Robot Vacuums (Neato)

June 2014 Update:

I have grown to adore my Neato.
Visitors comment on how clean my floor is. I simply hand-vacuum the edges of the room once a month, to get the areas the Neato can’t. I walk barefoot around the house all day, and don’t have to wipe my feet to get in bed. It runs 3 times a week to keep things spic and span, and only gets stuck once every few weeks. I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping my phone charging cords off the floor, and for a few bucks, I purchased a 10-ft cord organizer for all the cables running behind the couch. The Neato avoids it. I even carried my Neato up to the attic and let it suck up the dust and guck that only an attic can collect. That was a perfect job for a robot!

Feeling so far: It could be quieter, but it does a heck of a job. If you don’t have the luxury of a house cleaner and can clear your clutter enough for a robot to navigate the floors, the Neato is a winner.

Dec 2013:

This Christmas, I finally got something I’ve wanted for years, a robotic vacuum. My dog leaves a literal trail of hair in her wake akin to PigPen’s dustcloud, so this bot has its work cut out for it. On a friend’s recommendation (about the quality of the cleaning algorithm), I got the Neato (XV-14) instead of the more well-known Roomba.

Day 1. Gratification and disappointment

Wow, it’s a lot louder than I was expecting. The dog doesn’t love it, but she tolerates it. It moves SO slowly (~15 minutes for a 10×10 room with almost no obstacles, about an hour for 4 small rooms).

It doesn’t clean the edges of the room, nor behind/around things, which is where a lot of the dog hair tends to collect. Even so, it filled its dirtbin twice on day 1, so that was very gratifying. Quite amusing to see it climb my digital scale, push the dog bowl and even a chair. Ran out of juice once requiring a recharge, and made a bit of a scrunched up mess of my lightweight kitchen rugs, though it managed to not get stuck on them.

Feeling so far: Mostly disappointment that robot vacuums aren’t further evolved. I wish Apple made one.

Day 2. Learning boundaries and eating cords

Today I set up the auto-schedule feature so it would run mid-day on a different floor of the house (I work from home), to be away from the noise.

  1. Within a few minutes of auto-starting, I heard the Neato’s oddly pleasant bleet for help. It had sucked up the end of my new iPhone charger and stopped. Stripped a bit of plastic from the wire but didn’t kill the cord thankfully. I cleared the obstacle and vacuuming resumed.
  2. A few minutes later, another bleet as the vacuum had managed to get stuck on a different cord. Never realized how many cords I had laying around. Cleared that too.
  3. A few minutes later, it got stuck under the couch next to a bunch of cables (but not having eaten them), complaining its vision was blocked. Though I moved it to an open space, the error code would not reset on its own until I put it back on its dock. That cleared the error state right away.
  4. At some point it ran out of power 6 inches away from its dock and stopped there. I manually redocked it.
Feeling so far: Robot vacuums are fun to watch. But you really have to clean up in preparation for them (moving cords, obstacles, etc) and that’s extra work.

Day3. Skipped

Didn’t schedule it to run. Kinda missed it.

Day4. Stops and starts

Today I was smart and moved everything out of the way ahead of time, cables, obstacles, etc. The vacuum started on its own schedule, which was great.

  1. I heard it stop after 10 minutes or so and found that it had redocked and claimed it was finished. My still visibly dirty floor and the short run period were evidence it had skipped most of the floor, so I manually restarted it.
  2. A few minutes later, I heard it shut off again. This time it ran out of juice but made it back to its dock for recharging. They say it takes a few charges to hold its full charge. Later it restarted on its own.
  3. Stopped shortly thereafter again. The display reported that the brush was stuck. Apparently my long hair had wrapped around it and knotted. This required a quick (and easy to find) Youtube lesson on how to remove and take apart the brush, which only took a few minutes and wasn’t hard. Given my hair, I’m sure I’ll need to do this on a regular basis. The error code wouldn’t clear on its own, so I redocked it and that cleared it.

Did a decent job cleaning today and it was satisfying to empty the half-full waste collector.

Feeling so far: There is not much that’s truly automatic about this vacuum yet. It requires constant babysitting for stops and starts. My floor looks cleaner than usual though.