John is the Associate Director of Food and Retail at Mintel, providing in-depth analysis and insight across food and retail reports in the US.

While less than a quarter of US vacuumers report that they actually enjoy vacuuming, relatively few so far have been convinced to hand the chore off to a robot. The market for robotic vacuum cleaners has grown steadily over the last several years but has yet to break out of niche status. The latest innovations from some competitors, however, could help to accelerate adoption by making robotic vacuuming a more active and satisfying experience. Recent introductions offer not only more powerful suction but also greater user control, an attribute that could play into a preference among many potential purchasers for hands-on vacuuming.

In 2015, both iRobot and Neato introduced top-end models that can be controlled remotely via smartphone app. In the same year Samsung launched the POWERbot VR9000, which offers direct control via a remote pointer, allowing users to lead the vacuum to areas in need of a little extra attention. More recently, at CES this past January, Samsung unveiled a model that adds another layer of user control. The POWERbot VR9350 learns the floorplan of the user’s home and generates a map, which it syncs with the user’s phone. The user can tell the vacuum which rooms to clean and in what order by tapping on the appropriate spots on the map.

Also introduced at CES 106, the robotic vacuum in LG’s CordZero line features a front-facing camera that transmits a real-time feed to the user’s phone allowing the user to remotely control the vacuum. The motorized canister model in LG’s line, perhaps blurring the line between traditional vacuums and robotics, features “RoboSense technology,” which tracks the user’s movement and guides the canister to follow at a constant distance.

What it means

While manufacturers have introduced steady improvements in cleaning power and floor mapping technologies over the last several years, these most recent advances in connectivity and control could be the key to propelling robotic vacuum cleaners into the mainstream. Vacuumers hesitant to cede control to a robot may feel more comfortable with a vacuum that follows their direction.

We find that young adults are poised to help propel the continued expansion of robotic floor cleaners. They are more likely than older adults to acknowledge that they don’t know much about robotic vacuum cleaners but would like to learn more. In fact, US consumers aged 18-34 who do at least some vacuuming in their households are considerably more likely than their older counterparts to express interest in robotic vacuum cleaners with remote control units, making them an opportunity market.

For the moment price remains a significant barrier, especially among young adults. The most innovative new vacuums, as might be expected, are priced at the super-premium end of the market. But as these advanced features trickle down to more moderately price models they’re likely to find a receptive audience.

John Owen is a Senior Analyst at Mintel, specializing in the US household and home care market. John provides in-depth analysis and insight across a broad range of related categories and topics, including health and wellness, food and beverages, consumer lifestyles and retail.