Robot vacuums are an amazing way to keep your house clean with very little effort, but sometimes that little bit of effort to clean up the house beforehand is just as annoying as manually vacuuming the whole thing anyway. Recent additions of advanced mapping software to robot vacuums have finally made this less of a hassle, and the continued improvement for end-users' everyday experience is substantial. iRobot's Fall 2018 line of Roomba i7 and Roomba i7+ vacuums that are enrolled in the BETA program are getting a big update this week that will enable a brand-new 'Keep Out' feature.
Firmware version 2.6.13 enables the 'Keep Out Zones' feature, found within the map created by the Roomba as it cleans your home. While iRobot already offered a way to create virtual walls and block off areas of your home from within the app, the feature was a bit limited when compared to other robot vacuums, especially given the higher price of the Roomba i7 when it launched.
Keep Out Zones allow users to draw rectangular zones on the map created by the Roomba and can be added in any quantity, size or shape. The most common uses of this feature include blocking off areas that contain pet food and water bowls, places with lots of cords or other objects that can be easily lodged in the rollers, spots with temporary clutter, or just a place where the robot might usually get suck or has a hard time navigating.
Keep Out Zones are a permanent part of the map and do not have to be redrawn every time you clean. This is a significant quality-of-life addition for robot vacuum owners who normally have to close off areas with any number of random things like boxes or storage bins just to keep a robot vacuum out and works brilliantly with the rest of the iRobot Home app.
While these were previously iRobot's most-expensive flagship robot vacuums, the Roomba i7 and Roomba i7+ have been usurped by the Roomba s9 and Roomba s9+, two robot vacuums with a decidedly different shape. Surprisingly though, the older and less-expensive Roomba i7 series is getting this 'Keep Out' feature first. iRobot will be delivering this update to owners of the Roomba s9 and Braava jet m6 sometime later this summer, but for now it's being enabled for the largest user base of the newer generation Roombas.
While folks who just purchased a shiny new Rooma s9 or Braava jet m6 might feel a bit left out, users of the Roomba i7 can opt-in to receive this update by opening up the iRobot Home app on their favorite mobile device, opening up the left-hand slide-out menu and clicking on the "iRobot BETA" option at the bottom. Once enrolled in the beta program, your robot will automatically receive the update over the course of a few days.
So long as you've got at least one iRobot Roomba i7 or i7+ registered to your account, you should find the option to enable the new update, and it should automatically update your robot by the end of the week (July 5th, 2019). Make sure to keep your robot on the charging base for one or two full days so that it can receive the update after you enroll in the program, and your app will notify you when it happens. See a screenshot below to find out what that update screen should look like once received.