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Floor Vacuum Robot for $200 367

abhikhurana writes "MSNBC is running a review of Roomba, supposedly the first intelligent 'floor vac', as in a cross between vacuum cleaner and a robot. I think its especially suited for lazy bums like me. Just let it loose, sitback and enjoy. There is also a video of how it cleans the floors, which requires windows media player (what else?) to watch it. It seems that the robo cleaner can indeed do that job for which it has been designed. A related article on Techreview has slightly more details about how it works. There is also a website exclusively for Roomba."
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Floor Vacuum Robot for $200

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  • by qurob ( 543434 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:39PM (#4480032) Homepage

    Remember? Robots were going to do EVERYTHING in the 70's and 80's.

    They were going to help us! Everything was robot this, robot that.

    Bring us drinks, cut the lawn (solar power!), vaccuum....

    I'm going to go read all my back issues of Popular Science, I'll find a robot lawn mower or two.
    • You have to wonder if, without these predictions, we would have these robots now. False hopes of the future spurred research, and may deliver, albeit a little late, the very predictions we made long ago.

      Remember? The world used to be flat:

      A: "I'll travel around the world!"
      B: "But... you'll fall off the edge.."
      A: "No, the world is round, watch, I'll prove it..."
      B: "But...!" (feels tap on shoulder)
      A: "See?"
      • Flat Earth Myth (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Red Weasel ( 166333 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:12PM (#4480387) Homepage
        The whole idea that the entire world thought that the earth was flat until Columbus came around is a total and complete fabrication.

        This story was invented by Washington Irving (yes the writer of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories) to show his contempt for the priesthood and for the conservative nature of the church and European nations. And guess what? It caught on and expanded to include everyone that lived before them.

        Lets all ignore the fact that every time there was an eclipse that the shadow was round or that sailors from around the world would loose site of land as they sailed or that a Greek mathematician calculated the circumference of the earth and was only 52 miles off.

        Jeffrey [ucsb.edu]
        Burton Russell
        Has a very short piece but he says it best with

        "A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters--Leukippos and Demokritos for example--by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans."

        • Re:Flat Earth Myth (Score:3, Insightful)

          by User 956 ( 568564 )
          The whole idea that the entire world thought that the earth was flat until Columbus came around is a total and complete fabrication... by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans."

          First off, Claudius Ptolemy lived in the second century, not the frst century.

          Second, Christianity is well known for destroying and suppressing knowledge. That's why they burned the library at Alexandria. Galileo was arraigned before the Catholic Inquisition and forced to recant his heretical view that the earth rotated, and also revolved around the sun. However, you are correct that the Greeks and Romans knew the Earth was round.

          My question is, when Columbus was ready to sail, did he sail from Greece, or did he sail from Spain, a country dominated by Catholicism?

          Read the Bible. The conception of the earth in Genesis 1 is that of a single continent in the shape of a flat circular disc. In addition, the Hebrews were influenced via the patriarchs by Mesopotamian concepts (due to their time in Egypt), and via Moses. Moses was, after all, "educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22; Exod 2:10). It is highly probable, therefore, that the writer and first readers of Genesis 1 defined the sea in the same way that all people in the ancient Near East did, namely, as a single circular body of water in the middle of which the flat earth-disc floated and from which all wells, springs and rivers derived their water.'

          It therefore all the more historically probable that the writer and readers of Genesis 1 thought of the earth as a single continent in the shape of a flat circular disc. The belief was that the earth is covered by a vault and that celestial bodies move inside this firmament. This makes sense only under the assumption that the earth is flat. This is reinforced in Genesis 1:6 and 1:7, and was commonly depicted in religious art, through the 1400s.

          If second grade serves me, I believe Columbus sailed in 1492.
    • Yeah funny you should mention the robots of the 80's

      Tomy had a line of robots called the omnibot line. Included in the lineup was a little guy called "vacbot" if I remember correctly. It's not nearly the vaccum the one in the article is (had less power than a dustbuster, would only work on flat surfaces,cliff avoidance was a simple switch that made the thing turn right)

      Just wanted to have a short flashback.
  • Vacuum? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Trusty Penfold ( 615679 ) <jon_edwards@spanners4us.com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:40PM (#4480044) Journal
    Are they crazy?!? Everyone knows that nature abhors a vacuum. When a vacuum and normal matter meet there's an enormous explosion. Or implosion. Or something.
  • meoooooow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:40PM (#4480048) Journal

    Fluffy? Where are you Fluffy?
  • $200...

    ahh, nevermind
  • Why is it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:40PM (#4480051) Homepage
    That my Aibo can plug itself back in, but this thing can't? Seriously, how hard would it be to remember a room, vacuum it, and return to a docking station while I'm at work? What good is this thing *unless* it does that? I want my vacuuming to be sort of like setting up a maintainance cron job to run at 3 AM.
    • Re:Why is it... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by atathert ( 127489 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:45PM (#4480119)
      Well, let me see. It could be because your Aibo is approximately an order of magnitude more expensive than this. To tell the truth, I am amazed at the functionality you can get for $200 dollars. I saw one of these things at Brookstone, and it just looks like it starts with a basic spiral pattern. It was demoed in the middle of the store, so I am not sure what happens when it gets to things like chair legs and such. Probably just senses them with the bump sensors, and shoots off on another direction.
    • Re:Why is it... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pivo ( 11957 )
      I seem to remember a european (Brittish?) version of this type of vac that was announced a long time ago here on /., if I remember correctly, it did what you're talking about. I agree, if I have to watch it, what's the point? (Of course, I'd watch it anyway, but I want it to be able to work by itself.)
    • by worthb ( 523248 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:07PM (#4480340)
      I want my vacuuming to be sort of like setting up a maintainance cron job to run at 3 AM.

      I don't know about you but if that thing started running in my house at 3 AM it would end up out the window.
    • Re:Why is it... (Score:3, Insightful)

      For $200, I'd say that the trouble to plug it in each night, pull it out in the morning and press a button is fine. Assuming I don't buy one beforehand this is definetly on my christmas list.

    • Re:Why is it... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:10PM (#4480373) Homepage
      It doesn't actually remember the room. It uses a variation on the wandering drunk pattern, but the practical upshot is it should finish in a couple of hours. Part of why it's so cheap - it doesn't have to "learn the room", you just put it down and walk away. From what I've read on it, the price point is paramount... for $200, I'm damn tempted.
    • Re:Why is it... (Score:5, Informative)

      by DrBlake ( 60544 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:59PM (#4480734)
      Electrolux of Sweden has a machine called Trilobyte that can recharge it self. See http://www.trilobite.electrolux.se/ [electrolux.se]. It is much more expensive though.
    • Re:Why is it... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kris0r ( 453555 )
      Assuming docking itself can be easily done, it's really 'remembering' a room, or even just a path to get back to the docking station, that is the hard part.

      Consider the small number of sensors on this thing. If I remember correctly it has just a few IR sensors (used for following walls, etc). Mapbuilding in general requires a little more than that, and is also VERY computationally and memory intensive (for more information you might want to read about the most common method for mapbuilding, evidence grids [cmu.edu]).

      Even if you were just to attempt to remember a) the location of your docking station and b) your own location, after half an hour of vacuuming (especially on carpet) and bumping into things, the odometry error that will have accumulated is tremendous -- you'd have no hope of knowing your actual location relative to the docking station. Normally a number of localization methods are used to combat odometry error (most commonly, Kalman filtering [mcgill.ca]). However, they all require lots of sensory input and processing.

      So, if you want a robot that can plug itself back in (at least, one that can do so by remembering where it's docking station is), be prepared to spend a lot more than $200.
      • Re:Why is it... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Skyshadow ( 508 )
        So, if you want a robot that can plug itself back in (at least, one that can do so by remembering where it's docking station is), be prepared to spend a lot more than $200.

        Well, let's think different.

        We don't need a combat system here -- we're talking about one room. How about putting a blinking IR light on the docking station and a IR detector on the vacuum unit? Then program the vacuum to roll around until it "sees" the dock...

  • Runaway (Score:5, Funny)

    by egg troll ( 515396 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:40PM (#4480052) Homepage Journal
    This is the first link in a chain of events that will eventually have Gene Simmons chasing me across a skyscraper with a swarm of robotic spiders!
  • by Scratch-O-Matic ( 245992 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:40PM (#4480053)
    sit back and chat on my video phone.
  • Heh.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:41PM (#4480068) Homepage Journal
    Hey! It's R2-D2's cousin: SUX-2BU.

    Okay, dumb joke, but it beats the inevitable "That robot sucks!" jokes.
    • The old joke about having sex with a vacuum cleaner.

      Nothing sucks like Electrolux.

      Associated Press report of May 13, 1998:

      Man's penis severed by vacuum cleaner

      LONG BRANCH, N.J.: A 51-year-old man seeking sexual gratification with a vacuum cleaner nearly bled to death when the machine cut off a half-inch of his penis, authorities said.

      The intoxicated man first told police that someone had stabbed him in the crotch as he slept, Long Branch public safety director Louis Napoletano said.

      However, officers who responded to Monday's call for help instead realized the man had hoped to obtain sexual pleasure from the appliance's suction, Napoletano said.

      "But what he didn't realize is that there's a blade in the vacuum cleaner right under where the hose attaches that pushes the dust into the collection bag," he said.

      When the man, who was not identified by police, turned on the vacuum cleaner, the blade cut off part of his penis. The victim told detectives he did not remember the incident.

      Doctors at Monmouth Medical Center were able to stop the bleeding but were unable to reattach the severed part, Napoletano said. He was listed in stable condition Tuesday.

  • Goal (Score:4, Funny)

    by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:41PM (#4480069) Homepage
    You know the dot-bomb is rebounding when an MIT startups goal is to suck.
  • by edrugtrader ( 442064 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:42PM (#4480074) Homepage
    .... why 65% of americas youth are overweight.
  • Beasties (Score:2, Funny)

    by anicklin ( 244316 )
    I can't imagine how clean it will get a room when the dogs and cats are chasing after it and knocking them around. Maybe you have to up the room size in order to compensate.

    Then again, a $200 interactive cat toy might be a good thing, if they never get tired of it like every other one they get. :-)

  • by beerman2k ( 521609 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:42PM (#4480076) Homepage
    This thing looks pretty sweet. If it actually picks up dirt and can do an entire room without recharging/emptying then i want one of these babies. The only crappy thing is that it can't get the corners, which seems to be where all the dust accumulates, at least in my appartment.
    • The only crappy thing is that it can't get the corners, which seems to be where all the dust accumulates, at least in my appartment

      I had the opportunity to listen to an explanation of a similar product made by a competitor.

      As you suggest, the robot does have a hard time reaching corners. However, when compared to a human operator, it was found that most people miss large patches when they do their vacuuming. It is just hard to remember exactly what areas have been covered (that and the constant urge of doing something more interesting). All in all, it was found that the robot covered a larger fraction of the floor, even if it did not reach all the corners.

    • What you need are dust corners [vandykes.com]. These are little brass trianglish affairs to go in square corners and turn them into radiused corners. They made sweeping and scrubbing easier back when it was all hand powered.
  • by Chastitina ( 253566 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:42PM (#4480079)
    Maybe it's dog-friendly, but at 7.5 pounds how is it going to hold up to the teething Labrador next door?

    Sounds like a lot of fun for when the cats misbehave, though.

    "Here kitty kitty kitty..."
  • Good idea, but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mrgrey ( 319015 )
    Roomba's walk isn't guaranteed to cover an entire floor, but in practice it does a very good job.

    So you only get the floor mostly clean. Seems like it could use some more work...
    • It's very difficult to get an algorithm to cover oddly defined spaces, especially when there's objects (aka furniture) in the way. Should the robot move the furniture? What if a piece of furniture has a clearance that is below the robot's ability to vacuum under?

      Now that I think abou it, the robot probably only vacuums area that it can physically move over, so after a couple months, Fibonaccinumbers come into play and you'll have a dust bunny population explosion. But that's about the same amount of area any kid will vacuum, except that kids will probably skip any areas that don't look dirty (even if they really are).

    • So you only get the floor mostly clean. Seems like it could use some more work...

      Well, to me, mostly clean is much better than the horrible mess I have now.
      You can eat off my floors, but not because they are that sanitary, but because they have all that food on them.
  • by rindeee ( 530084 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:42PM (#4480087)
    Actually my wife has one. It is worth every penny. I also have a robo-mow robotic lawnmower (made by Friendly Robotics) to take care-o-th-lawn. I think I paid about $300 for it. The vaccuuming is no biggie to me (since I usually never did it anyway), but the robomower has paid for itself many times over in the time I have saved. $500 total spent. Hundreds of hours saved already. That's pretty darn good ROI if you ask me. Of course for those who don't make a point of exercising, the robomow may be a death ticket.
  • I had a similar idea to this (and probably millions of other people did too) but I thought it would be cool to have the thing solar powered. It would seek out a spot of sunshine and recharge for a while, then clean until it got almost dead, then seek out light again. it would not be able to sweep for long on any given charge, but you could put it in a room and let it just go on and on. maybe it could alert you if it got stuck or if it was in need of a new bag.
  • The Fools! (Score:5, Funny)

    by foistboinder ( 99286 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:43PM (#4480101) Homepage Journal

    Don't they realize the danger?

    According to Professor Frink:

    Elementary chaos theory tells us that all robots will eventually turn against their masters and run amok, in an orgy of blood and the kicking and the biting with the metal teeth and the hurting and shoving.
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:43PM (#4480103) Homepage Journal
    I love how they never test these in a real American Familys house. This thing wouldnt last a day around my kids.

    Legos, flash cards, marbles, mcdonalds toys, stuffed animals with fluffy parts, video games and controllers, dirty clothes.

    Now give me a robot that washs and folds clothes, and picks up kids toys, and I can use a Roomba. (And no Honey, you are not a Robot.)
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:43PM (#4480108) Homepage Journal

    $200 ?!
    I paid $6,000 (US) for my RealDoll and it can't move at all, let alone vacuum the floor.

  • Pre-Vacuum Pick-up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CutterDeke ( 531335 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:43PM (#4480109)
    I've got kids. Will Roomba do the pre-vacuum pick-up of all the Legos, money, etc.?

    My wife does a lot of sewing. How well can Roomba handle lots of thread on the floor? How about pins?

    The problem isn't the vacuuming. It's the picking up that you have to do before you can vacuum.

  • Step one (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:44PM (#4480113) Journal
    But first something has to clean up all the socks, underwear, pizza boxes, AOL disks, rejection notices, bannana peels, etc. that are all over the floor. This is the hard part.
    • Yes, we need a robot to handle that part of the job as well. I propose; the Slob-O-Matic 3000!

    • The missing step #2 has been found!

      1) clean up all socks, underwear, pizza boxes, AOL disks, rejection notices, banana peels, etc.
      2) vacuum
      3) Profit!

    • No problem, just sit one of these [beststuff.com] down at the controls of one of these [ironplanet.com] and you're all set. It'll even clear away the floor if you want the room really clean.
  • I wonder .... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tensor ( 102132 )
    How noisy it is ... all the article says is at a pretty low noise level.

    Pretty low noise for what ? a vaccum cleaner ? cos even a low noise one is noisy as hell.

    This looks like a ripoff of Husqvarna's automatic lawnmower. Only they have a 100% unattended one, as one model is solar powered !! http://www.automower.com/
  • OK, so we were already moving to a point where we wouldn't have to leave the house to do most daily tasks. That was bad enough. But with inventions like this we won't have to walk around the house either.
  • that recharges itself, and dumps its own lint pan, ill probably get one. 150 bucks to never vaccum again?!? Ill go for it.
    Now, when it can sort my laundry on my floor by sniff check, ill buy 2 of em.
  • in a local paper [newsday.com]. It said that the Roomba couldn't completely replace your standard vacumm. It doesn't do stairs, and it has no attachments for things like furniture upholstery, etc. The article basically said it was good if you lived in a small place such as an apartment or didn't have kids, but if you need to do heavy duty cleaning, the 'bot wasn't gonna repalce your standard vac.

    • and my wife and I have been salivating over it since.

      no, it won't replace my regular vacuum, nor my vacuum with attachments, nor my steam vac, but periodically running it every couple of days to pick up all the kitty litter? PRICELESS.
  • Nit-pick (Score:3, Funny)

    by Overt Coward ( 19347 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:51PM (#4480178) Homepage
    from the to-lazy-to-stand dept.

    And, apparently, from the too-lazy-to-spell department, too...

  • Pervert! (Score:3, Funny)

    by slagdogg ( 549983 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:52PM (#4480183)
    I also took Roomba home with me to see how it would do in a somewhat more sedate setting. Once again, Roomba did its thing with a minimum of noise or fuss.

    Hmmm ... I don't see any mention of what exactly "its thing" was ... ewww.
  • Is it really necessary for us to slashdot their SSL server? I mean, if we're going to trash it, can't we at least do the lesser of the two and go with good ol' HTTP? (-:

    (not to mention the mismatched host and cert)


  • Floor VAX? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:52PM (#4480191)
    Is it running on DEC hardware?
  • It's too slow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Proc6 ( 518858 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:52PM (#4480193)
    The CEO interviewed says a 10x12 room takes 1/2 an hour to vaccuum. I can vaccuum my entire 1000 square foot apartment in about 3 minutes. It's just not that difficult. Id rather do it myself and be done in less than 5 minutes, than hear that thing's motor whirring and whining for 3 hours while it cleans every room in my house.
  • by shrikel ( 535309 ) <hlagfarj&gmail,com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:52PM (#4480195)
    I can see it now:

    Geeks now have a vacuum cleaner web server!

    First one to run apache/linux on it wins.

  • come on now (Score:2, Funny)

    by RedWolves2 ( 84305 )
    My rugs are vacuumed everyday before I get home...That is why one gets married isn't it?
  • The First? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frause ( 234486 )
    What about Electrolux Trilobite?
    Electrolux claims they were first! Trilobite Pressrelease [electrolux.se]
  • Though, I'm not sure if it will be with their teeth or the sheer amount of dog hair. I vaccuum once a week and empty my upright three times, once for each floor. I don't see how that tiny thing could possibly hold up against any single room in my house.
  • for someone to say that this is too expensive and that he built the EXACT same thing with a 486/25, and ATi AIW video card, wireless networking, and an old 15" monitor he had in the garage.

    And just a little script in Perl.

  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi.yahoo@com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:01PM (#4480277) Journal
    Slashdot: News for Nerds. Things that Suck.

    (doan hit me ;)

  • by CSG_SurferDude ( 96615 ) <wedaa&wedaa,com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:02PM (#4480286) Homepage Journal

    For those robot geeks among us who did NOT know, this is Rodney Brooks' company.

    Rodney A. Brooks is Director of the 230 person MIT [mit.edu] Artificial Intelligence Laboratory [slashdot.org], and is the Fujitsu Professor of Computer Science. He is also Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of iRobot Corp (Roomba) [irobot.com]

    He received degrees in pure mathematics from the Flinders University of South Australia and the Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1981.

    This guy is to robot-geeks what RMS is to Open-Source.

  • Well, one of these would only come in handy if I actually vacuumed in the first place. Now, make me a robot that posts to slashdot, drinks mountain dew and takes naps, and you've got yourself a customer! Laser eye-beams probably wouldn't hurt either. http://www.geocities.com/robot_president/quotes.ht ml
  • Who made it (Score:2, Informative)

    by alkatraz ( 617373 )
    I saw this on tv yesterday, and they mentioned that the original concept/design was made by Pentagon engineers!
  • by jridley ( 9305 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:16PM (#4480415)
    What the hell? I spend all day cleaning, and only the last 20 minutes vacuuming. This thing would have a hell of a time in my house, unless I cleaned up first. It'd never get past all the kid's toys, shoes and socks, piles of magazines, etc. I bet over half the floor is covered with stuff unless cleaned before vacuuming.

    I'd love a robotic lawn mower, but don't think it would work very well on our lawn; we have significant amounts of landscaping, the ground is fairly bumpy (enough to make me sore after riding the lawn mower for a while), there are hills, buildings, dog toys, flowers, all kinds of stuff that need to be avoided. Do the lawn mowers only work if you have a flat, unadorned lawn?
  • The thing seems to move until it hits an obstacle, then changes direction. Both my living room and second floor have stairs going down. I forsee this thing take a header down the steps, lying on its back whirling away until the batteries die.

  • Hmmm.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by dubiousmike ( 558126 )
    Can Roomba vacuum the lint from my belly button?


  • Improvements. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SecGreen ( 577669 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:24PM (#4480485)
    These guys should hire some programmers (and engineers) from The Robomower Company [friendlymachines.com]... The mower can handle a quarter acre with all kinds of obstructions...

    Also on my wishlist:
    1. Return-to-base self-charging.
    2. Return-to-base dust bin emtpying.
    3. Environment learning. It could develop a map of the floor, and keep track of the dirt collected in different areas. Then it could do a daily cleaning of the high-traffic areas, and do occasional full passes.
    4. Take some lessons from Robot Soccer [robocup.org] and learn some teamwork. (Imagine a beowulf cluster [acceleratedservers.com] of these!)
    5. Remote Interface with an X10 burglar alarm. (Although "Release the vacuums!" just doesn't have the same ring as "release the hounds!)

  • by Erwin-42 ( 117944 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:24PM (#4480488) Homepage
    Here in Scandinavia, ElectroLux has commercially launched Trilobite which is similar -- it runs around finding the walls, uses ultrasound to detect obstacles and can find its way back to the base station when necessary. This happened about a year ago (November 2001) according to the press release dates.

    Trilobite is about 12000 DKK however, which is 1500 EUR.

    Here's the Danish website [electrolux.dk] with Flash demonstration and some information in English [electrolux.se] too.

  • Isn't it typical... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nmnilsson ( 549442 )
    Did they even stop to think before giving it a female name? *sigh*
    If vaccuming had been fun, it would have been l33t suXor or something...
  • A BeoWulf cluster of these.... will take over the world in under 72 hours.
  • It's called a cat. It roams around the house eating anything on the floor and depositing it in a box that needs to be emptied every few days. It was even free!
  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @03:27PM (#4480927)
    Cause a beowulf cluster of these would really suck!
  • by iamchaos ( 572797 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @03:30PM (#4480944)
    And they almost work. It takes the little guy forever and sometimes he just gives up. Put him between two chairs and watch the confusion begin. It is a little loud and will get hung up quite a bit. Other than that it works great. Just keep an ear out for it to shut off and go see if it is done or gave up.

  • by Anenga ( 529854 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @03:33PM (#4480960)
    I don't think any clean-freak mom in America would want this thing to do it's floors. I watched the video clip in the article [msnbc.com], then you'll know what I mean.

    First of all, it seems to only floors. And it only cleans "slightly" it doesn't seem like it will go deep into the rug and get that dirt out, it does not seem powerful at all with no adaquate suction.

    In addition, it doesn't seem very intelligent. It works by sweeping around an area, then when it detects something, it will go in a circular motion to make sure it gets all of it up in that area. But it can easily roam off and miss a lot. Well, unless you give it a lot of time. In the video, they said it would take 45 minutes to clean the studio. Or a half hour to clean a small room. Do note, half of that time is probably finding the mess. That's probably it's biggest problem. Perhaps it should send out detection lasers (or whatever, the stuff that stores use for automatic doors etc.) to detect if anything is above floor level?

    The problem with actually finding the mess in a short amount of time was so paramount that they developed little pods that you put around it, to cage it in so it won't pass them and find the mess faster. While that helps, it really isn't solving the problem. Ideally, you'd start it up and it goes straight to the mess and clean it up.

    Right now, I'd consider the thing blind. Aimlessly circling around looking for crumbs.

    I wouldn't recommend it. Though, there is very good potential for "iRobot" (the company). Check back in a few years.
    • The article makes reference to the fact that this is like the swimming pool vaccuums. I have a polaris for my pool and the path it takes is completely random, it isn't even smart enough to do things like and expanding circle, etc. However, after about 15-20 minutes it always has the pool completely cleaned. You'd be surprised at how well a random walk can cover an area. Plus, you really don't need to get every part of your floor 100% clean every time. If you do this every other day, you'll probably keep the floor clean enough that it won't show.
  • Just bought one... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jfinke ( 68409 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @04:18PM (#4481343) Homepage
    I just bought one last weekend. It is pretty slick. It does what it claims to do. You can just let it go and return later and your room is clean. I have 3 cats and the amount of cat hair it picks up is pretty amazing.

    It manuevers around and under everything that is over 6" high. So, it can deal with coffee tables, chairs, beds, etc. It detects stairs and avoids them. It comes with a virtual wall unit (you can buy more), that sends out a signal the roomba won't cross. When I first got it, I put it is my main room. It has a TV, a large L shaped couch, and 2 litter boxes. The room is 20x10. I eat in front of the tv, so you can imagine all that crap. I ran it in there, and I was amazed at all the stuff if picked up.

    There are a few caveats, however. Battery life. You can only do "3 medium size rooms". My carpet is pretty thick, however. It is closer to 2 rooms. Plus, the time to charge the battery is 12 hours. You can buy spare batteries and a "quick charger", however, they are $60 bucks apiece. It is designed to do one room at a time, so you just can't put it up on the second floor and let it do everything. You have to put it into a room, close the door, and let it rip. It is not designed as a spot cleaner. If you have one really messy part of the room, you are better off getting your regular vacuum and vacumming that part of the room and then putting the roomba to work. The dirt collector is pretty small, so you have to empty it out after every room. Also, because of all the cat hair, I spend a lot of time cleaning the brushes and making sure the machine is clean. Unfortunately, it does not map out the room, so it may go over some areas that are not as high traffic as others, due to the algorithm that is uses.

    My girlfriend thought I was nuts for buying it. However, for $200 bucks, (the price a of a decent vacuum) it is pretty cool. Now, only if it would travel stairs, do multiple rooms, have a larger dirt container, and plug itself back in, it would be near perfect

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!