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iRobot Scooba Exposed 67

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the always-a-few-extra-parts-left-over dept.
ticketmaster41 writes "Informit is running an article that takes a look at what's inside a Scooba. As the write up indicates, adding water to a robotic cleaner not only means more parts, but also more fail safes to frustrate the end user. The site also has posted an interview with Helen Greiner, one of the founders of iRobot."
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iRobot Scooba Exposed

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  • by chriso11 (254041) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:54AM (#15477803) Journal
    There are a few ways the Scooba could be improved. First, when it is cleaning a large area, it may run out of cleaning solution or its dirty water tank is full. When that happens, it stops and beeps for attention. It should be able to go to a programmed location, so that you don't have to walk across a wet floor to service it. Also, it is a bit loud. And expensive. But, I am definitely happy I bought it. So far, it seems pretty happy mopping the floor, and has shown no tendancy to find Sarah Conner.
    • Is it difficult to refill the cleaning solution or empty the dirty water? It would be neat for iRobot to make a home base unit which automates that process. A small service station that empties and refills the appropriate tanks as well as recharging the Scooba. The goal should be to have it as automated as possible.
      • While I agree that it would be neat for it to reload it's own cleaning supplies and unloads it's waste, I think it would be way too expensive. It seems like that would be a whole other robot. Finally, someone is going to have to refil and empty _that_ beast.
        • "Finally, someone is going to have to refil and empty _that_ beast."

          When was the last time one had to drain or fill his or her washing machine or dishwasher by hand? It's connected to the home plumbing system. I'd expect iRobot to work within this existing home infrastructure. Such major appliances can be found for around $400, same price as the Scooba. People are comfortable with having such monstrous appliances in their home.
          It'd hardly be as complicated as an in-flight refuling from a tanker to a fighter
          • Outside of the fact that you have to clean your mop bucket as well. Do you expect the Scooba to work with the existing plumbing? So either the Scooba has to find the toilet (best case as it's closest to the ground and found in every bathroom) and flush it's own waste, or a plumber has to install a waste line on each floor (only required floors of course) of the house at Scooba level?

            Please enlighten me to other options that might be simpler. I'll be happy to send it on to iRobot feedback.
            • Keeping in mind that I do not have a Scooba, I would assume it would be fairly simple to have a small tank of water...much like one of those pet tanks. This would be the refill water.

              Since the base is onviously attached to a power source, said power source could power a pump to get the dirty water out. Once all the dirty water is out, the clean water can either be gravity fed or simply be pumped into the Scooba. Top off the battery, if needed, and the process is complete.
            • Had another thought: If the base unit has a pump, it could potentially pump the water into the same dran as, say, a sink (via un under-counter connection) or even the washing machine.

              I can tell you that the pump for my fish tank (runs 24/7 and has yet to fail after 5 years) cost around $25 or so. I don't think this solution would be very costly, and even if a nominal cost were added to the Scooba, the machine would certainly be more attractive to the consumer!
        • While I agree that it would be neat for it to reload it's own cleaning supplies and unloads it's waste, I think it would be way too expensive. It seems like that would be a whole other robot.

          It would be considerably less complex than something which has to move around. Probably the most difficult part of the engineering would be any electrical connections for data/charging. Since these would need precise alignment and protection from moisture.

          Finally, someone is going to have to refil and empty _that_ b
    • So far, it seems pretty happy mopping the floor, and has shown no tendancy to find Sarah Conner.
       
      ...and clean her?
  • Europe please! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mccalli (323026) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:05AM (#15477819) Homepage
    I'm in the UK, and recently imported a Scooba after being very impressed with the Roomba. The Clorox Scooba cleaning fluid is available in the States only, and would cost an utter fortune to import. It's not so much the price of the fluid, $29.99 for five bottles of 32 fluid oz, but the shipping which seems to be around $120 - more than we paid on shipping for the robot itself.

    That's obviously untenable - I've got some tests lined up for a bottle of Flash Liquid All-Purpose to see if it will do the same job. Simple things - ph balance, foam test, conductivity and traction. If all passes, then I'll be using Flash inside the Scooba instead of Clorox. But I'd rather use the recommended stuff, so if iRobot feels like making it available in Europe than that would be very welcome.

    The Roomba has been the ultimate in word-of-mouth marketing, by the way. Since buying one I've had three other people buy just by hearing my description of it, and they in turn have inspired about three more people each to buy one. Great little devices.

    Cheers,
    Ian

    • The Roomba has been the ultimate in word-of-mouth marketing, by the way. Since buying one I've had three other people buy just by hearing my description of it, and they in turn have inspired about three more people each to buy one. Great little devices.

      Geez, has iRobot gone the MLM (Amway) too? Have you gone Emerald yet? How big is your upline? Are the bonuses any good?
      Just joking (I hope...)
    • Re:Europe please! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      So how do those work in the average UK house rather than the humungous american ones?

      Looking at this room I reckon an automatic hoover would fail in about 10 seconds. The room is an odd shape, there are cables going between the TV/Computers/Hifi that need moving. To hoover behind the furniture you must move it... there's an area around the birdcage that needs extra work as it won't clean on the first pass... There's the a discarded coke bottle that needs picking up...

      Not to mention the hallway is too na
      • by Basehart (633304) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @06:48AM (#15478471)
        My computer room would be a challenge too. I'd need a robot with nice long legs and a firm butt to be able to clean this room properly.
      • I thought us fat stupid americans were supposed to be the slobs? At least I pick up after myself.. Oh, and why not put some NEWSPAPER down around the bird cage?
      • Re:Europe please! (Score:4, Informative)

        by hoggoth (414195) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @09:24AM (#15479181) Journal
        > the average UK house
        Your description is of an old cat-lady's house, not the average UK house.

        > there are cables going between the TV/Computers/Hifi
        Those are hazards for people too. Secure them to the crack where the wall and floor meet where possible. Tape them down elsewhere.

        > there's an area around the birdcage that needs extra work as it won't clean on the first pass
        My Roomba can detect dirt. A little blue 'dirt detected' LED comes on and it switches to a spiral "spot" pattern until the area is clean.
        Then again, ew. Put down some paper under the birdcage. I don't suppose you have dog droppings laying around the flat too?

        > There's the a discarded coke bottle that needs picking up
        So pick it up. Your mother doesn't live with you does she? Roomba won't pick up your dirty clothes from all over the floor either. Nor that week old tuna fish sandwich behind the couch.

        > Not to mention the hallway is too narrow for the roomba
        If it's too narrow for the Roomba then it's WAY too narrow for people to navigate. I suggest you change your designation of that area from 'hallway' to 'closet'. It's easier than removing the clutter.
      • OK, I live in a McMansion, but I have wires too. I arranged for them to be off the floor, along the wall. But it's true that you have to pick up a bit before setting the Roomba off. It's pretty easy to recognize the stuff it would jam on, after the first time it happens. The hallway is not too narrow if you can walk through it. The Roomba knows how to follow a wall edge.

        It's not your mum. Maybe you should invite her over to do some chores :-)

        Bruce

      • I bought a Roomba and loved it until it broke after a few months. It was replaced under warranty but then broke again and I didn't bother with it anymore. It didn't do well with my oriental rugs (fringe is a problem). They're too flimsy and not reliable. It also kept getting caught under things and required too much tending.
    • Re:Europe please! (Score:3, Informative)

      by dmatos (232892)
      We recently purchased a Scooba as well, and our manual states that you can use 2oz. of white vinegar instead of the cleaning solution. Of course, they make no claims about what the vinegar will do to sealed hardwood floors, but c'mon, it's dilute acetic acid.

      As an added bonus, it will help us because we have hard water. It should prevent lime scale buildup on the robot.
      • Vinegar is often recommended as a good, nontoxic, cleaning solution for hardwood floors. The vinegar's primary purpose is to cut down on water spots. I don't recall what ratio of vinegar to water is recommended, but I don't think straight vinegar is called for.
        • "I don't think straight vinegar is called for."

          Use the gay vinegar. It makes floors more fabulous.

          • That's too damn funny. And thank you for rescuing the thread from a dull discussion of cleaning tips. Is this the Good Housekeeping forum? I'm surprised my original comment wasn't caught by the lameness filter!
  • Its quite impressive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iMaple (769378) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:06AM (#15477823)
    I got the Roomba about an year back as a gift for my parents. I was almost sure that they wouldnt like it and it would be just another toy (which is why I actually bought it, I like 'toys' :) ). Anyway the gist was that they totally totally fell in love with it, and its a memeber of our house (just like the interview says, it makes beeps and bloops and makes itself adorable).

    The scooba seems to be worth a buy excpet for the fact that u have to use the special cholorox (its is still cheaper than hiring a maid, but its not as simple and easy like the original roomba). Now my only pending request to iRobot and the evil mom is a bending unit , a boomba ?

     
  • by gasmonso (929871) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:07AM (#15477827) Homepage

    My wife and I though about getting one of these and then another for the vacumming. But we decided on a maid and the rest is history. We spend 0 hours/week cleaning and our house looks great. I'll highly recommend one :)

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • My parents tried hiring a maid and it was a complete disaster.
      The first of them scratched all the paint from the fridge while cleaning it.
      The second often unplugged power cables while mopping the floors, resulting in critical equipment (DECT phone, router, computer compiling Gentoo) to be reset and as a result these had to be turned on because they don't do it automatically when plugged into power.
      The third one was so slow that cleaning one window seemed to take something like 40 minutes. And when ironing c
    • You'd rather have a human maid than a collection of robots?

      Did you somehow stumble onto the wrong website here?
  • by Bushido Hacks (788211) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:15AM (#15477838) Homepage Journal
    The programming of any retail robot in a nutshell:
    10 find couch
    20 get stuck under it
    30 if free==true then goto 10
    run
  • Now where's the Linux install hack?
  • scooba video (Score:5, Informative)

    by valdean (819852) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:29AM (#15477868)
    video [google.com] of the scooba in action on google video. pretty noisy little fella.
    • Noisy, *extremely* slow (I'd expect it to be at least 3 times that speed), and it missed a huge section... can't see how it could hope to cover the whole floor evenly going the route it appeared to be trying to take - it would cover the same section multiple times which would give uneven wear over time.

      I assume it was slowed down for the demo though.. would be pretty useless at that speed :p
      • it missed a huge section... can't see how it could hope to cover the whole floor evenly going the route it appeared to be trying to take

        Watch the product video on their website, there is an animation that demonstrates the way it covers the room. It doesn't systematically clean sections of the room systematically. Rather, it follows a circuitous path around the room, presumably to discover the extent of the room and clean at the same time. Admittedly it looks a little haphazard, but their animation claims
      • Re:scooba video (Score:2, Interesting)

        (i got one)

        It actually runs very slowly. It does a great job in my fairly large open kitchen. But my grandma has a HUUUUGE kitchen+dining+living room all hardwood. The living room itself was so big that we had to break it into two ares with obstacles and other shrapnel available.

        It seemed to have some difficulty grokking the room size and did indeed make several passes in places. But it got the job done.

        However, twice now it seemed unhappy with the whole "check tank" routine. It whined that it was empty
  • 1. Would you prefer one "super device" to clean everything, or an assortment of appliances each tailored to a specific task?

    2. Do you agree with TFA that this "super device" is still "decades away", or is iRobot's PR department simply spinning? Specifically: how many years until we can buy Rosie from the Jetsons?

    I've got a few prototype ideas I've been kicking around. All honest opinions are appreciated.

    • The "Super device" is you. Or your wife, or cleaner.

      Robots can't do that - even these automatic hoovers don't work in most houses because they require large basically square rooms.. they can't move cables out of the way, pick up litter, open doors, climb stairs...
    • 1) Humans are the only super devices currently on the planet. A device that can do more will cost more. A humanoid torso with stair-climbing could be teleoperated by remote human operators. That would be the cheapest way to get a robot to be a general purpose device. It would cost more than an ASIMO, which is at least $100,000.

      2) It isn't PR. It's reality. Talk to any roboticist. We are decades away from autonomous general purpose robotics. A few folks are working on the tele-op problem in #1. I just watche
    • 1. Would you prefer one "super device" to clean everything, or an assortment of appliances each tailored to a specific task?

      I'd like a robot to do my laundry and clean the bathroom so I assume because of the complicated tasks those require that it would require a multi-purpose device, but I'd settle for one robot for laundry and one robot to clean the bath room. And by doing the laundry I mean pick up the cloths, sort, throw into the washer and dryer and then folder and put away. Yes... I can do it easy, bu
  • Dozens of Scooba reviews, videos and analysis are available on http://robotstocknews.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] -- a blog all about iRobot. Most reviews have been glowing, although Consumer Reports oddly prefers mopping -- maybe they have a penchant for "Sweatin' to the Oldies"? http://robotstocknews.blogspot.com/2006/03/consume r-reports-gives-thumbs-down-for.html [blogspot.com] Given that Scooba has now been discounted to as little as $249 [blogspot.com], there's no reason not to give it a try. Scooba is about saving time and having a cleaner h
  • I have a Roomba, and the only problem with it is that the batteries dropped to about 40% capacity within 3 months. My Roomba is no longer able to complete the standard cleaning cycle without the batteries dying. Anybody else have this experience? I can't wait until a fuel-cell version is available. :-)
    • That's a known problem with the power supply, actually -- if you write to iRobot's support department they'll send you a little doohickey that fixes the problem. I had that problem with mine too but it's fine now.
    • I can't wait until a fuel-cell version is available.

      Powered by alcohol!

      Just pour a beer on the floor to refuel it.
  • i wonder if robocop would ever get it on with one of those?
  • I have never owned a Roomba, but I do own 3 Dogs. I checked out a Roomba in a Sharper image store and saw that by it's design, it would take me longer to clean the dog hair out of it's rotating brush, than it would take me to use my canister vacuum and do the cleaning myself. Poor design unless you have no pets or carpet. It's more of a "sweeper" than a vacuum. -Eric

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