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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 13:58 EDT

Roomba

The Roomba, sold by iRobot, is a name used for a series of autonomous robot vacuum cleaners that were first introduced into the market it 2002. There have been four versions or generations of Roomba since its creation, with over eight million sales throughout the world. It is capable of moving on its own and avoiding obstacles that are present in the average household, as well as capable of avoiding stairs and other drop offs. It is equipped with a computer chip and the Roomba Open Interface, which allows it to perform tasks other than vacuuming.

All versions of the Roomba are shaped like a disc and are thirty-four centimeters in diameter, although the height varies slightly and is never taller than 3.5 inches. The front of the Roomba holds a mechanical bumper that can sense obstacles. An infrared sensor can be found on the top near the front section and a handle near the center of the top portion. All versions are equipped with a number of brushes meant to gather large debris and some models have a squeegee that gathers small particles that may be left over. Cleaning a Roomba consists of emptying the dust filter and debris bin, removing, and cleaning the brushes.

The Roomba’s batteries can be recharged by plugging them into the wall, or in the case of newer models, but plugging the Roomba into its own charger, which newer versions will seek out once a cleaning session has been completed. Second and third generation Roombas are equipped with The Dirt Detect Series 1 Technology, which allows them to detect the largest messes and most dirty areas in a room. The newest models have a sensor at the front of collection bin, known as The Dirt Detect Series 2 Technology, which allows them to detect large or small messes. A large number of second and third generation Roombas are equipped with an infrared remote control, which allows a human to direct it to a mess.

Roombas come with a variety of operating modes. All versions can be manually transported into a dirty room and clean after a person presses the appropriate button. Newer models have updated modes including “Spot” mode, which allows them to clean a small area in an inward circling motion, and “Max” mode, which allows them to clean continuously until the batteries die. All models are equipped with the normal cleaning mode, which moves the Roomba in a circular motion and then follows the boundaries of walls. The cleaning time of each Roomba depends on the model and the size of the room. Some models can estimate the size of the room and run according to the estimate, while older models must be programmed. Although Roombas are made to make cleaning easier, older models can become tangled in cords or rug tassels. Issues like this can be solved by newer models that alert the owner there is a problem and sounds an alarm to help locate it.

The first generation of Roomba, introduced in 2002, came in three varieties including original silver, blue Pro, and maroon Elite, and each was equipped with three buttons to program the size of a room. The second generation, known as the 400 series, was introduced in 2004 and held many upgrades including better software, larger debris bins, and enhanced dirt detection. Some models in the 400 series came with accessories or with a different physical design, but all models worked in the same manner. The 400 series also included a budget model, known as the Dirt Dog, but this model was discontinued in 2010.The third generation of Roomba, known as the 500 series, was introduced in 2007 and it featured a better obstacle detection system, improved mechanics, changeable faceplates for decoration, and a charging dock. The fourth and last generation of the Roomba was introduced in 2011, featuring a longer battery life and an improved cleaning and filtering system.

The Roomba has many accessories to enhance the performance of most of its models. These include an Easy Clean Brush meant for gathering pet hair, a Home base that the Roomba returns to in order to charge, and a Virtual Wall that prevents the Roomba from entering certain areas. All Roombas can be hacked to increase their functionality. Early hacks included giving the Roomba a mapping capability and better controls. Newer versions can be connected to a computer through cables or a Bluetooth device in order for owners to monitor the systems of the Roomba. iRobot created a version specifically for hackers, known as the iRobot Create, which features a “cargo bay” that replaces the vacuum motor. Users can attach cameras and other non-cleaning items.

Image Caption: Most likely a Roomba 530. Recharge base on top, transformer on top left. Credit: Guzugi/Wikipedia

Roomba