Tuesday, February 19, 2008

iRobot's Roomba 500 Series

It has been about half a year since iRobot came out with the 500 series Roomba. The 5th generation robot vacuum cleaner brought many new features but as well stayed with certain known issues from previous generations. One of the most interesting features is that the 500 series are modular, this means that all the parts can be replaced easily by just removing a couple of screws. At the moment iRobot does not have these parts on sale but sooner or later they will. Another great feature is the 'Light House' technology, which is practically a beacon styled system to assist the 500 series (models 535 and above) navigate around your home and back to it's charging base. This robot also brings an avoidance system in the front bumper so it doesn't hit the walls and furniture like a blind bat and wake you up in the middle of the night when it's cleaning. It's much quieter, is able to clean high pile carpets and area rugs with fringes! The cleaning mechanism is still somewhat unchanged since the original Roomba (circa 2002) and you still have to manually clean it out after each cleaning session in order for the robot to survive more than 1 year. It's a nice small step forwards but it's just that, a small step. iRobot should push towards more durable robots (better materials, designs that withstand dust and hair accumulation, etc.) and lean towards fully automated robotics (something like Karcher's idea). Only time will tell us if iRobot learns and push for better robotics in the near future.

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