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The Roomba Robot

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Close-up view of dust tray

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Roomba in  action!

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The electronic fence keeps Roomba where you want him and ouf of trouble

Meet our newest home robot! This is a Roomba - it is a robotic vacuum cleaner. Perhaps you've seen one of these before on TV or in a catalog and wondered to yourself if they really work.

Our particular unit was salvaged as an unwanted Christmas present. We took it home and put it on charge. It takes about ten hours to recharge a dead battery, but there is a light on the charging unit that lets you know when the process has completed. A fully charged unit runs about 45 minutes to one hour. Once he was ready, we turned him on and away he went.

This robot has a number of great features unexpected for a robot in this price  range. One lovely feature is a fairly good edge detection unit. Once he gets  to the stairs or another drop-off, he simply backs up. This happens pretty much  all of the time. For those that worry about their electronic friend falling  down the stairs, a special electronic fence is included with the unit that keeps  Roomba from getting into trouble and going places he shouldn't. The bump sensor is fairly smooth and keeps the 'bot from chipping away at table and chair legs by reversing his progress immediately upon impact.

Another great feature is the automatic height adjustment for the sweeper brush.  This allows the robot to sweep a number of different surfaces without adjustment such as tile, hardwood flooring, and carpets. A separate rotating brush sticks  out from one side of the robot to assist in cleaning those hard to get wall edges and corners.

The navigation routine for Roomba is fairly straight-forward. Much of the routine  is bump and turn, with other routines including an expanding circle, back and forth (across a hallway for instance), straight line, and follow wall or edge. It can run pretty much unattended, but will get stuck once in awhile around low furniture and appliances. We found perhaps three spots where he can get stuck, and we placed rolled up towels at these locations. Although a variety of surfaces can be cleaned, we found it was a good idea to roll up small throw rugs since these tend to get ingested and require a few extra moments to get  things unstuck.

As with any vacuuming product, you would expect that the robot would pick up the dirt, and it does accomplish that surprisingly well. The sweeper uses a  combination of a roller brush, a spinning edge brush, and vacuum suction. It tends to pick up most small items such as pieces of paper, feathers, food particles, and of course, dust. In a normal situation, you will want to check the dust tray every five to ten minutes, and you'll be surprised at how much is in there. After you get used to operating Roomba, emptying the tray takes just a few seconds.

We really love this robot because it truly accomplishes its goal of freeing  you from the mundane chore of sweeping the house. We have used him in almost every room of the house, and he even helped sweep out the garage one Saturday  afternoon. Run him once a day, and you may only need to do touch-up sweeping  every few weeks. Besides its great utility value, it is also fun to watch, almost  like an electronic pet.