Vacuum cleaning science

What is it with rocket science that fascinates people? Surely, most people nowadays appreciate that there are many other disciplines that are just as hard as rocket science. But the expression 'It's not rocket science, after all' has stuck around.

One field of scientific endevour that is surely as hard as rocket science (if not much much harder) is robotics. Robotics combines tough hardware and software problems. Typical robotics problem are hard when taken individually. In fact, they are usually NP-hard, when talking about software problems.

Mix and match the hardware and software problems that a robotic engineer need to tackle, and you can certainly exclaim that robotics is rocket science!

The reason I am talking about robotics is that we recently added a friendly robot to our household. Its name is Roomba. Roomba is a robotic vacuum cleaner. It elegantly solves the need to vacuum clean with the refusal to do it.

Roomba does exactly what it says on the box!
I used it last weekend for the first time and it cleaned the whole apartment. I let it loose in the corridor first, and it did a great jobs cleaning up, following the edge of the wall, sensing and concentrating its cleaning action on the dirty spots.

After using it in the bedroom, I was very pleased. (no pun intended) I started it in one of the corners, where the homebase was plugged in. It went everywhere, including right under the bed, picking up fluff and dust. It never got stuck. It negotiated a couple of areas that are very tricky to navigate impeccably. When it was done cleaning, it found its way back to the home base and autonomously recharged itself.

Same level of performance in the living room, which is a much larger space. I used the MAX mode in this instance, and it just kept going and going. It made me think of those Duracell ads... you know, those "lasts longer" ads... (once again, no puns intended)

There are a couple of things to be aware of, though.

The most important gotcha is that a Roomba needs to be cleaned regularly. Hair and fluff do get tangled in its brushes and its revolving parts, including the side brush and sometimes the wheels. The user manual recommends cleaning the brushes every three uses, but I cleaned it after each use due to the large amount of fluff and hair it collected. (it could very well be that the apartment was very dirty, it had never been cleaned with a vacuum cleaner with brushes before). It takes a while to throughly clean the Roomba, as hair has a nasty habit of wrapping itself around things.

I can't really comment on how well it cleans on hard surfaces. I have carpet everywhere, except small areas in the kitchen and one bathroom. My Roomba cleaned them well, but some big bits escaped the vacuuming suction. Think of a quarter spaghetti. But I guess that's to be expected, and I should really be picking up those big bits.

All in all, I am delighted with my Roomba. It does its job, with no supervision, and requires little maintenance. Plus, it adds the cool factor of having a vacuuming robot in the house! :-)

If you can find it on Ebay at a good price, I definitely recommend it.