When looking at robotic vacuum cleaners, the first company that comes to mind is iRobot. Founded in 1990 by 2 M.I.T grad students and a professor, these 3 entrepreneurs have taken the company from start-up to the $300million+ powerhouse it is today.
Their basic principal is to build robots that make a significant difference in peoples lives. Today you will find iRobot models used for bomb disposal, police work, helping the Fire Department and of course in homes and kitchens world wide!
The company employs 500+ people and to date have sold over 13 million home robots!
As can be seen in the photo, the iRobot Roomba is about the size of a pizza-14" diameter and less than 4" high. It weighs less than 10 lbs. It is powered by a rechargeable battery and will move all over a room, vacuuming as it goes.
The onboard sensors know when an obstacle is approaching and "bump" sensors tell the Roomba that a solid object is blocking the path and it changes direction and tries again.
It can move from hardwood flooring to carpets and back again. The fringe on some rugs is not a problem and the shallow height means it can vacuum under sofas and beds. and reach spots that a standard "old fashioned" conventional vacuum cannot access.
Some models are specifically designed for pet environments and can pick up cat and dog hair automatically.
If you are concerned about Roomba negotiating stairs in your home-fear not! Every model of these robotic vacuum cleaners have "cliff detection" hardware and software. Sensors sense when there is no floor and stop the robot moving and then goes into reverse and can clean right up to the edge of the stair.
Before you ask, the robot cannot clean stairs! It is limited to one floor, unless you carry it to another.
Some people keep an iRobot Roomba on each floor and program them to clean floors during the day, when they are at work. (This feature is available on some models) These units are ideal for day to day maintenance and maybe a good vacuuming can be carried out, with a "normal" vacuum, maybe once a month.
Some of the models feature a charging station, where the I Robot Roomba can recharge itself automatically.
As long as the unit starts a working cycle at the charging station, then it "knows" where home is and will return there when a re-charge is required.
Here we can see the Lighthouse, that emits an infra-red light, that keeps the vacuum in one room, until it is completely finished and then will allow the robot to enter the room it is "guarding" and vacuum that room.
It can also be programmed to act as a virtual wall and keep a second room permanently unavailable.
This video is well worth a look and gives a good idea as to what to expect from the first robotic vacuum cleaner available.