Make Room for Roomba, the Robotic Vacuum

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Tables without legs. That's what my wife wants now, one of a number of adjustments we're willing to make for life with Roomba the first robot we've welcomed into our home. Roomba is the robotic vacuum cleaner that looks something like a big turtle or Frisbee crawling about the floor, sucking up dirt as it bounces from wall to wall. We love it.

iRobot From the TopDespite my fondness for gadgetry, I was skeptical, even after Roombas became sort of a cult for their owners, something akin to what happened with the iPod and TiVo. Something that those in the club feel you can't appreciate until you experience it. We're members now.

The company that makes them, iRobot Corp, has sold more than 2 million Roombas. They're a surprising extension of iRobot's original line of robots that help soldiers disarm explosives and are widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We tackle whatever's dull, dirty, or dangerous," says Nancy Dussault, an iRobot marketing executive.

Roombas, about 3 inches high by 13 inches wide, are surprisingly good at what they do–light cleaning–and fun to watch. (Don't! You're wasting time that Roomba is trying to save you.) The seemingly random cleaning pattern is interrupted only when our Roomba runs across a particularly dirty spot, at which point it goes into sort of a feeding frenzy, circling and wiggling as it consumes its prey.

iRobot From the SideRoomba can't replace a heavy-duty vacuum, but it can help maintain a clean room. While cute, it's not priced as a toy, ranging from about $100 to $300, depending on features. Roombas are also fallible, as they can get stuck, though Dussault says upgraded software on the current line fares better than that in the original Roombas, which hit the market about four years ago.

Still, Roomba's size keeps it from getting under some chairs and tables, and while we'd also have to do it for conventional cleaning, it seems so crude to have to move them out of the way. Thus, the idea of legless tables, maybe attached to the wall or hung from the ceiling. It'd also make room for our new Scooba, a mopping version from iRobot, that's following hard on the heels of our Roomba.

Photo credits: Courtesy of iRobot Corp.