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Robot vacuum cleaners: meet Roomba, Navibot and Hom-Bot

Who makes robot vacuum cleaners?

Latest news for Robot Vacuum CleanersIn the UK, three brands of robot cleaners are fighting for your dirt: iRobot Roomba, Samsung’s NaviBot and LG Hom-Bot.

With several models, iRobot’s Roomba is the venerable grandfather of vacuuming bots, with its newer pal, the Scooba floor washing robot.

Samsung has four models of robot vacuum cleaner, the NaviBot SR8825, Silencio SR8895, the SR8980, and the new NaviBot Corner Clean.

The LG Hom-Bot Square is a new arrival, with an unusual shape and some unusual design features, such as a top-loading dustbin.

Robo-domestication enthusiasts in the USA and South Korea enjoy much richer pickings, with bots from Electrolux and LG competing to pick up their waste.

What does a robot vacuum cleaner look like?

Both the Roomba and NaviBot are disc-shaped robots with two drive wheels, around 30cm across. The Hom-Bot Square, is (surprisingly) square, so it can fit into corners better.

They’re designed to fit underneath furniture at 8cm-9cm tall, sometimes more easily than a conventional vacuum cleaner, and weigh around 3kg.

Carrying a cargo of clean and dirty water, as well as detergent, the iRobot Scoobas can be taller and heavier than a simple vacuum. The Scooba 230 is 9.2cm tall, 16.5cm across and weighs 1.92kg.

iRobot Roomba 630

How does a robot vacuum cleaner work?

Inside most robot vacuum cleaners are a central pick-up brush and one or more spinning side brushes, which sweep debris towards the main brush.

The dust compartment can be emptied manually, althoughon some Roombas and Navibots it dumps into a larger bin on its base station. You’ll have to empty it in the end, though.

A flexible cleaning head on the Roomba also designed to cope with heavy carpets or moving between carpets and hard floors. NaviBot S has a Smooth Climbing Wheel which can lift it over obstacles like door thresholds and cables, up to 1.5cm high.

The Scooba sweeps the floor for loose dirt, wets it, scrubs it and then sucks up the dirty water, drying the floor as it goes.

How do robot vacuum cleaners navigate?

Robo-vacs are both piloted by computer programmes which send them in apparently random patterns around your room, which cunningly cover the whole floor. Sensors detect walls and furniture as they go, help them to avoid falling down steps, and look for dirtier areas where they’ll need to spend more time.

NaviBot also has a camera facing upwards: it uses the ceiling shape to map the size of the floor and generate a cleaning pattern.

The Hom-Bot has two cameras, facing up and down, which map walls, floors ceilings and furniture, and remembers the layout of your house as it cleans.

They come with infra-red units that can be used to create Virtual Walls (Virtual Guard for NaviBot) the robot won’t go through – if you want to restrict it to a particular room without closing the door, for instance. Otherwise it will keep cleaning until the room is done, or needs to recharge.

A Virtual Wall Lighthouse can be used with the Roomba 581 to indicate a doorway, so it doesn’t go into another room until the first is clean.

You can pilot some robot vacuum cleaners with a remote control (though why pay a dog and bark yourself?), and most have a ‘spot’ button you can use to make them work on a particular area.

They can also usually be programmed with up to seven schedules through a week, so they’ll can clean at different times each day, or just given a single daily programme.

Samsung Navibot Visionary Mapping Plus

How long do robot vacuum cleaner batteries last?

Early robot vacuum cleaners had to be recharged manually like your mobile phone, but both the latest Roombas and NaviBot SR8895/SR8980 have charging stations where they’ll return as their batteries run low.

Neither Roomba nor Samsung quote running times, but Roomba says its entry-level model will clean three medium-sized rooms on a single charge. Samsung only claims a 90 minute cleaning time for the Silencio SR8895, and nothing for its other models. LG claims 100 minutes for the Hom-Bot Square.

Both claim approximate charge times of 180 minutes.

How much does a robot vacuum cleaner cost?

iRobot’s Roomba range starts at £279 for the entry-level 521 model, up to £799 for the top-level 790, but a lot of the extra cost is in the extras like spare brushes and filters. Scooba floor cleaners cost from £249 to £449.

Samsung doesn’t quote prices, but on the open market they range from about £250 for the NaviBot SR8825, to around £550 for the NaviBot S.

LG’s Hom-Bot Square retails at £450, exclusive to John Lewis.

Do I need a robot vacuum cleaner?

Everyone wants a robot vacuum cleaner, because it’s the closest you can get to a robot butler.

In practice, a robot vacuum cleaner will work best in a house with large rooms and very little floor clutter.

If you only tidy up when you vacuum the carpets, then you’ll have to pick up your mess up before you can let your robovac loose, so you might as well do the vacuuming anyway.

Cramped corridors, very low furniture and split-level floors will all work against the usefulness of a robot vacuum cleaner as well, at least until they can hover up and down your stairs. 

Latest news stories for robot vacuum cleaners

Samsung NaviBot CornerClean coming to UK soon

Samsung’s so proud of the deep-reaching corner brushes on its latest NaviBot robot vacuum cleaner that it’s trademarked the phrase, POP-OUT, in capitals.

As you’ve probably guessed, the preying mantis-like brushes POP-OUTTM whenever the NaviBot CornerClean encounters a perpendicular wall intersection inimical to its round body.

Robot vacuum cleaners: Samsung Navibot Cornerclean coming to UK soon
Navibot Cornerclean reaches the parts other robovacs can’t reach

Launched at CES 2013, Samsung Europe have dropped ‘Tango’ from the new Navibot’s title ahead of its local launch in the first half of 2013, although we hope they haven’t dropped the glittering finishes available in its native South Korea.

There’s no mention from Samsung of the voice control via smartphone on the Smart Tango Corner Clean, but we’re awaiting confirmation on this from Samsung.

The Navibot Cornerclean also features improved Visionary Mapping Plus System technology, which captures 15 images per second to map your home into its dual-core brain, along with lots of other handy features brought in from previous Navibots.

We’ll be hoping to get our hands on one when they arrive in Blighty.

February 4, 2013

CES 2013 iRobot promises first UK pool and gutter cleaners

The UK’s first outdoor iRobots will tackle swimming pools and gutters after being shown off at International CES 2013.

The huge consumer tech show saw the Looj 330 gutter cleaning robot and Mirra 530 pool cleaning robot.

CES 2013 iRobot promises first UK pool and gutter cleaners Looj 330The Looj 330 can be dropped in your gutter and crawls along, with a 500rpm four-stage auger (drill) to smash away leaves, dirt and other debris, with a choice of augers for different situations.

It’s waterproof down to 20cm, cleaning 10m of gutter in around five minutes, and the 7.2V Li-ion battery should carry it for 65m.

A scraper to clear the Looj 330’s path and it has a low profile to fit below overhanging eaves, while the remote control/handle has a 17m range.

The Mirra 530 pool cleaner uses iRobot’s iAdapt Nautiq Responsive Cleaning Technology to size up the pool and choose the best cleaning cycle.

iRobot says it will make multiple sweeps from floor to waterline, actively scrubbing walls and stairs, and can adapt to avoid tangling the 20m floating power cord.

It pumps and filters more than 300 litres of pool water per minute through dual built-in filters, which are in top-loading cannisters for easy replacement and can capture dirt, algae and bacteria down to two microns.

UK prices and availability will be announced in Spring 2013: the Looj 330 costs £186 at its current US price; the Mirra 530 would be around £800.

CES 2013 iRobot promises first UK pool and gutter cleaners Mirra 530

January 8, 2013

CES 2013 LG Hom-Bot Square seeks to corner the opposition

It looks like corners are in fashion at CES 2013 as LG’s new clean-droid seeks to capitalise on the shocking discovery that most rooms are rectangular.

The Hom-Bot Square has been upgraded with Corner Master features including better sensors and 1.5cm-longer brushes, plus a square shape that helps it fit typical domestic topography.

It uses 180-degree ultrasonic and infrared sensors to avoid obstacles, with Dual Eye 2.0 cameras that can map and scan rooms in the dark.

CES 2013 LG Hom-Bot Square seeks to corner the opposition

Seong-jin Jo, president and CEO of the LG Electronics Home Appliance Company, explained their R&D breakthrough: “From the beginning we jumped into this projectwith the realization that consumer’s rooms aren’t round, they’re rectangular.

“In practically every house around the world, rooms have right-angle corners, so it made perfect sense to LG’s design team to develop a vacuum that took this into account. The Hom-Bot Square makes cleaning the hard-to-reach places effortless.”

The new LG vac can also learn your house’s layout to track where it’s cleaned, and claims a noise figure of 60dBA means it won’t interrupt talking or TV viewing, with a height of 89mm.

We’re looking forward to video of the Hom-Bot Square’s CES 2013 dance routine, plus a hands-on from our roving reporter when the show goes live in Las Vegas next week.

January 4, 2012

CES 2013 Samsung Smart Tango Corner Clean adds voice control 

Pop-out corner-cleaning brushes and smartphone voice control should make Samsung’s latest robovac stand out at CES 2013.

Detailed early in a Korean-language press release, the Samsung Smart Tango Corner Clean also features a dual CPU and improved image sensor.

But the standout features are the pop-out corner cleaning brushes designed to reduce the traditional black spot of robot vacuum cleaners.

A smartphone app (we’re guessing Samsung Android phones only) will also let you take control of the cleaner via your home network, and even use voice commands.

It’s also got 204mm-wide brush and a height of just 79mm, with a Korean price equal to £485 – no word yet on UK price or availability.

CES 2013 Samsung Smart Tango Corner Clean adds voice control

January 2, 2013

Sweep Show pits Samsung NaviBot Silencio SR8895 vs iRobot Roomba 790

If you’re wondering what robot vacuum cleaners look like in action, we’ve mounted a couple of cameras on the Samsung NaviBot Silencio SR8895 and iRobot Roomba 790 to create Sweep Show.

This unique Peep Show-style video test pits the two robocleaners against each other in a series of tests to find out which is best.

Just follow the link to see who wins.

Sweep Show Samsung NaviBot Silencio SR8895 vs iRobot Roomba 790

November 29, 2012

Low-profile Samsung NaviBot S on sale in the UK

It looks weirdly like a toilet when it’s docked to the charging and waste station, but the NaviBot S is actually Samsung’s latest robot vacuum cleaner.

It’s designed to be slimmer, lighter and quieter than previous models, at just 8cm tall, but the key innovation could be a charging station with a two-litre bin, where it can empty its own dirt container before it continues cleaning your floors.

NaviBot S (officially the SR8980) has 12 obstacle sensors and a digital camera which builds a map of your ceiling to help it move around, using Samsung’s Visionary Mapping Plus tech. It’s priced at around £550 with UK retailers.

September 27, 2012

Samsung NaviBot S

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