I popped the battery in, and plunked Roomba down
in the middle of a large, cluttered room, turned on the power, and hit the
L button. It beeped, and started in an ever widening circular pattern. The
unit is fairly loud (maybe 80 db), but it's not nearly as loud as a full
sized manual vacuum. As soon as it hit the first solid object, it went off
in a straight line. Roomba does a random pattern that it seems to
generate on the fly depending on how many objects it hits. Often it
will follow a wall, including going around a corner, and around
furniture. When it goes under a couch, it often does little circles
around the legs, sucking dust the whole time.
Roomba even gets into tight places, and doesn't
get stuck. It made it in and around the legs of chairs, tables, and
just about everything else. When it got to the basement stairs, it
stopped, tried a few more times, and then turned around and went the other
Did Roomba get stuck? Yes. It got stuck a
few times. But the picture below gives you an idea of the environment that
our Roomba was operating in.
All of the pictures shown in this article were
taken while Roomba was cleaning. Once it got caught in what iRobot
calls, "the lobster trap", where two objects are just the right
distance apart, and Roomba wedges between them. This only happened
once with the chair depicted at the right of the picture above, but only
when two caster wheels were pointed in opposite directions, at which point
the Roomba jammed between them, emitted a sad beep, and shut down. The
other two times it got stuck (over two days of testing) was when it caught
a small metal chain hanging from a vent on our cast iron stove, and the
other was when the edge of a slip cover on a couch got caught in the
roller. All of these were easy to remedy.
Roomba often went right over speaker cables
running under couches, but there were a few times when it almost got hung
up on wires. If you can get them out of the way, Roomba will
And what about those pets? Roomba will run
right into them. But our pets either ignored Roomba and stood their
ground, at which point Roomba bumped gently into them, turned, and went
elsewhere, or the pet simply got out of the way and watched Roomba go
by. The cat was a little weary of the contraption, and stayed away
for the most part. Roomba is quite pet friendly in the sense that it
won't swallow your pet, nor will it bruise their ankles.
After finishing up a room, Roomba stops and plays
a short victory song. A quick inspection of the dust catcher reveals
a wad of dirt, dust and hair. This can be easily dumped into the
garbage, and you're ready for another room. After 5 to 10 room cleanings,
you may need to pull some hair from around the brush roller axles on the
underside. This is also quite easy to do.
Roomba is not meant to completely replace manual
vacuuming, it is meant to drastically reduce the amount of time you have
to do this. You will still need to vacuum behind bookcases, etc., not to
mention drapes, and other things that Roomba can't get to.
The virtual wall units work very well, as does the
rapid charger. The built-in trickle charger can take 10 hours to
charge the battery fully, but the rapid charger will do the job in less
than 2 hours. I was amazed at how much dust and dirt Roomba picked up in a
room that appeared relatively clean at the start. It does what it
was designed to do, and does it well.
I can't say how long Roomba will continue to work
properly. It is a fairly complicated device, and I could imagine
that it might act up in the future. But reviews I've read suggest
that Roomba is built to last.
Conclusions The Roomba
is a really great first robot for any family. Everyone here who
watched it at work was surprised at how well it worked, and talked about
getting one. That is one heck of a testimonial.
Additional Note: iRobot, the maker of
Roomba, has just announced that they have debuted two new Roomba models,
the Roomba Pro, and the Roomba Pro Elite, which has a feature that I
particularly like; a remote control. Link.
- Really works!
- Doesn't get stuck much at all
- Good artificial intelligence
- Really fun to watch
- Gets along with most pets
- Gets dirt you didn't know was there
- Dust catcher is too small for really
- Battery life a bit short
- A little noisy
- Extra batteries a little expensive
- Uncertain lifetime
Approximately $199 US retail
4.6 out of 5 smiley faces (92%).
:) :) :) :) + Highly recommended
© Copyright, August 21st, 2003 KickAss