In the 20 years since the first robovac hit the market, they have been regularly chastised for certain limitations in their cleaning capabilities.
In all fairness, these criticisms are not entirely unfounded. Entrusting domestic chores to robots has conjured occasional scenes reminiscent of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice — the bit where Mickey Mouse charms the buckets and brooms and they end up flooding the place. Carpets were mopped, furniture trashed and, worst of all, pet poo smeared across shiny tiled floors. Eeesh!
In the last couple of years, however, robovacs have learned from the mistakes of their predecessors and bounced back to a level of cleaning efficiency that would make even Mary Poppins swoon.
Let’s take a look at how the latest robovacs have changed for the better.
Hey, you missed a spot!
When you want your floor cleaned, you mean all of it, not just the bits that are easy to see and reach.
This has been a common pain point with robovacs that use inertial and random navigation systems or rely on camera sensors. The former plot a haphazard route across the floor, taking ages to cover the entire area and often missing bits. The latter stop short of the edges and can get lost in the dark.
LiDAR navigation is changing all that. This is the same tech that keeps autonomous vehicles from crashing into one another, and in the case of floor cleaning, it’s a game changer.
LiDAR, like its distant relative radar, creates a 3D image map by sending out beams and logging how quickly they bounce back. Also like radar, LiDAR is effective in light or dark settings — but unlike radar, it uses laser beams and the image map they create is highly detailed.
When first placed on your floor, a LiDAR equipped robovac will create a precise map of the entire area and quickly calculate the most efficient path to cover every spot. Via a smartphone app, you can customize the map, giving you the ability to set up no-go zones (such as carpets that you don’t want mopped), or specify areas that need extra attention (like around the kitty litter box).
Thoroughness is no longer a question.
New obstacles can appear around the home out of nowhere, especially when you have pets (if you catch my drift), and whether it’s a valuable antique chair or a freshly laid present from your cat, the last thing you want is your robovac ploughing into it.
Obstacle recognition, or the lack of it, is one of the most common complaints levelled at robovacs, but now systems such as ReactiveAI™, as featured on the Roborock S6 MaxV, are solving the problem.
Using two cameras instead of one enables the S6 MaxV to perceive not only what type of object lies before it but how deep it is, giving a much better outcome than models with only one camera or no obstacle recognition at all.
ReactiveAI™ has been lab tested on an assortment of common household objects, (yep, including pet poo), with thousands of hours of machine learning training, creating a knowledge bank that prevents your robovac from trashing the place.
This advanced capability also helps your robovac to pick its way around complicated cleaning environments (aka clutter) without cornering itself and having to be liberated by human intervention.
So now you can unleash your robovac when you’re out at work or asleep at night, and forget about it, confident knowing your floors are being properly cleaned.
Not the carpet!
There are robots that vacuum and there are robots that mop, and then there are robots that do both. That’s a fantastic thing, because most homes have a mixture of hard and soft floors, so you don’t need to buy separate robots for each surface.
But here’s the problem: of all the ways to clean a carpet, mopping is not one of them, so what do you do about a robovac that continues to mop when it gets to the carpet?.
The flagship Roborock S7 features ultrasonic carpet recognition technology and an Auto Mop Lift mechanism that raises the mop when on carpet, so it can go about vacuuming and mopping in all the right places without human intervention.
You call that clean?
Let’s not forget the fundamental purpose of a robovac. It’s there to clean your floors, right? So the quality of the actual cleaning is pretty important. Can a robovac really match a frenzied human with a vacuum cleaner or mop?
Well, yes. Whereas the human floor scrubbing technique has barely evolved in over 2,000 years, the latest robovacs feature vacuum and mopping technology that Mrs Doubtfire would have died for.
You can almost hear her saying, “It scrubs 3,000 times per minute? Well, bless my soul!” That’s the VibraRise™ Sonic Mopping System, a feature of the Roborock S7, which doesn’t just mop floors by smearing them with water and dabbing it off again, but gets down and vigorously scrubs. Stubborn stains don’t stand a chance.
And when it’s all done, it parks itself on its auto-emptying dock and empties its dust and debris into a 3 litre dust bag — big enough for up to eight weeks of household dust. To prevent dust from leaking back into the air, a multi-stage filtration system captures up to 99.99% of particles as small as 0.3 microns, and the anti-bacterial dust bag self-seals when removed.
You could argue that the robovac is the epitome of AI and automation in action. It hasn’t always been easy, it hasn’t always been smooth, but in the last 20 years Roborock engineers have listened to criticism and developed the tech to outperform humans using mops, brooms and vacuum cleaners.
Whether you’re a pet owner, sufferer of allergies, or you just hate cleaning the floors, there’s reason to rejoice. State-of-the-art robovacs bring a new, effortless level of quality, hygiene and convenience to the ancient art of domestic cleaning.
There’s just one more hurdle to conquer: the stairs.