iRobot Roomba® Scheduler Vacuuming Robot, 2002
Click above to view the full-size image

Washing and vacuuming floors are among the most mundane aspects of life. They are also not what most of us imagined our first domestic experience with robots would involve. For the last four years, however, with new models arriving annually, the iRobot Roomba® Vacuuming Robot and iRobot Scooba™ Floor Washing Robot are showing us how robots can and will clean our homes.

Founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists, iRobot Corporation designs behavior-based robots for consumer and military purposes. Using proprietary AWARE™ Robot Intelligence Systems, they introduced the Roomba, the first affordable vacuuming robot, in 2002. In 2005, the company introduced the Roomba Scheduler®, and the Scooba, which washes floors. Together, they offer a new level of programmable efficiency to help eliminate the drudgery of household chores.

With the Roomba Scheduler, you can program up to seven different cleaning schedules. It will clean the floor, returning to its home base to rest and repower when it has completed its job or the battery is low. An infrared receiver located at the front of the bumper “sees” the signal emitted from the home base. A patented three-stage cleaning system—a spinning side brush to clean along walls, two counter-rotating brushes that capture large debris, and a vacuum that picks up loose particles and dust—ensures a thorough job.

Roomba features a self-adjusting cleaning head that adapts automatically as it moves from one type of floor surface to another. As part of the AWARE system, a sensor located above the brushes detects the dirt and turns toward that area, so Roomba can actually identify the dirtiest areas and respond by increasing the intensity of its cleaning.

Scooba, iRobot’s latest product, completely replaces the need to mop floors. It preps the floor by cleaning up loose crumbs, sand and dirt; washes it using fresh, clean solution (rather than just pushing the dirty water around like a mop); scrubs floors gently but effectively; and picks up the dirty suds, leaving the floor clean and dry. All four of these cleaning methods happen in one pass of the robot. The AWARE Robot Intelligence System uses dozens of infrared sensors to monitor the environment, while adjusting the behavior of the robot up to sixty-seven times per second, allowing the robots to negotiate around furniture and along walls. The robots also feature a cliff sensor which prevents them from falling down stairs. iRobot also designed the iRobot PackBot® Tactical Mobile Robot. Hundreds of PackBots are currently helping American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.