to Bloombergreporter Mark Gurman, the company could call its largest and most expensive device in 2023 the iPhone 15 Ultra instead of the iPhone 15 Pro Max as you would expect given its recent track record. The shift would reportedly coincide with the most significant redesign of the iPhone since Apple released the iPhone 12 in 2020. Gurman expects the iPhone 15 to feature USB-C, among other “bigger changes.”

Apple’s smartphone line has seen a couple of branding tweaks over the years. In the early days of the iPhone, when the company released a substantial update every two years, iterative models carried an “S” designation. Since 2019 and the diversification of the line to include separate mainstream and premium variants, the company has employed “Pro” and “Pro Max” designations to market its most advanced phones. Moreover, earlier this year saw the return of the Plus branding, which Apple had not used since 2017. Dropping Pro Max in favor of Ultra would make a lot of sense since the Apple Watch line now includes an Ultra model.

The iPhone 15 rumor mill has already produced a few interesting predictions. Gurman previously reported that Apple was testing USB-C iPhones ahead of the European Union implementing a law requiring all new smartphones made after 2024 to feature the port. More recently, display analyst Ross Young said the entire iPhone 15 line would feature the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island display cutout.

Looking to the more immediate future, Gurman also wrote today that Apple might not hold another event this fall. He says the company plans to announce new Mac mini, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro models before the end of the year. However, as those will be primarily iterative updates to existing devices, Gurman suggests Apple is “more likely” to share the existence of those products with the world through a series of press releases.

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Netflix’s adaptation of ‘The Three-Body Problem’ will arrive in 2023

At its Tudum event today, Netflix shared an update on its highly-anticipated adaptation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. First announced in 2020, the upcoming live-action series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will arrive sometime next year. Netflix shared a behind-the-scenes teaser showing off a few character moments.

Some of the actors set to star in the project include Benedict Wong (The Martian, Doctor Strange), Eiza González (Baby Driver), as well as John Bradley and Liam Cunningham of Game of Thrones fame. Considered a modern sci-fi masterpiece, The Three-Body Problem was first published in China in 2008. It took another six years before the novel arrived in the west, and it subsequently became the first Asian novel to win a Hugo Award. Cixin and Ken Liu, who translated two of the novels in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy into English, are consulting on the live-action adaptation.

Netflix signed Benioff and Weiss to a lucrative $200 million deal in 2019. The 3-Body Problem is the first project the duo is writing for the company – though they also produced a series with Sandra Oh. Netflix is likely to share more information about the 3-Body Problem in the coming months. 

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Google Home can now use Nest speakers to detect your presence

Google Home no longer needs to lean solely on smart home devices like thermostats to know whether or not you're around. Home's optional presence sensing feature can now use interactions with Nest speakers and smart displays to help detect activity in your abode, letting it perform automated actions. If you talk to your Nest Audio or tap your Nest Hub, for instance, Google may know to turn the lights on. Second-gen Nest Hubs can also use their Soli radar sensor to tell when you're close.

You can enable presence sensing in the Google Home app for Android and iOS by visiting the Features section in the settings. Detection is strictly opt-in, and Google stresses that ambient noise won't trigger presence cues. Cameras, doorbells and the Nest Hub Max won't switch devices between "home" and "away" modes.

Google Home presence sensing settings on Android
Google

The expansion makes presence detection considerably more useful. Until now, you needed a Nest Guard, Nest Protect, Nest Thermostat or Nest x Yale smart lock in tandem with your phone's location. While those are frequently good indicators, they don't always tell the full story — you might lock the door when someone is still at home. The use of speakers and displays could make Google's smart home automation more reliable, particularly in unusual scenarios.

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