Cleaning Robots

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					5/15/12                                                     Cleaning Robots

                    Cleaning Robots
                    October 22nd, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

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                    I got an iRobot Roomba today (model 550), partly out of curiosity to see what they’re
                    like and partly because if it works, it will fill a practical need. I haven’t had it more than
                    a few hours, but I thought I’d share my initial observations in case you’re curious about
                    these cleaning robots.

                    The Roomba vacuumed my floors for at least an hour today and did a decent job as
                    far as I could tell. It moves around in a very non-human pattern, but it’s supposed to
                    cover the floors thoroughly.

                    When the battery is low or it’s done cleaning, it automatically returns to its home base
                    and recharges itself. That part worked as expected. It docked with the home base and
                    played a sound effect to let me know it was recharging itself.

                    I’ve heard that older models were a bit noisy, but this particular model is pretty quiet,
                    much quieter than a normal vacuum. You could easily have a conversation with
                    someone in a normal voice — or talk on the phone — while the Roomba is doing its
                    job in the same room. It’s a bit louder on tile floors vs. carpet, but even at its loudest, I
                    don’t find it bothersome.

                    This model also has a rotating side brush to clean along walls and in corners. It’s neat
                    watching it trace along walls. It doesn’t move in a perfectly straight line; it constantly
                    adjusts its trajectory to stay close to the wall without bumping it.

                    It includes a couple of virtual walls, which are little black boxes that project a 7-foot
                    “do not cross” line (actually a narrow cone) in front of them. This way you can block
                    off an area like your home office while you’re working in it. Each box takes 2 C
                    batteries (included) and is supposed to last for about 6 months if you keep them turned
                    on all the time. I used these to keep the Roomba confined to a certain area of the                                                                   1/4
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                    house, and it vacuumed right up to these virtual walls but didn’t cross them, so that
                    worked just as it was supposed to.

                    I like that it even cleans under my dining room chairs, moving carefully between the

                    The Roomba automatically senses what kind of surface it’s on and adjusts accordingly.
                    My house has both tile and carpet, and the Roomba handled both without any trouble.
                    It can sweep other surfaces like hardwood floors too.

                    Instead of violently crashing into walls and obstacles, it has sensors that allow it to slow
                    down when it’s about an inch away, so it only taps things lightly. When it isn’t near an
                    obstacle, it speeds along the floor at reasonable pacing. It also has sensors to keep it
                    from falling down stairs.

                    You can also program it to vacuum on a schedule by setting the days of the week and
                    the times you want it to vacuum. My house is pretty big, so I estimate it would take
                    about 4-5 charges for it to do the whole house. I guess I’ll rotate its location, so it can
                    vacuum the whole house over the course of a week. I can have it do some rooms
                    while I’m sleeping and other rooms while I’m working.

                    As for the negatives, one issue I’ve seen so far is that it went into a room where the
                    door was halfway open, and as it cleaned behind the door, it was gradually closing the
                    door on itself and would have trapped itself in the room had I not intervened. It’s easy
                    enough to avoid this minor problem though.

                    Another issue is that my upstairs has some tiered areas with a couple steps here and
                    there, so I’d have to set the Roomba to clean one tier at a time since it can’t go up and
                    down steps. And of course it can’t clean the staircase. I guess you could have it clean
                    a landing area though.

                    The Roomba doesn’t use vacuum bags. It has a little bin that you empty after each use.
                    When I emptied the bin the first time, it had enough dirt and hair in it to convince me
                    that it will keep my house cleaner if it continues to do its job consistently and tirelessly.

                    It also has some modular parts like brushes and a filter that you need to clean after                                                                  2/4
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                    every few uses and replace as they wear out. The model I have includes 2 replacement
                    brushes and 2 filters.

                    A person could vacuum the floors much faster than this little robot could, but since it
                    runs independently, it seems like a nice time saver. You could have it clean your floors
                    every day if you so desire, so your house stays a little cleaner than usual.

                    Some of the most positive reviews of the Roomba come from pet owners. They love
                    that the Roomba helps clean up the dog and cat hair. It won’t clean your sofa, but as
                    least it will get the hair off the floors.

                    I haven’t had the Roomba very long, but it seems promising so far. There are tons of
                    online reviews posted about it, so you should have no trouble finding opinions from
                    long-term users. I’m mainly sharing this post this to raise your awareness of the
                    potential for cleaning robots. It seems like a cool technology to keep an eye on as it
                    continues to evolve. When I first put it to work, I felt like George Jetson for a moment.

                    If this iRobot works out, I might get a Scooba as well. The Scooba is designed to
                    scrub floors with a cleaning solution. I think it also works with water and vinegar. Since
                    my downstairs has lots of light-colored tile, it shows dirt very easily, especially in the
                    kitchen. It would be great to have a robot wash those floors every few days, even if it
                    can’t scrub that hard.

                    I hope to see further development of these cleaning robots. It will be cool to have a
                    general purpose household cleaning robot like Rosie from the Jetsons, although
                    perhaps without the sarcasm.

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