Robotic Vacuum Cleaners – Housework Saviour or a Load of Hype?

iRobot Roomba and Lighthouse Robotic Vacuums seem by all accounts to be something of a miracle invention; they’re reported to make life easier by vacuuming your home for you while you go off and have fun, but how well do they actually deliver on this? I kidnapped an iRobot Roomba vacuum to find out the truth.

As I live in a flat, I initially just let the Roomba run wild and traverse the entire floor area in one go by leaving the doors to all the rooms open. This saved me from having to physically move the vacuum from room to room, but this is probably not the best method to employ, as iRobot technology works by mapping out the dimensions of a room and storing them in its computerised memory. So letting the robot think that my whole flat is just one big room would probably prove a bit confusing and hinder its performance To get the full benefit of an iRobot I found that it’s better to tackle one room at a time; I’m informed that there is an accessory called the ‘Lighthouse’ which achieves this by guiding the vacuum into each room in succession.

I admit to being slightly sceptical of the iRobot’s “Dirt Detect” technology, which claims to target particularly bad areas of dirt, but I did notice that my Roomba spent a lot of time doing little pirouettes over a couple of areas with some particularly big dustballs (I hadn’t vacuumed for a few weeks in anticipation, ok?) and did eventually get them clean. One of my other favourite moments was when it passed effortlessly underneath the sofa – somewhere my clunky upright vacuum never ventures!

If you get to sit and observe an iRobot in action (although I’d hope for your sake that you have better things to do) you’ll notice it’s actually very thorough in its movements. Don’t worry if the cleaning pattern seems a bit random; the way that these robotic vacuums traverse and ‘memorise’ the dimensions of a room are designed to make it easier for them to map out areas containing obstacleslike furniture, rather than just four straight walls. The iRobot’s travel path has been documented by photographers (see image, right) to demonstrate how much of the floor area these robotic vacuums cover.

To clean one average-sized carpeted room took about half an hour, and once finished, the Roomba headed straight back to its dock to recharge. It seemed to go over each area about 2-3 times from different angles, and it did an excellent job. The one possible drawback is that, being a compact unit, the dust-collecting ‘bin’ would need to be emptied after each use, but this is no great hardship.

The iRobot is not able to negotiate stairs (though to its credit, it did sense and avoid stairways, rather than hurtling to an untimely death) but for flat-dwellers like myself that doesn’t pose a problem. And I bet that the manufacturers will be working on it!!

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  1. Alex

    March 15, 2011 | 10:08 - Reply

    Think I have just found the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

  2. James

    March 30, 2011 | 15:16 - Reply

    This sounds great as a mini clean inbetween the normal hoovering, however not sure I’d use this as the only way to vacuum my house. Is a great gaget idea thou!!

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