He Matic is a new robot vacuum cleaner with a different approach to cleaning your floors. Built by two former Google Nest engineers, it’s designed to move around your home the same way most humans would, processing things visually rather than spatially. It uses five RGB cameras to navigate, rather than the sensors, bumpers and lidar technology found in most current robot vacuums. In theory, this makes it less prone to common robot vacuum problems like high-pile carpets, cords, and tight spaces, because you can actually see where you’re going in real time instead of relying on a pre-programmed map. It also operates locally, without any cloud components. Mapping is done on the device and does not require an internet connection to run, so your data never has to leave your home.
After its initial release as subscription model earlier this year, Matic is now sold directly. You can reserve it at matrobots.com for the discounted price of $1,495 (normally $1,795), with delivery scheduled for March 2024. I haven’t had a chance to see or test the new robot, but the demo images I’ve seen have impressed me.
Matic has been in development for six years, since its founders, Mehul Nariyawala and Navneet Dalal, left Google Nest to put their combined expertise into developing facial recognition and gesture detection when starting Flutter to address the problem of creating a truly autonomous home cleaning robot.
“We’re both dads and I have a Golden Retriever, and we just weren’t impressed with the abilities of most robotic vacuum cleaners to keep our house clean,” Nariyawala said. The edge In an interview. So they set out to build a better robot.
The key difference, says Nariyawala, who worked with Dalal on Google’s Nest Cam IQ cameras and the Nest Hello doorbell, is that Matic creates a map of your home similar to a 3D street view that, combined with vision by computer on the device, allows you to maneuver in the same way that a self-driving car might traverse a city guided by Google Maps.
Instead of bumping into chair legs or sniffing around shoes like most robot vacuums do these days, the Matic glides around any mess you leave on the floor while alternating between vacuuming up debris and mopping up spills. “Hardware has never been the bottleneck for robots; it is the brain, the ability to map and navigate, to get from point A to point B accurately, 10 times out of 10 something that has not been done before,” says Nariyawala. “That’s what we’ve figured out.”
The Matic also doesn’t look like the circular robot vacuum cleaners we’re used to. With a squat, square white body, large wheels, and a vacuum head that extends outward, it’s more Wall-E than Roomba. It can also “mimic human perception and self-learning through cameras and neural networks that power image recognition, decision making and 3D mapping,” Dalal said in a blog post.
This semantic understanding provides a higher level of AI-powered obstacle avoidance, the company claims, allowing you to navigate any object in your home on the fly. While competitors like iRobot and Ecovacs avoid obstacles using artificial intelligence, Nariyawala says Matic can identify many more items than the competition, classifying them as dirty, non-dirty and unknown, the last two of which it will avoid.
Matic can respond to gestures and commands like “Matic, clean there”
Capable of mopping and vacuuming, Matic is also a wet and dry vacuum, so it can clean up liquid spills and dirt, something no other robot vacuum is capable of doing. Its computer vision allows it to identify different floor types and autonomously switch from vacuuming to mopping, Nariyawala says. He avoids mopping carpets by vacuuming when moving forward and then turning his head down to mop when moving backward.
Another unique feature is gesture commands. The Matic has a speaker and microphones on board and should be able to respond to commands such as “Matic, clean there” or “Matic, go mop the bathroom.” It can also go out independently, find dirty areas of your house and clean them. According to Nariyawala, every two hours he will wander in search of dirt. “Over time, he’ll learn your preferences and know things like, for example, that he should clean the kitchen after dinner,” she says.
When your onboard bin is full, it parks next to your trash can and sends you an alert that it’s ready to be emptied. The trash can is a small bag that you take out and throw away. It has a capacity of one liter which, according to Matic, can hold up to a month of powder or a week of powder and liquid.
It’s also very, very quiet. Nariyawala claims that Matic has the same efficiency as an upright vacuum cleaner, but does not exceed 55 dB. That’s the quietest level of almost any robot vacuum I’ve tested, and none can clean a carpet as well as an upright one. The key here, according to Nariyawala, is that suction power is not as important as the agitation and ability of the brushroll to pick up dirt. That theory holds up in my tests of robot vacuum cleaners.
Two tank-shaped front wheels allow Matic to roll over high-pile carpets and room transitions without getting stuck, and its mopping pad is a roller mop inside the robot that cleans itself so you don’t have to.
The robot doesn’t have a large docking station that empties its container or refills its water tank, as is popular on most high-end robots today; you have to do it yourself. Instead, it carries with it a 600 ml water tank and a one-liter capacity container.
Matic has tried to make removal as simple and hassle-free as possible. Both the liquid and the mess go into the same bag where the “diaper crystals” absorb the liquid and you simply throw the sealed bag in the trash. An optional Matic membership ($15/month) gives you a steady supply of mop bags, brushes, and rolls and guarantees coverage for accidental damage.
Now that we’ve talked about the vacuum’s prowess, let’s look a little closer at how it actually works. With its AI-powered navigation and cleaning capabilities, Nariyawala says it can adapt to dirt and situations on the fly. If there is a large stain on the floor, it will mop back and forth until it’s gone, and if it stains popcorn, it will slow down the roller head so as not to spread little white grains all over the room. “When it sees carpet tassels, Matic will reduce the suction power so it doesn’t suck them up,” she says.
The navigation system uses Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) Technologyfound in most high-end vacuum cleaners, but Nariyawala says Matic has a 10x better implementation thanks to its semantic understanding driven by software algorithms and data processing at the edge.
Watching a demo of the Matic in action, its navigation capabilities remind me of Amazon’s Astro home robot, which it also makes fast and autonomous navigation decisions. Both move more freely around the house than a robot vacuum, which tends to move in a straight line until it encounters an obstacle and then has to readjust once it figures out what the obstacle is and what it needs to do about it.
On paper, Matic appears to address two of the biggest problems with current robot vacuums: getting stuck or lost and making too much noise to get the job done. Even today’s smartest robots can be thwarted by obstacles like carpet tassels or debris like popcorn, and every robot will be shut down by an annoying family member trying to watch TV while vacuuming as hard as a blender. .
The way the Matic switches between mopping and vacuuming to avoid wet carpets is an interesting solution, but it remains to be seen how effective it will be compared to the oscillating pads on some robots today. However, its ability to absorb wet spills is a novelty. (Well, and it still works after he’s done it!)
Even at the introductory price of $1,495, Matic will be a tough sell.
Keeping everything local has great appeal from a privacy standpoint. Currently, if you want to run a robot vacuum without a cloud connection, you lose its mapping capabilities (unless you do a lot of hacking). The downside is that this limits smart home integrations. There are no plans to support Amazon Alexa or Google Home at launch, although Nariyawala tells me they are exploring Matter integration in the future.
Even at the introductory price of $1,495, Matic will be a tough sell. The only other robot vacuum cleaner close to that price is the excellent Dreame L20 Ultra, but that is regularly on sale. Amazon’s Astro home robot costs $1,600 and doesn’t vacuum. But Nariyawala says this is Matic 1.0: “We are taking a similar approach to Tesla, introducing a high-end version with plans to bring more affordable models to the market.”
With former Tesla engineers working for Matic and the financial backing of Nest co-founder Matt Rogers, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and AI expert and former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman (among others), the potential It’s definitely here. But whether all this will be a big step forward in home robotics remains to be seen. I’ll have to take the Matic into my own home to test it before I can give a verdict, but the concept is intriguing and seems like another step towards Rosie, the robot of my smart home dreams.
Matic is available to pre-order starting today at matrobots.com for an introductory price of $1,495 ($300 savings) and includes a one-year Matic membership ($180 value). Shipping is planned for March 2024.