Even though robot vacuums have been around since 2002, there were significant advances made in how they navigate and function in the home within the past couple of years. This week’s video explores the different options available at various price points. Here are a few takeaways and comparisons between some of the most popular companies such as iRobot, Neato Robotics and Roborock.
“For more than 30 years, iRobot has been at the forefront of home robotics, developing the first Roomba robot vacuum in 2002,” Irene Lee, product manager at iRobot wrote in an email. “Since then, iRobot has been a technology and category leader, selling more than 30 million robots around the globe.”
According to Lee, when it comes to robotic vacuums priced at the $200 price point, the company holds 82 percent share of the market in North America and 52 percent globally. That translates to 12-13 percent of homes, or 15-17 million households in America.
The biggest difference between a $250 robot vacuum and one that can cost upward of around $800 is how it navigates. Basic versions randomly cruise across the floor until they bump into something, then turn around and keep going until they run into something else.
With any luck, eventually, they’ll get to each area of the room, but in the process, they’re likely to get stuck under tables, grab loose cords along the way and get themselves into other kinds of trouble. Even basic models have accessories designed to keep them out of certain areas and sensors to prevent them from going down the stairs.
Mid-range models offer additional sensors mounted to the top, sides and bottom of the vacuum to assist with object detection and navigation. This includes lidar sensors and upward-facing cameras that use a technology called VSLAM. Both are great for mapping out an area.
These days, robot vacuums are able to remember where they’ve been before and save the maps. Users are able to assign rooms and create “no-go zones” to keep the vacuums away from hazardous areas such as big rugs, cords, low furniture and dog bowls.
“When a Neato robot vacuum cleans, it uses lidar to navigate the home — finding walls, avoiding staircases or cliffs, and mapping out the most efficient cleaning path so it can clean effectively, even in the dark (and under furniture),” Neato CEO Thomas Nedder said in an email.
Within the app, you’re also able to create floor plans, set up virtual cleaning zones, schedule cleanings, connect to your favorite voice assistant and get real-time alerts when the robot needs attention.
Neato Robotics was the first company to come up with a D-shaped design with brushes that are ideal for getting into tight corners and edges that round robots can’t. The Roomba i9 series now has a similar design. IRobot’s latest products include a base station that the robot vacuum docks into and clears out its dust bin.
Roborock has a variety of smart robot vacuums that are packed with features, and many models include a mopping attachment. They’re able to detect which type of surface is being cleaned and turn the flow of water to the mop on or off. Another interesting advancement Roborock has come up with is the use of AI to identify and avoid objects as it’s cleaning.
“The seamless integration of ReactiveAI with our advanced laser technology allows the Roborock S6 MaxV to estimate the size and location of common obstacles and the best way to clean around them, setting the standard for our smartest navigational robot vacuum yet,” Richard Chang, CEO of Roborock, said in an email.
Common obstacles for robot vacuums include cords, tables, chairs, low furniture, thick rugs and transition pieces between rooms. We put each robot to the test to see how it would handle various situations. The more expensive robots packed with additional technology were better equipped to handle the obstacles than their entry-level counterparts.
Robot vacuum technology has advanced significantly over the years. If you spend a little more money, you won’t need to worry about them getting into trouble. You’ll be able to set them up on a schedule, let them do their job, and remember to empty the bins.
Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.