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iRobot Roomba 980 review: One of the best robot vacuums I’ve ever used

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roombaIf you have pets, a family of dirty people, are busy, or are just plain lazy, I strongly recommend buying the Roomba 980.iRobot

  • Robotic vacuum cleaners still aren’t as powerful as their upright counterparts, but they have come leaps and bounds since they were first introduced more than two decades ago.
  • When it comes to innovation, no company in this space compares to iRobot, the makers of the Roomba, which has become synonymous with “robot vacuum.”
  • The Roomba 980 is one of iRobot’s top models featuring an excellent app that connects via Wi-Fi, cliff detection so it doesn’t fall down stairs, and increased suction for carpeted areas.
  • Though the Roomba 980 is one of the most expensive options available at a list price of $899, it’s incredibly durable and comes with iRobot’s exceptional customer support.

Cleaning is at the bottom of my to-do list.

Sure, it would be nice to have a clean house, and when I strike it rich someday, I’m definitely going to hire someone to clean up after me. But, in the meantime, I have to hope for a complete void of interesting things to do before I’ll clean. However, the floors are taken care of. Thanks to my faithful robot vacuum servants, I don’t have to worry about dirt, dust, pet hair, and other debris on my floors.

One of the best robots in my fleet is iRobot’s Roomba 980.

Released in late 2015, the 980 is designed to seamlessly clean an entire level of your house by navigating obstacles, adjusting the suction for different flooring, and returning to its home base when it needs a charge and starting again when it’s ready to go.

iRobot sent me the 980 for free to test. Here is my experience.

My first experiences with the Roomba 980

Out of the box, I was struck by the heft of the 980.

It weighs about nine pounds. The vacuum is also 3.5″ high and 13.5″ in diameter so it has a taller profile than many robot vacuums, which might make it hard for it to get under your furniture. I had a little trouble with the 980 getting stuck under my radiators.

In addition to the vacuum and charging dock, the Roomba 980 comes with two virtual wall barriers (batteries included), an extra side brush, and an extra filter. And, as parts wear down through regular use, you can order replacements through the iRobot website and app.

The unpackaging and setup process took five minutes. Initially, you’re supposed to let the unit charge for three hours. So, I did. Next, I spent five minutes downloading the app and connecting to the robot. I was then ready to go.

How the Roomba 980 performed

The app is really cool. One of my favorite features is the Clean Map Reports. This shows a map of where Roomba cleaned, how many square feet, and where the most dirt was located. If your Roomba gets caught somewhere and you can’t find it, you can press the “Locate Roomba” button, and it will play music until you find it. This was useful in my son’s cluttered room. In the app, you can also choose to run Roomba on eco-mode. Roomba operates great without the app, too. You just press the “Clean” button and let it do its thing.

Scheduling the Roomba 980 is pretty simple with the app. Though, I would like it if I could just set it to clean at the same time each day. As it is, each day of the week is scheduled separately. For instance, I set it to clean every Sunday at 3 p.m., every Monday at 3 p.m., every Tuesday at 3 p.m., and so on.

I was impressed with the 980’s ability to avoid getting stuck. I’d say about 80% of the cleaning cycles, it would complete the job and return to the home base without needing me to intervene and free it from obstacles. This is despite my kids’ and pets’ best efforts to trip it up.

To test the 980’s cleaning abilities, I scattered flour, coffee grounds, and kitty litter on carpet and hardwood.

Then, I estimated how much it picked up in one cleaning cycle. On the carpet, I’d estimate Roomba picked up 95% of the kitty litter and grounds and 75% of the flour. On the hardwood, it got 90% of the flour and 75% of the kitty litter and grounds. I also sprinkled some flour in right-angle corners to see how close it could get to the very corner. On both surfaces, it got about an inch away.

When it comes to pet hair, the 980 is great but not perfect.

I have two cats and an old long-haired dog. They all shed a ton. After a cleaning cycle, there would only be trace amounts of fur left on the floor. The vast majority was in the dustbin.

iRobot provides a maintenance schedule detailing when to clean the filter, the full bin sensors, the front caster wheel, and a variety of other parts. I didn’t stick to the schedule. I’m just not that organized. I went on a personal “Oh, I should probably do that” schedule, and the vacuum continues to work well.

bbappThe app helps you operate and locate your Roomba.Best Buy

Some concerns about the robot vacuum

My biggest beef with the Roomba 980 is how loud it is.

From approximately 12 feet away, it registers about 77 decibels. My wife and I work from home. And, when we have video conferences and phone calls, we can’t have the Roomba running anywhere near us because it’s distracting. My kids also complain when it drowns out their screen time.

I experienced what every robot vacuum and pet owner fears: a “poopocalypse.” You see, my family moved to a new home a few months ago, and the cats are still trying to get acclimated. I had the 980 on a strict schedule of cleaning at 3 p.m. every day. Well, one day, one of the cats left a little “present” on the floor outside of his litter box. The Roomba found it before I could and spread it all over. The floor was a mess, and the Roomba was ruined.

I contacted the iRobot’s customer support (without flashing my media credentials) on a Sunday night and had a response waiting for me in my inbox Monday morning. The representative told me that while the Roomba’s warranty doesn’t cover damage caused by pet waste, they would replace it for me free of charge anyway. The replacement arrived a few days later. It’s clear that iRobot aims to take care of its customers.

The bottom line

I’ve tried my fair share of robot vacuums, and the only one I’ve found that is better than the 980 is the recently released Roomba i7+ (stay tuned for my full review), which is about $50 more. The key difference between the two is the i7+ automatically empties its dustbin. Both are exceptional machines that make cleaning simple for people who don’t have time to vacuum every day.

If you have pets, a family of dirty people, are busy, or are just plain lazy, I strongly recommend buying the Roomba 980.

The app is incredibly helpful and user-friendly, iRobot provides exceptional customer service, and the vacuum gets the job done without getting stuck very often. Just make sure your pets haven’t left any accidents on the floor before your Roomba starts its shift.

Buy the iRobot Roomba 980 Robot Vacuum at Best Buy for $899

Buy the iRobot Roomba 980 Robot Vacuum at The Home Depot for $899

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider’s Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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