Robotic vacuum cleaner, or a “robovac”, is a vacuum cleaner that has a certain level of autonomy from a user and is programmed to clean. All of them use vacuum to clean while some have additional methods like spinning brushes, mopping or UV sterilization. Some even have security cameras, intercom systems and other features and are more domestic robots than just vacuum cleaners.
The first ever robotic vacuum cleaner appeared in 1996. It was made by Electrolux, Swedish household and professional appliances manufacturer and was called “Trilobite”. Because of its novelty it appeared on BBC's science TV program, Tomorrow's World. It worked fairly well but it had problems with colliding with objects and because it stoped a short distance from walls and other objects it left small areas that are not cleaned. Its production is discontinued. Technology Company Dyson from Britain made their variant known DC06 in 2001 but it was too costly and it never entered mass production. A year later iRobot, an American advanced technology company, launched the Roomba. This robovac can change direction when it encounters an obstacle, detect dirty spots on the floor, and can detect steep drops, which keeps it from falling down stairs. It became popular vary fast and other companies returned to the idea of a robotic vacuum cleaner. Roomba has over 40 models in all price ranges to this day. Neato Robotics made a XV-11 robotic vacuum which uses laser-vision instead of a traditional ultrasound while Dyson Company tries to create a robotic vacuums that use a vision system with cameras for navigation.
As all tools, robovacs have their positive and their negative sides. They are less noisy compared to the standard vacuum cleaners. They save time because they can be left alone to finish their job. They just need to be placed in the room that needs cleaning, switched on, program needs to be selected and that’s it. Some of them need to be recharged after the work while other can find docking station where they will recharge on their own. They require much less maintenance than standard vacuum cleaners. Dirt box has to be emptied and roller brushes have to be cleaned. They are much smaller and require much less space to be kept. They can also reach under the beds, tables and under the cabinets with no problem. Their sensors also keep them safe so you don’t have to worry that they will hit something or that they will fall down the stairs.
As for negative sides they, for instance, need more time to clean the room than standard vacuum cleaners. This can present a problem if someone wishes to clean the whole house at once. They can be pretty pricey. Budget models can have a price of $200 while high-end models can be priced to $400 while standard vacuum cleaners are around $100. They work on flat surfaces only, which is probably they major flaw today. They can have problems with thicker carpets and, of course, they can’t clean stairs. Some robovacs like Roomba can have very costly replacement batteries. Battery replacements for Roomba cost a significant part of a price of a new Roomba. Sensors are not perfect and robovac can stuck in some places and must be “liberated” by hand. Robovacs that have the option to find its docking station can sometimes get lost and fail to find it. They still cannot replace standard vacuum cleaners and should be used as a method to keep house cleaner on daily bases but you should keep vacuuming the house with much stronger vacuums.
Robotic vacuum cleaners are still improving and these shortcomings will be solved someday.