EXPANDING ROBOT VACUUMS' CAPABILITIES

With industry partner iRobot

Project Brief

For a design strategy course, our graduate cohort partnered with iRobot under a confidentiality agreement. We were asked to develop  a 5-7 year strategy that extended the uses of the camera technology on iRobot's robot vacuum, Roomba, by identifying novel uses for the camera, useful ways to combine the camera with other sensors, and/or new market spaces the camera could help iRobot enter. 

Roles I played

  • ​Conducted contextual interviews and observations

  • Conducted secondary market research

  • Created frameworks to visualize research findings

  • Generated actionable insights

  • Formally presented insights and design strategy to clients at iRobot HQ

Project Process

Understanding our users as fully as possible required us to identify and learn from robot vacuum users as well as users in analogous markets and across the spectrum of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. My team and I conducted multiple phone interviews with homeowners and renters, five in-home interviews with robot vacuum users and individuals who used smart-home devices. To develop a more rigorous strategy, we gathered qualitative and quantitative data using surveys, assessed current market competition and future market trends, and conducted contextual interviews and observations with a wide variety of current and potential robot vacuum users. 

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Key Learnings

We found that homeowners and renters of all ages have immense worries about what is happening at their house while they are away from home. Beyond break-ins and "Did I leave the stove on?" many worried about how their pets were doing, if the lights were on, or if the house was going to be too cold when they got home. We aimed to address these concerns while expanding iRobot's reach into the IoT marketplace.

Project Outcomes

Our team developed a three-tiered strategy we called "rHome," pronounced "roam." Each tier of the strategy was increasingly complex, with the first step designed to be ready for market introduction within 6 months and the last intended for roll-out in the requested 5-7 years. rHome extended the reach of iRobot in the Internet of Things (IoT) marketplace by rebranding Roomba and introducing both hardware attachments and downloadable software packages that would interface with existing IoT devices, such as home security cameras, smart thermostats, and smart speakers. Each hardware and software element targeted specific worries we found within the homeowner/renter population. While these worries were addressed individually by existing smart home devices, our strategy leveraged Roomba's physical mobility compared to its IoT counterparts. Unlike other IoT devices that can only address concerns in the room they "live" in, rHome would be on patrol around the whole house, whether during regularly-scheduled cleaning duty, when sent by the user, or when summoned by another smart home device.

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