Bought new toy – a “Roomba” robot vacuum. It is bumping it’s way around the downstairs now on it’s first run. It is a little noisy, though certainly not as noisy a regular vacuum. Will have to see if it can find the way back to the charging station. The downstairs is sort of H-shaped.

Yes, and the commercial is amusing :)

iRobot - Robots for the Real World : Commercial WM

Was curious how the dog would react. So far he just looks a little puzzled, and moves whenever this noisy little object heads his way.

Watching this thing bump it’s way into corners, under tables, and under the dining room chairs … I am starting to think this thing might actually be useful.

Update: Nope - it didn’t find the charging station. Will try a different location.

Update: Next morning let it loose upstairs. The upstairs with the doors to the kids’ bedrooms closed off is a bit smaller than the downstairs, and was badly in need of cleaning (more than a week since the last vacuuming). The poor little thing bumped around until it’s battery was exhausted, and the dust bin and insides were choked with dust. Bit of an unfair test, but I wanted to see how well it would do. To the credit of the designers, it did not get stuck once (though it did unplug one of the floor lamps). The upstairs could definitely use another pass, though I have to note the machine got into and cleaned places I do not normally reach with the vacuum.

My only (minor and tentative) criticism is that the thing either needs to have a bigger battery, or be a bit smarter about finding it’s way back to the charging station. Wearing the designer’s hat I would choose the second option. If you have a bigger battery, then you likely need a bigger dust bin. With a bigger battery and dust bin the manufacturing costs increase, and if the unit gets bigger it cannot get into the smaller places to clean. People with smaller places do not need the bigger battery. In larger places for the little beast to go back, recharge, then continue it’s run, seems entirely acceptable. Making the device a bit smarter should not increase manufacturing costs.

Update: Moved the charging station to a different location, and let the thing loose downstairs. The charging station was in one corner under a ~2’ square table. At the end of the run it clearly was trying to get to the charging station, but it just could not get past the opposite table leg. Moved the charging station to under the center of the table (no longer on the diagonal) and it found the charging station just fine.

Update: Let it loose again upstairs. It didn’t really finish the job last time (not a criticism as the upstairs was overdue). Opened the door to the hall bathroom, which it cleaned, but could not find it’s way out (stopped on the bathroom tile to hall carpet transition). Used a laundry basket (no batteries needed) to block it out of the master bedroom, so it would have a better chance at doing a thorough job.

Ouch!! It just fell down the stairs!! A short fall on carpeted stairs, so no damage. After the crash it made a little “uh-oh” noise (cute). It made quite a few passes at the top edge of the stairs before falling, so the algorithm used almost works :). A bit later it almost went over the edge, but stopped just in time.

On reflection, cleaning the dusty innards is a bit more trouble than I’d like. Used a compressed air can to blow out dust where I could not reach (and got a nose full of dust). The filter assembly built into the dust bin is a bit flimsy and just a shade more trouble to reassemble than I would recommend for the general population. Might be better to put the filter on a hinge, with a “pull me” tab on one side.