17 March 2008

iRobot Roomba

AKA, the best 300 bucks I've spent in a long, long time.

Years ago, whenever I'd go to Home Depot, I'd stop and watch an early generation of the Roomba do its thing. Corralled in a little carpeted pen, it would (seemingly) randomly roll around and suck up bits of paper that had been spread about. I always thought, "I'd like one of those one day, when they get a little cheaper and smarter."

I honestly don't know if they've gotten any cheaper, but Roombas have gotten a hell of a lot smarter and I have a higher salary now. So, since (a) I have a lot of cats with a lot of hair that tends to shed and quickly become gigantor dustbunnies, and (b) I am a very, very lazy person, I decided to invest in one.

Before I chose one, however, I researched the Roomba thoroughly first. I found a Roomba community full of fanatics who love to collect Roombas, dissect their Roombas to see how they work, and hack their Roombas to make Super!Roombas that will probably take over the earth one day. Like proto-Daleks. (I am so not kidding about that last bit.)

Anyway, their forum was extraordinarily helpful, and I decided to get the Roomba 550, which is sold at Costco (and perhaps other places, but it seems like a lot of retailers sell the 560, which is pretty much the same machine as the 550. I don't know what the differences are, if any - it's not immediately apparent.).

For those who don't know how a Roomba works, I'll try to explain. There are two brushes underneath the Roomba that rotate towards each other. There's probably some sucking involved too. Also, there's about 8 little brushes on a wheel that spin around. They're good for corners and baseboards and whatnot. The Roomba "sees" dirt through its 3 or 4 electronic eyes. I think. Uh, that's really all I know about how it does its job.

The 500 series is the newest generation of Roombas. The reasons I decided to get the 550 are:

  • comes with a docking station and these little things called Lighthouses, which act either as virtual walls (emits a beam the Roomba knows not to pass) or as a beacons that tell the Roomba to finish cleaning one room before it moves on to another
  • has a scheduler so you can program the Roomba to clean whenever you want (I will eventually use this feature but I haven't as of yet)

I've had my Roomba (which I would name if I was one of those people who names things like cars and laptops, but I'm not so I won't) for about a week now and so far I love it. It does a much better job than I would do with my vacuum and half-assed attitude. My floors are super-clean and kinda shiny. I wish I had some carpet so I could try it out on that, too (Roomba goes effortlessly between carpet and hardwood!).

Roomba does a great job on floors and baseboards and a decent job in corners. It goes under most furniture, too, which is fab because that's usually where the gigantor dustbunnies like to nest and clone themselves.

It looks like it's randomly moving about, but Roomba actually does some fancy mathing with its electronic eyes and figures out how it wants to clean the room. It slows down when it approaches most furniture and walls.

Fun Video!

When the Roomba is done cleaning, I just pull out the chamber where all the dirt and hair are stored and dump it in the trash. Voila.

There are a some things I'm still monitoring, which is why I haven't let it run on its own yet:

  • It tends to get caught up in the cord that runs from my electric mattress pad to the wall. At some point I believe that it will yank it out, so I need to figure out a way to get the cord off the floor. I will say, though, that the Roomba knows it's caught up in the cord and tries its darnedest to extricate itself and most of the time it succeeds.
  • It has a hard time seeing furniture that's less than a few inches wide (like my bar stool legs) and bangs them a bit
  • It got stuck under my TV cabinet once because the cabinet is not quite high enough to let the Roomba under it (which is good, because there are a lot of cords under it).
  • It ate a cat toy, which rattled around inside it until I removed it (my fault entirely).
  • I'm afraid the cats will vomit on the floor and the Roomba will try to clean the vomit, which would, I believe, kill the Roomba dead.

Speaking of cats, I was curious to see how my 3 cats would deal with having a robot around. The first night went about as expected, with a lot of emotional upset. But, less than a week later, the Roomba is part of the family, and nobody wants to kill it anymore, with the possible exception of Coco, who smacked it the other day while she thought the Roomba wasn't looking.

So, to sum up, Roomba = awesome. I'll bet your vacuum doesn't play a jaunty tune when it's done cleaning, does it?


Erin said...

Stop anthropomorphizing your creepy robotic vacuum. It's freaking me out. I don't like the idea of sentient beings knowing how dirty I let my floors get. Surely this sort of information is stored somewhere and will come back to haunt you.

Cat said...

If I was anthropomorphizing it, I would name it. Although, I do thank it sometimes after it's finished cleaning.

Erin said...

Ha, read back to what you wrote. You're acting as if it were a particularly useful slave!


Meredith said...

I am shaking in envy. As a lover of all products cleaning and domestic, I have long lusted after the Roomba. MUST. OWN.

Cat said...

It is so worth the money, I'm telling you. You won't regret it.

I'm thinking about saving up for a Scooba, which is the floor-washing version. I have all hardwood floors that are constantly speckled with muck, mostly cat-related.