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Joe Jones came up with the idea for the Roomba in 1989. Here’s a history of its development, from the early models to the present version.
This is the “Rug Warrior” — the mostly LEGO robot Joe Jones built for the AI Olympics in 1989. It’s Roomba’s earliest ancestor.
Scamp, the first version of Roomba
Scamp was the first version of Roomba Joe Jones and Paul Sandin built at iRobot. The photo is from early 2000. It was on the strength of this demo that iRobot decided to move forward with Roomba development.
Here’s the original Roomba office, circa 2002. The team consisted of five or six people.
Roomba test floor
Joe Jones and iRobot tested Roomba on as large a variety of surfaces as they could easily construct.
Dust Puppy Gen 2
After Scamp came DustPuppy-Gen2. They built three of these, later in 2000.
Dust Puppy SLA
From Joe Jones: “This 2001 version shows the configuration iRobot settled on for the first product. There were many iterations of this form back in the days when 3D printed parts could cost thousands of dollars.”
From Joe Jones: “The first injection molded shots that come back from the factory typically don’t use the color scheme selected for the product. Instead when testing the setup the factory just uses whatever plastic they happen to have. Since the Chinese factory that made the first Roombas also made toys we got a very colorful robot.” (2002)
Roomba, in colors
Here’s what the colorful Roomba looked like when pieced together (2002).
Joe Jones's Roomba
Here’s one of the first Roombas that Joe Jones took home and photographed on the floor at his house (2003).
Here’s the 2008 Roomba 416.
iRobot Scooba 450
iRobot’s $600 Scooba 450 can “tackle heavier spills, stains, and other unsightly messes with comparable ease.”
This is the 2013 iRobot Roomba 790.
Here’s the latest version, iRobot’s Roomba 980.