Review round-up: iRobot Scooba 450

scooba-450

We live in a world with robots. And we make them scrub our floors. Whilst you let that absurdity settle, consider the new Scooba 450 Floor Scrubbing Robot from the creators of the home robot category iRobot. Like its carpet cleaning cousin the Roomba, the Scooba is a pizza-shaped robot that only exists to make your tiled and hardwood floors clean. The Scooba 450 has Three-Cycle Cleaning Process which automatically sweeps and pre-soaks, scrubs, then finishes with a final squeegee.

But how is it to use?

Seth Stevenson at Slate.com described operating the Scooba as “remarkable”, to the point where he actually engaged with the spectacle.

The whole operation takes about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the room. It is remarkable to watch. I popped a beer, hopped up onto my kitchen counter with my feet dangling, and enjoyed the show. You keep thinking the Scooba might miss a big section, but—like its carpet-vacuuming cousin, the iRobot Roomba—it never does. It has sensors and programmed strategies to ensure it coats the whole room. You see it spiral out to gauge the size of the floor, then bump into a wall and redirect itself, and then finally crisscross the open expanses until no patches have been left unscrubbed.

Alex Colon from Gigaom.com was impressed with the Scooba’s range and the improvements in the new model.

I saw the Scooba tackle cereal, hot sauce, and an unidentified orange liquid on a tile floor with aplomb, but what I really like are the new information button and spoken cues. I’ve used older models of the Scooba in the past, and without this information available, it could be difficult to know exactly where it was in the cleaning process.

A closer look at the Scooba 450
A closer look: the Scooba 450

Katherine Byne from Expert Reviews spoke to one of the designers to find out what’s going on under the hood of the Scooba. And how it literally involves the Bomb Squad.

The cleaning algorithm that the robot uses is very dynamic… It does not assume anything about your room because often every time we vacuum the room it’s different. Chairs get moved perhaps in the middle of vacuuming, and we have created an AI system to allow full coverage without assuming furniture being in any particular place, and it gives the best coverage performance, especially for complicated areas. The origin of this cleaning algorithm was actually developed for the US Department of Defence for mine hunting, so we take coverage very seriously.

However, Sal Cangeloso from Geek.com notes a few drawbacks with the design.

Unlike a Roomba which will understand the size of a space and simply turn itself off or return to a dock when it’s done cleaning, the Scooba is designed to clean for the entire time cycle. Because its dirty water must be removed from the bot after a cycle, the it isn’t designed to return to a dock and it doesn’t work on a schedule. This means the amount of human interaction is much greater with scrubbing compared to vacuuming.

As Sal goes on to explain, it’s not quite the hands-off experience you might want from your robot cleaner.

The only bad part here is that some of the hair and assorted debris doesn’t make it into the reservoir and instead gets stuck between the reservoir component in the bot’s spring-loaded door. This final cleaning task is sort of like clearing out the shower drain — it’s kind of gross but in the scheme of things not too bad.

All the reviewers were impressed with the device, but Alex Colon from Gigaom.com gives a fair assessment of the choice faced by consumers.

At $599.99, the Scooba 450 is not for the casual neat freak. If you’re deciding between this and the $499.99 Scooba 390, I think the new features here are enough to justify the extra $100. But compared to the $279.99 Scooba 230 it’s a tougher call.

The iRobot Scooba 450 Floor Scrubbing Robot will be available for £599.99 SRP at iRobot.com and in selected retailers this Spring. You can find out more by going to www.irobot.com

Neato XV-25 robotic vacuum cleaner review

Sweep away hair and allergens without lifting a finger

This is like a dream come true – as I write this, a small robotic vacuum is navigating its way around the ground floor of my house doing the vacuuming.

I will do anything to get out of housework, so when the ed suggested I try out a robotic vacuum cleaner, designed especially to pick up allergens and pet hairs, how could I refuse? The house is generally covered in cat hairs from dawn to dust, so I figured it would certainly get a good workout.

Neato-XV-25

The Neato XV-25 might sound like something from a 1960s sci-fi cartoon, but looks like a chunky set of bathroom scales in shape. It comes with a charging unit that plugs into the wall, and the vacuuming unit itself is low, so could sit beneath a chair or table if you wanted to keep it out of the way.

It’s incredibly simple to set up – a few buttons are all that stands between you and getting it to do a spot clean – and programming it to clean the whole house at a certain time on any day of the week is as simple as setting a digital alarm clock or setting the time on the central heating.

When it starts up, it does sound alarmingly like a plane getting ready to take off, but as it’s actually vacuuming it’s not too bad. I often can’t hoover because my other half works shifts and is asleep when I might do housework (another great excuse for not doing it!), but I could happily let the Neato do its job without disturbing him (not in the same room though!).

Watching the XV-25 navigate its way around the rooms (it has sensors in the front that can detect objects such as chairs and tables), the Neato looks pretty haphazard in where it goes, but it does manage to get pretty much everywhere. Being slim, it fits under chairs that my usual upright vacuum can’t. My only bugbear is that it doesn’t go close enough to the edges, and after a few days of vacuuming, I’ve noticed that there’s a building edge of dust along the sides of the couches that it just can’t reach.

It also does a far better job on carpet than it does on hard floors. Mind you, because I don’t have to do the vacuuming, I can happily set it off a couple of times a day to vacuum while I get on with other things.

Time-wise, I’m quicker – it takes about 30 minutes to do what would take me about 15 – but then I can get on with something more interesting – liker writing reviews for this website.

There’s a lot I like about the Neato – we’ve had a few visitors this week and everyone has been fascinated to watch it go around the room, avoiding chairs, tables and other obstacles (although it doesn’t seem to think anything of running over feet!) I like that it is simple to use, and that you can time it to vacuum when you want – great if you set it to have a vacuum round while you’re putting the kids to bed, or once you’ve gone to bed yourself.

And I love the way it posted a message on its screen saying ‘please put me on the floor’ when I picked it up. It’s got quite a character. It also tells you when it’s finished and is heading back to its charging station.

It has also proved itself pretty efficient at picking up cat hairs (never an easy task) – although I have to say the cats were pretty alarmed by it at first, although they’re getting used to it now. And as we’re in the middle of some decorating work, it has managed to keep the dust at bay far better than I and my usual vacuum cleaner would have done.

Despite that, I think it is far more suited to some homes than others. If you have a minimal house, with very little on the floor, it will work far better than it does in our, admittedly cluttered, home. In fact, it is far more suited to a flat, as it can’t do stairs – we’d love to see it sprout little legs and go up each stair, vacuuming as it goes! If you need to keep it away from certain areas (an area full of wires for instance), special barrier tape is included, which the Neato will detect and keep away from.

The other thing I’m not so keen on (but then regular readers of Latest Gadgets will know I am a skinflint!) is the price – £429 is quite a lot to pay when you’ve still go to go round and dust the edges!

The Neato XV-25 is available from www.amazon.co.uk now

TWIG:Robot arms, GEKKOLinks and Blackbox M10s

The Week In Gadgets

This week saw the launch of the Blackberry Torch 9800 and Blackberry 6 OS to a lukewarm press reaction. We also saw the release of the call-me-anywhere satellite phone – the iSatphone Pro and a cloud based music service from the Carphone Warehouse. There were also some guitars made from paper.

The good people at thepresentfinder.co.uk pointed me in the direction of the frankly amazing Remote Controlled Mechanical Arm – a build-your-own remote control robot arm.

robotic-arm

I can’t believe I just typed “build-you-own remote control robot arm” but apparently they not only exist but can be yours for £39.99. Billed as an educational tool, the Remote Controlled Mechanical Arm lets you learn how machines work and it is a great insight into the basics of control systems. Get one from here. And get me one too.

Last week we looked at Blackbox’s i10 silencer earphones and this week they released their M10s which have the same Active Noise Rejection technology but in an overear cup style (which rotate so they are ideal for DJs). They also have a similar price to the i10 silencers, retailing at £89.99.

Travel bloggers should check out GEKKOLinks, a new service from the save@gekko people that automatically converts mentions of hotels on websites into affiliate links and makes a small box appear with relevant information including availability and prices from multiple booking engines.

GEKKOLinks

In theory, the GEKKOLinks service should improve sites for readers – you could be reading a review of Hotel Yoruba, decide you like it and book a room without leaving the site. And publishers should get a cut of any bookings as well. You can sign up here.

Over the course of next week we should have reviews of some new and exciting iPod docks, a 3D camera for under £200 (well £199.99) and some spy cameras. Should be wild.