When we heard about the iRobot Roomba we instinctively looked to the skies to see if people were flying around on jetpacks or if hover cars were whizzing by. Apparently, the future is not quite here but the Roomba is, at the very least, a little glimmer of it.
- Smart machine, good clean, not too loud.
- A little temperamental at times, not deep enough clean
As a piece of modern technology it’s a great talking piece for the home but if a powerful deep vacuum is required, the little Roomba might not be right for the job.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
The first thing we noticed about the Roomba was the design. It is circular, small, cute and adorable and was the source of much bickering regarding who got to "test" it first. The Roomba has a rechargeable battery which clips into its belly and lasts about two hours per charge. It takes quite a while to recharge via the dock but you can also plug the power adapter directly for a quicker result. When you turn on the unit and press the clean button, the Roomba lets out a little call to arms alert sound and heads off on its merry way on a quest for dirt.
Compared to a regular vacuum cleaner our little friend isn't too loud but we soon found out why this is. As far as we could tell, it isn't actually a vacuum cleaner at all. The Roomba cleans via a series of brushes which work in unison to collect dirt from the surface of the carpet. Whilethe unit does a good job of cleaning the carpet, it doesn't have the suction necessary to draw the dirt out of the carpet pile. Still, the cleaning process does bring some of it to the surface which is effectively eliminated. While roaming around the room the Roomba is actively searching for dirt and dust. When it finds some, it concentrates on that area until it is done and then moves on. It the unit bumps into an object or a wall, a quick about-face sends it off in another direction.
When the Roomba comes to some stairs, it detects them then turns around and continues working. The system comes with two virtual walls which can be set up to create invisible barriers for the Roomba so it doesn't venture into places people may not want cleaned. This little machine is smart and performs the set tasks very well. If the battery is running low The Roomba will automatically seek out its recharging dock and guide itself in. Once docked, the unit lets out a triumphant "DaDa" sound. Never before has having your house cleaned been so entertaining.
It is mind boggling to think that a product like this actually exists; it's the stuff of science fiction, brought to life by clever technology in a tight package that works well. There are also various optional extras you can buy for it including a scheduler with which you can tell your new pet to clean the house at a certain time on a certain day. While you are off at work, your house is being cleaned, an idea that is obviously appealing to pretty much anyone.
All the techno-cool appeal aside, there are a couple of drawbacks to the Roomba. Apart from a lack of serious vacuuming power it can also be a little temperamental at times, especially after a full battery drain and recharge. This will annoy some people, especially when they remembered that they spent a pretty penny on their Roomba and it doesn't always want to work. But we think advantages far outweigh the negatives and since its such a great idea, well made, well programmed and a lot of fun to watch we loved the product and look forward to future iterations.
As a side note, the Roomba is soon going to be getting a friend. Scooba is on its way to our shores mid next year, we are told, and is another robotic cleaning system but this time it will wash and dry your kitchen floors. We will keep a close eye on the iRobot Corporation and take a look at a Scooba as soon as we are able.
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