Robot vacuum cleaners


It’s surprising the Roomba hasn’t been created earlier since self
mobile robots have been around as toys less than $50 since at least
1979 (see Big
Trak
). The Roomba is essentially a $200, low-power dust vacuum
with a bump sensor, a light/collision sensor and a simple behavior to
move it around flat surfaces. It works reasonably well as long as you
keep the floor free of clutter such as cables and newspaper. My wife
was initially skeptical, but then got excited as she saw it work. She
then made the point of demoing it to her family. This degree of
word-of-mouth advertising is hard to come by, so consider this a
unique item. Here are two MPEG videos generated by a Sony U20 digital
camera of the Roomba in action. (You could consider the poor image
quality a review of the suitability of the Sony U20 as far as video is
concerned.)

MOV00360.MPG

MOV00361.MPG

At least two other vendors – Hitachi
and Electrolux
have similar products as the Roomba. Eureka demoed one in
1999
to gauge interest, but apparently never brought it to market.
There is some commentary about robot vacuums on robots.net. It seems most
vendors were (and are still) targetting the over $1000 price point
while Roomba is about $200. It’s available at Target and Bed Bath and
Beyond. As an indicator of its popularity, eBay
auctions
are closing for about $150 as of 6/3/2003.

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