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5 February 2013

REVIEW: iRobot Roomba 700 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner


An appropriate gadget to review for our first ever post, as this clever bit of tech is definitely a sign that THE FUTURE IS ALREADY HERE!

It’s about time as well. Face it, we’ve been promised a lot by sci-fi films over the years. According to 2001: A Space Odyssey we should already be in space, zooming through psychedelic tunnels and chatting to space babies.
Instead we have a moustachioed Canadian in orbit tweeting pictures of his home town. Also, if we are to believe Back to the Future 2, Hover boards will be in wide spread use in two years’ time, but have you seen any mentioned? Disappointing, we know. But then the Roomba 700 arrived on our doorstep.
Looking like something from an extremely dull episode of Robot Wars, the Roomba 700 is a slick black disk of sucking power with a bunch of on-board cleverness.  From the iRobot press release:

With a single touch you can send it out to search for dirt with its Dirt Detect audible sensors. Using a patented, three-stage cleaning system, Roomba vacuums carpet, tile, laminate and hardwood. AeroVac technology and a new brush design maximize cleaning results, with less debris remaining tangled on bristles and a more evenly filled bin. The Roomba is also equipped with a soft-touch bumper and polymer coating to protect your walls and furniture.

In the box you get the robot itself, a remote control (more on that later) a docking/charging station, cleaning tools, spare filters and operating instructions. Once the cleaner’s battery is fully charged all you need do (with your puny human fingers) is press the button helpfully labelled ‘CLEAN’. Quieter than a conventional vacuum cleaner, the Roomba then sets about your floors, wandering around sucking up your fallen biscuit crumbs.

Let’s be honest, the Roomba is hardly R2D2, and will drive around picking up dust quite by chance as it bounces from walls and doors. The ‘Dirt Detect’ sensors were something we learnt about purely by reading the press release, not from witnessing them in action. Maybe it was because the carpets at The Test Pit are a lovely brown colour, and biscuits crumbs are also a lovely brown colour… Still, if left for long enough the Roomba will eventually cover the entire floor surface of any room and give a pretty good clean. Best of all was that the brushes on the underside of the robot are so tough and rugged that they buffed up the carpet a treat, leaving the floor soft and lush looking (even if we did come across a few missed crumbs afterwards).

If you don’t want to leave the vacuuming of the room to chance, there is always the included remote control. This handy addition lets you override the robots sensors and drive it around for yourself, making sure you hit the dirtiest spots on the floor. But the most impressive aspect of the Roomba’s operation is how the vacuum cleaner refreshes its batteries. When it detects power levels are low, it ‘finds’ the docking station itself, by way of a special sensor, then plugs itself in for the night as if caught in a tractor beam. Just watching this made us all gawp and forgive for the robot for scaring the cat.


But… £450 for a so-so vacuum cleaner? To be honest, yes. The Roomba is no Dyson, but still manages a thorough clean without making any mess. It can also be programmed to suddenly spring to life at any time and nip around the carpets. Imagine coming home from to freshly vacuumed floors without having to hire a maid. Like we said, THE FUTURE IS ALREADY HERE!

A maid could make you coffee though, Mmm… ‘Dear iRobot, why not add an espresso machine to your robots because…’

We’ll get it sorted for you.

For a wide range of robotic vacuum cleaners, visit www.irobot.com

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