Can a robot really vacuum your home?


I’m not sure about you, but when I was a kid I was always under the impression that by the time I reached an age where I might be expected to act in a responsible and adult manner, we humans would have robots on hand to help out with pretty much everything.

Yes, the iPhone in my pocket is pretty snazzy, but no matter how many times I ask Siri to fetch me a gin and tonic it gives me the silent treatment before telling me it’s raining. I swear it’s just guessing…it never stops raining in England.

That cars and trains don’t drive themselves (watch your back striking tube drivers…one day they will) is a source of daily disappointment, while the knowledge that few, if any, houses have anything resembling the cracking contraptions made famous by Wallace and Gromit is another cause for tears before bedtime. All things considered, it feels like I’ve been told a pack of lies by childhood cartoons, comics and movies…

Redemption of sorts though comes in the form of robot vacuum cleaners. Bowled over by the idea that the pressing of one button can rid my home of dust, I’ve a renewed sense that my life is worth living. I mean, who wouldn’t be seduced by the prospect of a Dalek with OCD…

How do they work?

Sitting low to the ground and compact in design compared to their manual cousins, robot vacuums are all about mobility. Using a combination of micro switch bumpers, ultrasound, infrared and photo-cell technology they’re kind of similar to a small child who, unable to walk, crawls around the floor with enthusiasm for a couple of hours, occasionally bumps into furniture and eats pretty much anything it comes across. Admittedly they’re not quite as awe-inspiring as a young child, although that won’t stop your other half preferring its company to you.

The question remains though, are they the future of vacuuming? It would appear that they certainly have the potential to do the job, but it’s also obvious that the technology that makes them tick hasn’t yet been honed to iron out clear flaws.

Given we humans have eyes and a pretty impressive memory which allows us to remember if we’ve hoovered a spot or not, manual vacuum cleaning equipment is still going to be the preferred option for the clean freaks out there. That being said, if you’re someone who never vacuums in the first place, a little robot helper, is certainly going to improve things more than if you never lift a finger.

Money matters?

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. While prices vary a great deal, it’s the models costing in and around the £250 mark which feature the cutting edge technology that makes a tangible difference.

Basic devices operate by tackling the job at hand in either a semi-random or spiral pattern. Placed in the middle of the room they work their way outward passing over the surface of the floor several times although while some areas get attention over and over, other sections of your carpet might just get one suck session. Thankfully, more advanced models can be pre-programmed with a specific route so you know the whole floor will get the attention it needs. This same technology also allows some machines to be programmed to return to their charging base when they are out of battery and stops them from falling down stairs. If only the same could be done with children!

Given their low-slung design they can easily get underneath beds and sofas to clean areas which their manual cousins struggle to reach with most using the same bag-less technology which has been made famous by Dyson. Moreover, incorporating self adjusting cleaning heads, the most popular versions, including the iRobot Roomba range, are able to sense the kind of flooring they are working with and thus adapt their settings to facilitate the sucking of dirt and dust from carpets or harder parquetry.

Man's best friend

It’s true, robot vacuum cleaners, due to their small motors, do take longer to clean a room than the manual versions, but it shouldn’t be seen as a major disadvantage. They are designed to work whilst their owners are themselves working, meaning it’s not a major issue.

All in all, it certainly looks as though robot vacuum cleaners are here to stay. Improving year-on-year in both design and performance they’re obviously very attractive options for those individuals with hectic schedules.

Perhaps the only thing you need to worry about, is what you’ll name yours? As things stand I’m leaning towards R2-D2, although Optimus Prime and the Terminator also make attractive alternatives to that tepid old fogey Henry the Hoover.

Would you buy a robot vacuum cleaner rather than a manual version? Which models would you recommend? What would you call yours? Let us know in the comment section.