‘Neat’ advance in robot vac state of the art. Whereas roomba uses the minimalistic approach pioneered by Rodney Brookes, the Neato uses a much more traditional ‘big robotics’ approach, with laser positioning and explicit mapping. For an overview see the Wired Gadget lab article at: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/12/neato-vacuum-cleaner
Interesting to compare the ‘gadget geek’ article in wired with the press release from an undoubtedly more technical background – talking with enthusiasm about use of the SLAM algorithm, http://www.neatorobotics.com/pr_12_16_2009.html “The Neato XV-11 is the first mapping robot with intelligent path planning and cleaning. Using RPS Technology, the Neato XV-11 has a 360-degree view of a room, allowing it to map the details including walls, furniture, doorways and other obstacles up to four meters away. Unlike other cleaning robots that randomly bounce around a room, the Neato XV-11 maps the room with its RPS Technology. It then methodically cleans floors using SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) technology and path planning algorithms to outline the area to clean and then fully clean within the space in a back-and-forth pattern.”
The Australian Conference on Robotics and Automation (http://www.araa.asn.au/acra/acra2009/) had a bunch of papers on extending/applying SLAM. I also understand that these lasers and presumably SLAM were heavily used (pioneered?) in the DARPA autonomous vehicle challenges.