|This article needs to be updated. (July 2014)|
Neato Robotics XV-11 robotic vacuum cleaner
Number of employees
Neato Robotics is a robotics company located in Newark, California. Their product, the Neato XV-series (and as of 2014 the expanded BotVac series) robotic vacuum cleaner, began selling in 2010 for US$399.00. The company has around 65 employees, and raised over $60 million in funding over several rounds. The design work is done in California, with contract manufacturing in China.
Unlike the Roomba vacuum cleaner, which goes randomly around a room, the Neato robot travels in straight line patterns partially overlapped, with the help of a laser range finder that scans around in a full 360° circle, and the SLAM algorithm that allows it to map the room being vacuumed while it is completing its task. The Neato XV robot is able to return to its home base and charge itself when running out of energy, and has sensors that prevent it from falling off stairs. In case the robot is used in a floorplan larger than it can cover with one battery charge, the robot is able to continue cleaning at the exact spot where it left off the previous session, after recharging its batteries.
In March 2014, Neato Robotics released an expanded model dubbed BotVac developed over several years, with a side brush previously available only on the limited distribution Vorwerk Kobold models in Germany (see below). BotVacs were initially priced about 20 per cent higher than the older XV models. The new model featured additional major changes re-arranging the internal construction with larger filter area and dust bin, for less frequent servicing and covering larger premises, and the battery compacted into a single compartment instead of two separate compartments in the older models. The main front brush was made longer and closer to the wall, with a new more closely fitting bump sensor construction. Along with the side brush this cleans the margin against walls much more closely than the older models, which left a two inch wide strip untouched. The longer brush covers a wider swath of floor on each pass and the unit runs much quieter. The casing was modernized with more snap-fit fastenings and fewer screws. Internal electronics were upgraded and refined, and new commercial embedded systems operating system used. The brush drive belt was covered by a cowling with a new mounting method. A major improvement in efficiency was made with a lower voltage 10-cell 12v battery but higher in Ampere-Hours capacity than the older 12-cell battery, reflecting advances in battery manufacture over years. The battery remains NiMh compared to the Lithium battery used in Germany (and avoiding all hazard concerns with Lithium Ion batteries). The BotVac is sold in several packages differing in accessories included such as extra filters and different brush types, same as the previous XV models were packaged.
As of 2013[update], Neato Robotics has four models on the market: the original XV-11 (green), the European and Malaysian XV-15 (blue), the XV-12 (white) and the XV-21 (purple) with European equivalent XV-25. Despite the different model names and colors, all three 1x (11, 12, and 15) robots are identical, except that the plug at the end of the power cord varies depending on the locale.
In March 2012, Neato Robotics announced its Neato XV-21, a refinement of the earlier models, which is white but has a purple laser head and dust bin cover. This model is designed for pet owners or people with allergies, and features a combination bristle brush/silicone flap beater in a swirl formation and a new pleated filter, which is claimed to remove up to 3 times as much dirt as the original filter before clogging. However, none of the Neato vacuum filters are HEPA, including filters for the XV-21 model (as of June 2012[update]). Owners of previous models can upgrade to the new beater and filter hardware for a cost of around US$60, and are also recommended to have the most recent system firmware.
In March 2013, Neato Robotics announced its forthcoming Signature XV and Signature Pro models for April release in black, similar in appearance but possibly with a more powerful vacuum fan (no details specified except 50 per cent increased extraction; a different fan was used in Vorwerk Kobold VR-100 models); and assorted changes with details are pending April release.
In 2011, a more-expensive enhanced version was developed under contract for German appliance maker Vorwerk Kobold, distributed only in Germany as the Vorwerk VR-100, with some slow expansion later into other European locations. This model appears very similar to Neato vacuums and shares many parts, but had an additional spinning side brush extending beyond the case edge, for areas not normally reached, and a more powerful suction fan. The bristle front brush and pleated filter were introduced first on these German models and later in 2012 for Neato models. The Vorwerk unit was also powered by a higher capacity lithium-ion battery, long used in laptop computers, compared to the cheaper nickel–metal hydride battery (NiMh) battery used in Neato models. Differences in details of the charging process for these different types of batteries, as well as the additional side brush motor, requires different firmware programs for each model's computer. Updates to these programs are delivered separately by each company in case of revisions.
Major design changes were made in the separate BotVac model introduced March, 2014 (see above, models). Outwardly similar to the original XV line, the internal construction and features were expanded. Internal improvements were made in the XV-1x (late 2011), included in all models, with a stronger attachment of suspension springs inside the case, after a number of breakages of a weaker original design. The XV-21 models discontinued the charging plug on the vacuum itself, as the charging base was preferred; some units might have the plug but under a cover, and it could disappear with later system circuit boards; the plug was removed from revised User Guides. Changes were made in late 2012 to the charging base, using a lower capacity "brick" AC/DC adapter, and electronics changes making old chargers incompatible with newer models (with rev 64 system board); backwards compatibility of new chargers with old vacuums was maintained.
XV-21 and XV-25 models were reported in early 2013 having an improved air exhaust directed upwards (though through side located vents), instead of sideways, to reduce disturbance of room dust before it can be vacuumed up. Internal electronics improvements included stronger cabling between the LCD display panel and the main PC board, but eliminated a hidden RS232 serial interface inside the machine; only the external USB interface for firmware updates and troubleshooting remained. Electronics hobbyists had been using the internal serial connection for various radio control devices not compatible with USB interfaces.
Neato XV robots originally supported user-upgradeable firmware via a mini USB port on the rear of the robot, via a (not included) mini-USB cable connected to a Windows or Mac PC. The updates were removed from the companies website in early November 2015. Firmware upgrades used to allow the company to correct some problems and to improve efficiency of the products without recalling and repairing them at a central location.
When support was questioned about where to get updates, the following was the form reply:
"Firmware updates are no longer available. After an extensive review, it has been determined that routine cleaning and maintenance will address many of the concerns our customers are experiencing.
The software updates will not be coming back online."
Although the Neato firmware is compatible with their XV-11, XV-12, XV-15, XV-21 and XV-25 models, it is not compatible with the Vorwerk Kobold VR 100 (see above, Models)[further explanation needed] reportedly due to the altered charging of the VR100 which uses lithium ion batteries instead of Ni-MH batteries. The firmware revision is now identical between neato and VR100 models since the introduction of firmware 3.1.17844 although the upgrade software will detect respective brands and reject the upgrade accordingly. For some reason Vorwerk and Neato have chosen to use different mechanisms for the upgrade process for essentially the same task.
|2.0||May 2011||several enhancements over the 1.x firmware, including a new "spot cleaning" feature (cleans a 4'x6' area), better fringe rug disentanglement, better navigation and docking, bug fixes, and multiple language support|
|2.1||August 2011||improved docking and navigation, however, it also prevented users from being able to down-grade firmware to previous versions|
|2.4||November 2011||improved on the speed with which the robot would dock, and would now attempt to re-dock if it was knocked away from the charger|
|2.6||December 2011||"improved docking", essentially ensuring the charging contacts are fully depressed by the robot when it docks|
|3.0||July 2012||installed in newest factory units only for compatibility with revised computer circuit board internals, introduced new dirtbin detection option; otherwise functionally unchanged|
|3.1||February 2013||download update release for all models. Unspecified navigation refinements and "corner clever" maneuver to clean deeper into corners with more elaborate, sharper turns. Identical to firmware revision that appeared in 2012 in Vorwerk Kobold VR-100 models available in Europe.|
|3.2||Unknown||shipping with latest models as of approximately June 2013|
|3.4||September 2014||download update for XV Signature Pro and XV Series models. Improved Battery management software that optimizes run time, making sure returns to charge at its base.|
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- "Neato Robotics XV-11". BotJunkie. 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2010-09-19.
- "AROUND THE HOME: Neato Robotics announces more powerful XV Signature Series robot vacs". Gizmag. 2013-03-06. Retrieved 2013-03-20.