Recollection of robots comes from the Star Trek days where R2 became a popular robotic being in our minds. As generations moved on and the reality of robots started getting experienced by the real world we got the Terminator series with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the matrix revolution.The buzzwords nowadays are artificial intelligence and machine learning. Primarily this means that the algorithms would be written in a manner that outcomes from the data collected and processed by the machines would allow them to take some decisions on their own.The levels of automation are therefore getting raised everyday. The reality of robots becoming an integral part of our life helping out in daily mechanical repetitive and routine chores which can be programmed can be experienced. Couple this with some higher level decision making and you get better productivity, lesser supervision and getting out of teething troubles.Personal robots will soon become as common in the United States as any other white good category like a refrigerator, microwave or television i.e. another necessity in every household. We are experiencing smartphones and mobile apps so applications are being made so easy that anyone without formal education but just knowing to read and write and following instructions can make things work. Programming too therefore will not need programming skills but rather a customised piece of machinery is what you would get which you could configure or program as per your needs and requirements.Solets now look at a robotic vacuum cleaner as against a normal one that we are used to using. What this means is that you would get a lot of features and you would also be able to customise the benefits from the machine by programming it specifically for yourself. The level of supervision will continuously reduce. We have seen in the movies how hazardous situations arise out of a uncontrolled vacuum cleaner. Now while this appears hilarious watching in a movie, it does remain at the back of our mind as a possibility. Intelligent machines with the right programming can ensure that such situations are read and avoided. It becomes much safer then.iRobot, is a specific company which designs and builds robots. A specialisation is in the domain of human-robot interaction and Roomba is one such product in the category of robotic vacuum cleaners.
With almost 15 years of experience behind them they have refined and improved technology along the way. Sensors form an integral part of such machinery which help in navigation, understanding the layout and making cleaning a better and more productive action. As I explained above it can sense a lot of situations such as steep drops so that it does not fall itself from stairs, obstacles so that it does not bang into them causing damage to itself and the items that are kept. It can also detect dirty spots on the floor and can clean it.
Roomba can rotate 360 degrees in a place by using two independently operating sidewheels. It has a rotating, 3 prong spinner brush that can clean out square corners. As mentioned earlier smartphones and connectivity is almost taken for granted now and the latest Roomba also offers the same connectivity over Wifi allowing programming through a simple mobile app even remotely.
Now understanding how the Roomba works lets look at some key components for usability
- There is a bumper at the front for obstacle detection.
- An Infrared detector helps in communicating with the docking station. After all there has to be a place where the Roomba will be kept.
- The batter pack is a rechargeable one. - Lithium metal-hydride (14.4 volts and 3600mAH). Its almost invisible and you need to only check it out from the user manual when a replacement is needed.
- Treaded wheels are designed to provide extra traction on smooth floors for better grip. This also helps to prevent carpets and rugs to get caught in the wheels.
Few words About Technology
iRobot has trademarked an“AWARE” Robotic Intelligence System which helps minimise human input. The system has multiple sensors which send environmental data as a feed to the robots microprocessor. Roombas actions are controlled by the microprocessor and the data continuously being processed helps in that control.
- points to remember
- Roomba is very simple to use
- It can clean tight spots such as those under tables and chairs.
- Since the robotic vacuum cleaner needs space to manoeuvre and keeps processing data it not suitable for cluttered parts of the house. Special care and supervision could be needed there.
- Pets can be a hazard around the Roomba and similar small children should always be kept away from machinery.
- while the wheels are designed to avoid snagging hairy things or bristles which can get caught in the wheels should not come in the path of the roomba
- Battery of course for all machinery running on them has to be monitored to get good life and replaced when required.
Lets look on some other details:
In the current times, connectivity is a differentiator and one can segregate the models broadly in two categories, one with connectivity (wife enabled) and one without. Those who do not choose connectivity are more used to manual working and hence will also be supervising the activity more, so they could easily manage with more basic versions and save cost there.
The features does connectivity enabled devices provide are:
- You can start or pause remotely
- You can create a schedule for any day of the week
- You can customise your preferences
- You can monitor the activity of the Roomba remotely
- You get clean map reports of the Roomba route
- You also get statics on cleaning and charging time and coverage
This must have made it explicitly clear too why a segregation on wifi enabled and not enabled is the first step to choose the right Roomba for yourself.Considering that you are going for a robotic vacuum cleaner, there is a greater possibility that your lifestyle needs are aligned with usage of smart devices and the choice will be a wifi enabled Roomba. Also most probably this device is going to be handledby family members rather than provide it to a household help.
In such a case our recommendation would boil down to Roombas 960 and 980, 690, 890. We have now come down to almost one Roomba in each series.
The most feature rich series is the 900 series. As you go higher the price and the features goes up. So technically the 980 is at the highest level. Our choice for the best Roomba is the 960 though. The reason is that the price differential between the Roomba 960 and the Roomba 980 are not proportional to the additional benefits i.e. we feel that the price charged is way more to the possible benefits and hence for the best value for money to get the best cleaning our vote is for the Roomba 960.
If the grade of vacuum motor has little effect on your cleaning needs, the best budget pick is the Roomba 690 and if you want a middle ground on vacuum power choose the Roomba 890
More explicit differentiation:
- Roomba 960 has Smart Mapping and VSLAM as a Navigation System with an Aeroforce 3 stage cleaning system (The Roomba 980 has a little more powerful motor with the same navigation system)
- The Roomba 690 has an iAdapt navigation system with a 3 stage cleaning system. (The Roomba 614 has the same navigation and cleaning system but not wifi enabled)
- The Roomba 890 has an iAdapt navigation system with an Aeroforce 3 stage cleaning system.
So again you can choose as per your need and budget.
Just in case you want to go for a non smart option i.e. not wifi enabled then the Roomba 614 is your best option as there is no point in going for higher navigation systems when you are not interested in remote operations. It has the same navigation and cleaning system as the Roomba 690.For further budget options, you may also check out Certified Refurbished machines if the availability and price justify the same.
Given below are detailed explanations for each of our recommended products
The Roomba 960, Roomba 690 and the Roomba 890. This is followed by Roomba 980 where you can see that the price differential is almost $250 compared to the Roomba 960 with not much of a different. At the end are details of a certified refurbished Roomba to give you some idea there.
So you have all the answers you want. Get a Roomba for yourself on Amazon and check out the various deals available there
IRobot Roomba 960
The higher end is called the iRobot Roomba 980 and the iRobot Roomba 960 is a budget version of that saving you almost $250.The iRobot Roomba 960 comes with all the upper end offerings which includes wifi connectivity with a smartphone app giving all the benefits already detailed earlier, navigation using camera and voice control.
The iRobot Roomba 960 comes with Aeroforce 3 stage cleaning system which is extremely impressive. You can choose one pass cleaning or two pass where the Roomba doubles back over the cleaned area. You also have the choice of Automatic where you allow the Roomba 960 itself to decide on the number of passes whether one or two which is mostly dependent on the size of the room. You can also toggle for an “edge clean” feature for areas such as the floor ends where the floor meets the wall.
The CLEAN button is very prominent and you get a removable dust bin, home base charging station, a dual mode virtual wall barrier and an extra filter and side brush. There are several sensors, the cliff detection sensors save the unit from falling off stairs, the optical and acoustic sensors helps detect and clean dirtiest parts of the floor. The Roomba 960 is able to know where it is in the room because the iAdapt Navigation comes with Visual Localization - "visual simultaneous localization and mapping".
The iRobot Roomba 960 can clean for over an hour on a single charge and when it needs to be charged it automatically goes back to its charging station. On getting recharged, which takes about 3 hours,it will resume its cleaning. How convenient.The Roomba 960 can be controlled with the iRobot Home app which works for both Android and iOS. It also works with Alexa for voice control but you would need to buy the Alexa device separately on Amazon.
IRobot Roomba 690
The iRobot Roomba 690 is the next choice where substantial price difference makes it much easier on the pocket. It is also wifi enabled which allows it to be controlled through the smartphone app. Here too Amazon Alexa can be used for voice control but the Alexa device has to be bought separately on Amazon.The shape of the Roomba is circular and here too the diameter is about 13 inches with the height being about 3.7inches.
The large silver coloured Clean button is prominent and positioned right on top and the home icon whichis just below this is used to send the robot back to its dock. The spot cleaning icon is above the clean button and positioned above that is the backlit panel where you can see the battery status, errors, etc.
At the back of the iRobot Roomba 690 is the removable dustbin and in the front the RCON sensor for room confinement and the bumper.The iRobot Roomba 690 features one dual mode virtual wall barrier.
IRobot Roomba 890
The Roomba 890 almost has the same looks and dimensions as the Roomba 960. In fact all Roomba models almost have the same look and dimensions. It comes with the iAdaptnavigation system and an Aeroforce 3 stage cleaning system.
The three stages of the cleaning system are agitation, extraction, and suction.
The Roomba 890 indicate to you when it is time to empty the dustbin. It also has the spot cleaning option.The Roomba 890 does not have the Visual Localization that is there in the Roomba 960, so as already described earlier this comes in between the Roomba 960 and Roomba 690. Depending on the deal available on this Roomba you could go for one. Roomba 890 is about $100 cheaper than the Roomba960. Our recommendation is that if the difference is larger than $100 then one might consider the same otherwise either go for Roomba 960 or if you really want to save money go for the Roomba 690.
IRobot Roomba 980
The Roomba 980 is also of the same dimensions but heavier as it has more hardware. The main difference we found here is the battery which allows about 2 hours of cleaning time on a single charge. If this makes a lot of sense to you then go for this Roomba otherwise we recommend going for the Roomba 960 which is almost $250 lesser in price.
iRobot Roomba 650 Automatic Robotic Vacuum
This is the base model of the Roomba with basic features. It does not look sleek and does not have too many features but is a very capable device.
Our review suggests that if you have a small uncluttered room and you need support where you can also multitask at the same time while keeping a little watchful eye and getting a good cleaning job done, this is the choice for you.
There is a Clean Button which is yellow hen charging and turns green when it is ready. The primary control is by this button. There are five other buttons around it. Of special mention is the one for Spot Cleaning Mode. Using this mode you can get deep cleaning results at the base of the Roomba. This Roomba also docks back on its own after cleaning. The versions available now have been improved over time from those of previous generations and this version has a special brush design to clean dirt from difficult areas.
The Roomba 650 uses a set of dual rotating brushes, edge-sweeping brushes and a filtered dust bin. The Roomba 650 moves very fast.
Certified Refurbished reduces price and almost makes it close to the original with limited or no wear. It includes all original accessories and comes with a 90 day iRobot warranty.