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iRobot Moves Into Your House 126

MacAndrew writes "An NYT article today expands beyond an earlier /. and annoying futurism to a multiplying line of robots from iRobot, founded by some tinkering MIT grads in Somerville, MA. The robots have found applications ranging from chasing dust bunnies ($200) to exploring the Great Pyramid to bumping around Afghan caves for mines (a war reporter is another possibility), and so appear to be moving beyond the gee whiz Rosie Jetson stage of technology. I'm intrigued that their company name so bluntly builds off of Apple and Asimov symbols, and the prospect that a product with such a chummy name will doubtless soon be sporting lethal force (cf. Predator's recent adventures. So -- anyone get one for Xmas? Chanukah? Or just fun?"
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iRobot Moves Into Your House

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  • by ArmenTanzarian ( 210418 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:12PM (#4960559) Homepage Journal
    This is welcome news, I'm very lazy and I've always wanted something else to do my cleaning, pyramid exploring and killing for me.
  • We get it.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by joshua404 ( 590829 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:12PM (#4960560)
    Robots, anime, Microsoft. Robots, anime, Microsoft.

    I think we understand.
  • Roomba! (Score:5, Informative)

    by janda ( 572221 ) <> on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:17PM (#4960577) Homepage

    I got a Roomba for my boyfriend and my Mother for Christmas. They think it's the neatest thing since sliced bread.

    The only problems we've found so far are that if you have small (e.g. 6"ish) gaps in your wall, say a bookcase, gap, CD tower, gap, bookcase, the Roomba may get confused and not realize there's a wall there. That's what the virtual wall is for. The other issue is animals. They don't know what to think of it.

    • Re:Roomba! (Score:2, Funny)

      by spanky1 ( 635767 )
      The robot doesn't know what to make of the animal? Or the animal doesn't know what to make of the robot?
      • Re:Roomba! (Score:3, Funny)

        by janda ( 572221 )

        The animals don't know what to make of the Roomba.

        The dog stares at it like a deer in the headlights; the cats can't seem to decide if it's chasing them, they should be chasing it, or if they should ignore it.

        • Our cat figured out that she can go on the other side of the virtual wall and watch the Roomba as much as she likes, in relative peace.

          It's not bad for a 1st gen device. Likes to go under the couch quite a bit, and it's more like a carpet sweeper than a true vacuum, but it does help a bit.
    • --they certainly look cool! Glad they liked the little vacuum-bots. I remembered a similar product for cutting the grass, so google to the rescue

      here: Robomower []

      too slick!

    • Re:Roomba! (Score:3, Funny)

      by PolyDwarf ( 156355 )
      I got a Roomba for Christmas, and honestly, it's one of the best cat torture devices I have ever seen.
      • Re:Roomba! (Score:2, Informative)

        by neitzsche ( 520188 )
        I got a Roomba for my wife for her brithday back in October. She hates it (takes 45 minutes to do what she does with a dust mop in 4 minutes, and the dust trap is 1/10th the size it needs to be.) Her opinion is that I "got ripped off."

        My kids love jumping over it. My dogs love barking at it. My cat loves clinging to the celing in the farthest room from it.
    • Re:Roomba! (Score:2, Funny)

      by avgjoe62 ( 558860 )

      I got a Roomba for my boyfriend and my Mother for Christmas...

      Hmmm... wonder what I could get for my wife and kids? Not much, I'd wager...


    • I got a Roomba for my boyfriend

      I'm with you so far.

      and my Mother for Christmas.

      That's unusual. Oh, you mean you gave this thing to your boyfriend and your mother? So how long have they been living together? Ok, I can deal with that -- it's not quite so strange as having your mother delivered to you at Christmas.

      • For those who insist on pendanticism, I purchased two Roomba's. One I gave to my boyfriend, the other I game to my Mother.

        • For those who insist on pendanticism, I purchased two Roomba's.

          Thank you! Are they both just for me, or must I share them with other pedants? I would have used the word "pedantry" there, by the way.

          One I gave to my boyfriend, the other I game to my Mother.

          I see. I'll wait my turn.


  • I'm all for it. (Score:3, Informative)

    by BFaucet ( 635036 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:22PM (#4960601) Homepage
    I hate vaccuming. I'm wondering how easy it is to maintain... Will keeping the robot running (emptying bags, charging, etc.) be less work than just vaccuming alone. Also how well will it cover the floor? will it miss large spots because of charis and other obscacles? I'm not gonna have to go in after it and vaccum spots it missed, will I?
    • Re:I'm all for it. (Score:3, Informative)

      by janda ( 572221 )

      The Roomba doesn't have bags, it has a bin a little larger then a pack of cigarettes. After you use it, you just pop it out, empty it, and put it back in.

      There's a battery indicator on the top of the unit. When it turns yellow (getting low on power), or red (low on power), just plug it back into the charger for 12 hours.

      It covers the floor extremely well, from what I've seen. It seems to measure the distance between objects as it wanders around, and makes sure it hits everything it can. The Roomba is specifically designed to be able to get under beds, chairs, and the like, and it has a brush so it can get under the "lip" between the floor and the cabinet doors and things.

      • Must say I'm genuinely curious (and genuinely lazy). How does it do on thick carpet/uncarpeted floors, stairs, etc.?
      • So, Janda, how much do you get for each unit sold of this New and Exciting Product? As Seen on TV?

        I'm not picking on you -- heck I sent the article in. I was hesitant to include the brand name in the title -- I hate to be the stooge of the word-of-mouth they want -- but hey they dominate the field of goofy or potentially lethal toys.

        The Roomba would give my wife's ("our") cat a stroke, no doubt about. Which is why I want one. ;-)

        Let's see $200 -- is that about $10 per dust bunny pelt?
  • Oh well.. (Score:1, Funny)

    by termos ( 634980 )
    It will just end up with it forcing me to do house work,
    kind of the same strategy as my wife.
  • Can anyone comment on Roomba's performance when kids roam the house ? My critters (2 and 4) usually leave toys all over the place... Can the robot swarm around it to clean up where possible, or will it get stuck ?
    • It should do one of three things: Not be able to move them, so it will treat it like a wall; Move it out of the way and clean under it (it might not pick up dirt behind it then, but you never know), or push it around for a bit, getting all the dirt. I think it would depend on exactly where in the cleaning cycle it was.

    • It will be nice if the next version of the robot can avoid obstacles like toys/shoes, or use a mechanic arm, dust-pan-like to lift this stuff up and maybe put it into a small cart the bot is pulling. I would surely buy this next gen of dust-cleaner, but im afraid that it will end chasing my toy-sized dog.
  • by Hayzeus ( 596826 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:25PM (#4960615) Homepage
    .. but all I got was a dancing robot alarm clock. Still, with a little work, I think I could modify it to destroy my enemies, rob banks or something else equally useful...
  • I have one (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bitter Cup O Joe ( 146008 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:25PM (#4960616)
    That is a badass little device. I've got several cats, and I was worried about whether it could handle kitty litter tracked out of the bathroom, or the rather large amount of cat hair. It handles both just fine. Also, my house is rather cluttered with workout equipment and electronics, and it manages to navigate very well, even getting into corners most of the time. all in all, it was an excellent purchase. I do recommend getting the 2 hour charger if you can find it, though.
  • In 1999... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by webword ( 82711 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:26PM (#4960621) Homepage
    "I'm intrigued that their company name so bluntly builds off of Apple and Asimov symbols, and the prospect that a product with such a chummy name will doubtless soon be sporting lethal force..."

    This doesn't surpise me at all. If this happened in 1999, it would be "eRobot" or "" instead. The marketing drones just go with what is hot. They just throw around buzz.
  • by puto ( 533470 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:26PM (#4960625) Homepage
    The Asmimov thing I get with the I Robot. And it is a homage to a great master whose work about robots has influenced 99.9 of robotic sci-fi since, and probably 100% of all people building robots now. Paying some respects in a major way.

    "I'm intrigued that their company name so bluntly builds off of Apple and Asimov symbols"

    I disagree with the connection to apple. Because IBOOK and IMAC were products long after I-Robot hit the shelves. I Robot hit the shelves in 1950, so I say they got the jump on Apple. Maybe Asmimovs family should seek some sort of injunction. An IBook,Imac is a silicon based calculating machine, here we have prior art for 52 years, that Asimov actively developed until 1976. Apple is always suing people for walking past the factory, or releasing a case that emulates theirs.

    I like Apple, I own an IBOOK. Good little machine. I own three x86's running windows, linux, and solaris(gasp yes solaris,stability at its finest). I never associated my apple with Asimov, and never will. But probbably some geeks over at apple gave it the name to pay homage to a great man.

    Point is that Apple had nothing to do with inspiring this company. Shameless apple plug.

    man, messing with the Asimov the day after christmas. it just aint right.

    • The author merely points out that since apple launched its iMac and iBook products in the late 90's/early 2k, many things seem to be called i(InsertProductNameHere). Unless these particular robots came out well before the apple i(products), it's highly likely the iRobot name was influenced in part by apple.

      btw, on your prior art/asimov claim. does asimov have an endless patent for their I Robot that hit the shelves in the 50's? (they couldn't have a copyright on creating a "silicon based calculating maching").
    • The article specifically says that the company was founded in 1990, and was based off the Asimov book.

      If you all think to 1990, Apple didn't have any 'i' products. I mean, the Mac II [] line was the top of the crop back then. [68030, in the IIfx []]. You don't get to any 'i' products until after you go through the 68040 [Centris, Quadra [], Performa (3 digit) []] lines, the 60x series [PowerMac [], Performa (4 digit) []]. Nothing was named with an 'i' until 1998, with the first iMac [], which was almost a year after the first (beige) G3 [].

      So, I'd have to say that there is no possible way that the name 'iRobot' has anything to do with apple, and that the original contributor of the story (although the story was very interesting), was just confused on the whole matter.
      • If you all think to 1990, Apple didn't have any 'i' products. I mean, the Mac II line was the top of the crop back then..... Nothing was named with an 'i' until 1998....

        Politely, not so. The Macintosh IIci came out in 1989 []; I bought one for my work ($5000!). The "c" meant "compact," and the "i" maybe meant "intergrated video" (no card was required). The IIsi and IIvi followed soon thereafter. OK, this isn't the same as iSomething, but it did get the "i" out there for something new and cool in the stagnating Mac II line.

        I think the names are mostly coincidence, but judging from the NYT article's highlight of the respect the co-founder voices for Apple's achievements, I think they're pleased to be thus associated. Apple made the "i" popular and kind of friendly. No, I don't think Apple should sue them. :)
    • RTFA people, they want to be the Apple of robots. Where robots (and computers) were once industrial devices, they want robots in everyone's home. They explicitly mention the Apple II.

    • I, Robot has a comma, infidel! (I only know because I checked it out today to reread after about 20 years.)

      Point is that Apple had nothing to do with inspiring this company. Shameless apple plug.

      The NYT article references Apple Computer twice prominently, including the co-founder who "describes iRobot's goal as 'doing for robots what Apple did for computers, making them available to anyone who wants to use one.'" Sounds like inspiration to me.

      The similarly to iMac etc. may just be happy circumstance, because it was Apple that made the iThing famous and friendly. I think it's interesting, not litigation material. Also, because I owned one I must correct that the first Apple product with an "i" was the Macintosh IIci introduced in 1989, one year BiR (before iRobot). The "c" I believe meant compact, the "i" I don't know. The IIsi and IIvi followed soon after.

      Shameless Apple plug? As if they need one! :)

      Typing away on my iBook....
    • I read the forward to Asimov's I, Robot, and Asimov says the book title was the publisher's decision, but he was against using that title because there was already another writing by the title, but of course the publisher won in the end. So there's a prior art even before Asimov... :P

      If anyone's interested, I can post the relevant portion of the forward. I don't have the book with me at the moment but I should be able to grab it this weekend.

  • Wrong Direction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CatWrangler ( 622292 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:29PM (#4960635) Journal
    Little droids are not the answer. Smart technology that is seamless, like an anti electo static floor that is combined with low lying filters that suck up dust bunnies will be more practical and marketable in the long run.

    Robots are cool at first, but they will become as obtrusive as a visit from the mother-in-law. You do not want to trip over one of these things at 2am when you are raiding the fridge.

    It is also bad enough when the dog is looking at you when you are having sex, but a robot running around the room straightening up while you are doing the nasty is probably worse(unless you are into that kinda thing).

    Give people seamless technology, that is as unobtrusive and "invisible" as possible, and you will have a winner.

    • Obviously you didn't read the article. It doesn't just decide to clean a room. You tell it where to go and it stops when its done cleaning a room. You don't trip over it at 2am if you don't tell it to clean at 2am! And it certainly isn't going to be in the room when you're having sex unless you put it there.

    • Smart seamless technology is fine for engineers, but pratically speacking what happens when your floor filters break and have to pay through the nose to fix them? You go out and buy some little robot to pick up the slack. It's more like a object oriented approach, I put the robot in any room and it does it's task. If it breaks, everything else still works (including the floor).

      Great designs need to be practical, I don't want a 500HP engine in my car if I have to remove the alternator to change the oil (no matter what the cost)!
  • Rock 'em, Sock 'em, iRobots!
  • Was running late for work, and gave my cat some food...Well the lid of the dry food container fell off and so kittie got more food than expected.

    Perhaps these robots would pick this up?
  • by Dolphinzilla ( 199489 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:42PM (#4960684) Journal
    The Predator UAV is nothing but a big radio controlled aircraft - it takes two human operators to fly and use the system. There are UAV's that are truly robots (Global Hawk for one)
    but in the context of this Slashdot story Predator is completely irrelevant and incorrect.

    • robot ( P ) Pronunciation Key (rbt, -bt)
      1) A mechanical device that sometimes resembles a human and is capable of performing a variety of often complex human tasks on command or by being programmed in advance.
      2) A machine or device that operates automatically or by remote control.
      3) A person who works mechanically without original thought, especially one who responds automatically to the commands of others.
      (from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

      By definition 2 I'd say that it qualifies myself.
  • by dachang ( 258727 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @12:47PM (#4960703)
    Headline around Christmas in 2006:

    "New Roomba Virus Released; Owners Advised to Lock Roomba (or Pets)"

    AP -- NYC

    A new strain of CatLover Roomba virus was released yesterday by a Russian hacker. When infected, Roomba will apparently start chasing household cats and dogs and try to electrecute them. Owners are advised to download the lastest patch from to prevent tragedies. Authorities in US and Russia are collaborating closely in pursuit of the suspect..."

    OMG, the horror!
  • Roomba Roxor (Score:2, Informative)

    by flashbang ( 124262 )
    I got one for my wife for Christmas. Here are some observations:

    1. If you have carpets with tassles (throw rugs) you have to fold them under the carpet. Just like regular vac's that chew up the string, the roomba will also eat them.

    2. Cords. You have to make sure you have them nicely tucked away.

    3. You still have to pick up the junk on the floors - clothes, rocks, toys, spare parts, etc, just like you would do when (if) you sweep up otherwise. It's a nice trade off though, just pick up then turn it on.

    4. We only have wood floors with area carpets, no deep pile. I don't know how well it would work on deeper pile.
    • It does not work on deep pile. Expressly stated in the manual. Medium and short pile is OK. Work wonderfully on our medium pile floor.
  • I hear it's peak performance [] is on July 4th []!

  • Don't they mean "i,Robot"?
  • Electrolux Trilobite (Score:2, Interesting)

    by d97mno ( 309963 )
    Does anyone have the Trilobite ZA1? Is it available anywhere else besides Sweden?

    Anyways it's a really cool little critter. It uses sonar to seek out the room. Also it automatically recharges itself since it finds its' way back to the charger. It can also untangle itself from carpets and other stuff.How cool is that?

    Seems a bit more stronger and more advanced than Roomba.

    However it's priced at 1500 euro so... =)
  • An owner's view... (Score:3, Informative)

    by digitalamish ( 449285 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @01:08PM (#4960782)
    I bought one a couple of months ago. I live in a loft with 2 cats. Here are some of my observations:

    - It does really well with cat hair and dirt/dust, but it doesn't scrub the floor. So if you have dried mud, it just goes over it.

    - I've already had to disassemble it a couple of times to clean out the cat hair and strings that get wrapped around the various rollers. It's not a huge problem, and I actually like digging through the machine.

    - I must get the rapid charger. Charging for 12 hours for 90 minutes is not fun. Having a spare battery and a charging doc would be a nice addition.

    - My cats were freaked out at first, but they've come to accept it. They causally walk around it while it's going.

    - It not silent. It is a vacuum, and it sounds like one.

    - The debris cup could be a little bigger.

    - It has a tendancy to smite my enemies, and reward my allies.

    No electrons were harmed in this post.
    • It has a tendancy to smite my enemies, and reward my allies.

      Could you elaborate on this point? As an evil overlord, I usually have no problem finding sla^H^H^Hrobots to vacuum my floors. I am, however, having difficulty finding an enterprise solution for automated smiting and rewarding.

  • OK, so have any of these developers seen Terminator? Real life Predator drones, what's next? Will man become a hunted animal in a world ruled by machines gone mad? The robots in Asimov's tales were relativly benign since they had to follow the three laws, but hasn't anyone read Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream"?
    • I don't think we'll have too much trouble with the Roomba taking over the world. If we do, we can just 1) wait 90 minutes for their batteries to die or 2) trap them in an infrared invisible wall jail. :)
  • Cleaning robots.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by deego ( 587575 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @01:15PM (#4960807)
    Why can't we just get a similar thing that has no brain or algo of its own but simply accepts left/right/clean/foo instructions from a nearby computer.

    We could then program this all we want (in a language of choice) and make it better and better. One would soon get an auto-recharging algo and other advances...

    And wouldn't that also turn out to be cheaper?

    • Because companies like to make money, in general. While you might buy a cleaning robot you could program, and maybe a few hundred other geeks might buy one, the company would rather sell hundreds of thousands of robots to normal consumers for $200.
  • Automatic vacuums have been around for a while. The first was part of the famous "Kitchen of the Future" [] in the 1950s. It was a drive-around-at-random device, like the Roomba. 1980s designs from Denning (Moravec's company) used sonar rangefinders and did some simple mapping. These ranged in size from a Tennant machine big enough to ride on, for airline terminals and shopping malls, to a home-sized device from General Electric.

    The Roomba is dumb, but at $200, it's cost-effective.

  • by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <.gro.ognats. .ta. .todhsals.> on Thursday December 26, 2002 @01:35PM (#4960881) Homepage Journal
    The current model is cool, but like the reviewer, I want more features-- a little more intelligence and autonomy, for one thing.

    I'd like it to be able to locate and drive into its recharger when it's done.
    I'd like it to be able to empty its own dirt cup.
    A decent solution for both issues above would be to make the recharger a raised platform with a small ramp the Roomba must negotiate. Have dirt cup open from underneath like a railroad hopper car, and let it empty into a larger dirt receptacle beneath the recharger that I could dump out weekly.

    I'd also like to be able to set it to run only when I'm at work, and to set it do do high-traffic rooms more often than others.

    Additionally, I'd like Roomba to be a little smarter about where it's been-- maybe have an option to load a floorplan into it, and have it 'know' where it is relative to its recharger station at all times during its run.

    I'd be more than willing to pay $400-500 for such a beast.

  • Love my Roomba (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nedron ( 5294 ) on Thursday December 26, 2002 @01:36PM (#4960885) Homepage
    We've been using a Roomba for some time now and are getting ready to add two more to the house (one for each floor).

    When I leave in the morning, I just set it in the middle of the kitchen, hit the L[arge] button and go to work. The Roomba then does its thing and vacuums the kitchen, living room, and dining room. It sweeps under all the furniture and with one exception (detailed below) doesn't get "trapped" or caught.

    I do pick up one small rug with a fringe that the Roomba doesn't get along with, but other than that it works well.
  • A friend of mine works closely with iRobot, or IS Robotics as they used to be called. They do make some cool commercial stuff, but they basically do that to pay the bills. They do a ton of research for DARPA, helping to develop robots usable for military and other purposes. For example, they are the ones who built that sea-mine killing crab-bot that you see on science TV shows once in a while. So, as the submitter of this article implies, they do develop robots for the military. But the author makes it sound like this is, or will be, a new thing for them. Actually, producing commercial, mass market robots is the new thing for them. I think that's why they changed their name to something more cutesy.
  • Asimov's robot company's name was already used before.

    By US Robotics .

    Remember them? They made those old-fashioned modem-things.

    • You have it backwards. Asimov wrote the "I, Robot" stories in the 1940's and 50's, well before there was any US Robotics modem-making company around. The modem-makers took their name directly from the fictional company created by Asimov.
  • Roomba is very cool (Score:2, Informative)

    by nbast ( 525275 )
    I got my wife one for Christmas, and it's very cool. I convinced her to open it early, so we've been playing with it for a few weeks now. It's combination of spiral, wall hugging, and random driving patterns actually work suprisingly well.

    Our living room/dining room/kitchen/foyer is all open, so it's more like an XL size room. After running the Roomba twice on L setting, it covered almost everything. It looks like one or twice a week will keep the whole area in good shape. I've had it get caught on the fringe of a small throw rug that I forgot to pick up, and the sinning wall sensor brushes got tangled together with hair once. Other than that, it's been problem free. Before turning it on, i get the PS2 and laptop cords off the floor, and set some smaller items on other furniture. Stuff you'd do when using a big vacuum too...

    As mentioned above, the charging time is the only significant negative I've found. I'll have to search for the quick charger someone mentioned. On a full charge, it'll do about one L and one M room.

  • It sounds like their military robots might not, but does the Roomba at least agree not to harm humans?
  • an iZac, a la Futurama?
  • I bought one for my mom and she adores it -- so much so that I'm not sure it'll actually save her any time for the next couple months, because she enjoys standing there watching it do its thing!

    It's not a particularly powerful vacuum cleaner, and it has trouble with throw-rugs with tassels and such. It can also get itself wedged in between chair legs if they're just the right distance apart. But those are minor nits that I think my mom will notice happening once, adjust for, then never worry about again.

    It'll be swell when version 2.0 comes out and can go recharge itself as needed. Now if only they made a robot to do my laundry and ironing...

  • Just don't get it confused with a robomower [].
    My neighbor has one of these. He glued a GI-Joe to the top of it. Yee haw!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    we were a little skeptical about the roomba irobot vacuum, but-- after it cleaned our place and performed great. []
  • A few years ago, Radio Shack sold Tomy's DustBot for about $10 to $15. Although it was only five inches tall, it exhibited many of the Roomba's capabilities:
    1. Two C cells powered its traction motor
    2. It would turn quickly to the right to avoid obstacle it struck
    3. It would turn quickly to the right to avoid dropping off a table edge
    4. It swept a broom back and forth to loosen dirt
    5. It had a small vacuum to suck up the loosened dirt
    6. It's dirt chamber needed frequent cleaning

    Like many Tomy toys, Dustbot achieved its goals with minimal, marvelous mechanical mechanisms. See photos at Lee's Robo Gallery [] and Gwen's Corndog Festival []. Radio Shack still provides support information [].

  • If robots could be less expensive and more general purpose than they are now, they would be the next big thing. Two late 90's inventions which made robots come back in style were inexpensive IC accelerometers and inexpensive IC tilt sensors, allowing machines to orient themselves for under $100. The next problem is reducing the cost of power transistors and machine parts. It's real expensive to build machine parts which perform useful work.

  • Look, I saw an ad for roomba once here already and while I thought it was cool, it wasn't cool enough to buy (c'mon...)

    Anyway, the platform of choice is definately the Evolution ER1-K ( which can be configured more like their co-worker bot. It is fully automated, configurable, has collision detection, a gripper arm and you can control it remotely. (I even added tank-tracks and a bicycle safety flag to mine).

    The robot is programmable through python and they are releasing their C++ API later this month (rounding to January here).

    If you are going to re-post stuff... at least post it to the interesting products.

  • I got one from Brookstone, which has a 60 day return policy, and I'm going to return mine soon. It's been entertaining to play with, but it's not very practical.

    Problem #1: It gets stuck on thresholds (the little raised piece of wood in some doorways). Roomba gets beached on mine and emits a little "uh oh!" tone, and I have to come rescue him. (I've decided it's a he.) Ideally I'd like to start him up when I go to work and come home to a clean room, but I have to be there in case he gets stuck.

    Problem #2: Weak suction. Roomba tends to push dirt around first before vacuuming it up. Not usually a problem, except that in my bedroom I have an area rug, maybe 1/2 inch tall. He'll push the dirt up to the edge of the rug, but then he can't vacuum it up there, because he's at a slight incline when he's half on and half off the rug. So I end up with a ring of dirt on the floor around the edge of the rug.

    Plus, of course, you can't get rid of your regular vacuum (or at least a dust buster), because Roomba only does floors, not couches, stairs, etc.

    Overall, a fun experiment, and somewhat useful, but not worth keeping (for $200, anyway).
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