While we may not yet have mechanical maids tending to the dusting and delivering a tray of cool beverages to your favorite recliner, the likes of Rosie the Robot (the maid on The Jetsons cartoon series) might be closer than you think — thanks to electronics and microchips.
Enter robotic vacuums (like Roombas). These self-propelled vacuum cleaners keep carpets clean without any real physical human input.
The iRobot Roomba is a round disk-shaped vacuum cleaner. It travels about your room with “bump and turn learning technology” which allows it to move around objects that it encounters along its journey.
To activate the Roomba, you simply push a button and let the Roomba take off on its own. It couldn’t be any easier than that!
You might be wondering, when the Roomba is left to determine its own path, does it really manage to cover the whole room? After all, what good is an autonomous device if it misses half the dirt, right?
Here’s another long-exposure photo of a Roomba’s cleaning path over a 30-minute span. It’s rather impressive how a Roomba really does cover the whole area. (Here are the details behind this Roomba experiment.)
What About Stairs?
As you can see, the Roomba uses many different sensors to indicate when there is a change in the elevation of the space in front of it.
So, for example, the Roomba may come to your stairs (or the edge of a workshop table) and appear as if it’s going to go over the edge, but it will simply “peek” over the edge, turn, then go a different way.
This video shows how Roombas can sense things like carpet tassels, stairs, and hardwood floors. It then adjusts accordingly.
Because of the way the Roomba navigates its way around the room, if you pick it up during its run, it will have to re-learn the room’s layout after you return it to the floor.
Evolution Robotics, a supplier of technology to manufacturers, is working on a navigation system for robot vacuums that would allow them to read infrared light beams transmitted on the ceiling of a room from a transmitter plugged into an outlet.
That way, if you picked it up and took it to another room to clean the floors in there, it would immediately recognize where it is and how to proceed.
What About Pet Fur?
There are a multitude of Roombas to choose from — all designed to handle specific cleaning problems. The newest models even sense when their batteries are running low and they automatically return to their charging stations. Now that’s one smart vacuum cleaner! (Compare Roomba models.)
Gone is the unsightly dog hair that coalesces into corner-amassing tumbleweeds without your daily, backbreaking ministrations. And as if cleanliness alone isn’t enough—you now have a high-tech cat toy to spoil your felines with. I guarantee that any self-respecting, neat-freak pet lover will not look at you askance wondering what possessed you to buy them…a vacuum cleaner. Source
After some dog owners complained that the original Roomba would sometimes gets stymied by dog fur, they created pet series Roombas that work even better on pet hair.
This new version of the Roomba is specifically designed to whisk fur and dander away. The gizmo can even sense when it needs to recharge, reporting to the recharging center, sort of like a dog going to its bowl to get a drink. Source
See how well the Roomba works around furniture… and dogs:
Other Robotic Vacuums & Features
Roomba isn’t the only circular-shaped self-propelled vacuum cleaner on the market.
Cleanmate is another manufacturer of robotic vacuums. Operation and capabilities are similar to the Roomba. According to their website, when the Cleanmate senses its battery is running low, it will automatically return to its docking station, recharge, and once back to full strength will return and finish the cleaning task it was sent to do.
The 2 newest robotic vacuums to hit the market are the Neato robotic vacuum cleaner and the Mint Evolution vacuum. (The Mint vac won an award.) Oh, and the ever-popular Dyson has a robot vacuum in its sights.
Since robots are getting more sophisticated every day, the list of features available in robotic vacuums continues to grow as well.
There are models on the market today that allow you to program them to run at any day or time you choose. You can even use Bluetooth or call up your vacuum on the Internet and program it from anywhere in the world (…if you get the urge to vacuum your floors while you’re gone). I guess this would eliminate the noise and distraction of having it run while you’re looking for a little peace and quiet at home.
More Fun Facts About Roombas & Robotic Vacuums