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I’ve met a lot of robots, so I wasn’t expecting to be impressed by a humble vacuum cleaner bot. But I was. The $700 Roomba 800 Series released today by iRobot is a vacuum anyone would want in their home.
The 800 is the same as the 700 with a few improvements. During a product demo, product manager Max Makeev told me the major advancement is the two rotating cylinders responsible for picking up debris.
Generally, the home vacuum cleaners we are familiar with have two cylinders covered in bristles that agitate and scoop in dust. But the bristles also catch hair and other nasty stuff that later has to be cleaned out.
The 800’s cylinders aren’t covered in bristles. They’re made from a rubbery plastic that does not need to be cleaned. Cerda said the new design also allowed the company to increase suction by 500 percent and make room for a bigger container for debris storage.
The Roomba has been around since 2002 and, since then, major improvements have been made. The newest models can autonomously find and attach to their “dock,” which charges them. They can be scheduled to begin cleaning at an exact time and instructed to vacuum a specific area with “spot” cleaning mode. Instead of mapping out a whole room, Roombas clean in patterns like spirals and lines. When they run into an obstacle, they readjust.
In a home test, the Roomba performed well right out of the box. It covered my 350 square foot apartment in about half an hour. While the suction and cylinder combo obviously did a good job of picking up dust off my wood and tile floors, I was more impressed by Roomba’s standard features. It efficiently mapped the room and found its way into tiny spaces — under chairs, corners, even in my closet.
It also clambered over obstacles like rugs and cords with ease. The most fighting it had to do was when it passed over the divide between my living space and kitchen, where the floors are different heights. It made it every time.
One complaint: While the cylinders did not collect any hair, another part of the Roomba did. The robot has a tri-tipped spinning part that whips dirt out of corners and other hard-to-reach areas. Hair quickly wrapped around it, but was very easy to pull off.
Overall, the $700 price tag is too steep for me, but I loved the time I spent with this robot. It is reliable and easy enough for anyone to use. Check out the video below to see the Roomba eat some M&Ms, complete with scary chomping sounds.