How Robot vacuums evolved into the technology we know today

Here is the development of a robot vacuum cleaners… The first-ever cleaning robot was made in 1996 by Electrolux –a leading global home appliance manufacturer based in Sweden. The machine worked fairly well but had a few navigation problems. It collided with objects and often stopped a few distances from the walls and other objects, thus leaving small areas unclean. This, and a few other limitations led to the failure of the Trilobite vacuum in the market and production was discontinued.

Later in 2001, a British tech company known as Dyson Ltd made their variant of a cleaning robot and named it the DC06. This model was, however, too costly that it never even got a chance to enter mass production.

Come 2002, an American advanced tech company called iRobot launched the Roomba, which was able to revolutionize the world of robotic vacuums. This machine made improvements on the navigation problems experienced by its predecessors.

It was able to detect dirty spots on the floor, change direction when it came across an obstacle, and even identify steep drops so it doesn’t fall downstairs. The Roomba became popular pretty fast and soon other companies were working on the idea of developing a cleaning robot.

iRobot went ahead and introduced the Scooba in 2005, which included robot vacuum cleaner parts and functions that could also scrub hard floors.

Neato Robotics introduced the XV-11 robotic vacuum in 2010 –a laser-based mapping model that allows navigation to occur in straight lines instead of the typical random navigation.

In 2015, two great robotic vacuums manufacturers, Dyson and iRobot, both created models with camera-based mapping. These machines use a vision system with cameras for navigation.

These high-tech gadgets are being improved with each passing day and their shortcomings will be fully solved someday. Today, enjoy an array of the best robot vacuums cleaners reviews in 2020 from different manufacturers.

How Robotic Vacuums Work

The first robotic vacuums had a totally random pattern; they would run around the house, vacuuming it, until they hit an obstacle (furniture, wall, etc). They would then turn around to a random direction and continue cleaning. This inevitably resulted in dents in the walls and some missed spots on the floors.

Today’s cleaning robot uses several different technological features for navigation. This includes:

Random bounce

Robotic vacuums use two main patterns to clean a room: wall following technique and random bounce. In the former, the machine moves around the walls, understanding the wall pattern so it doesn’t fall off any steep surface. As for the random bounce, when the machine hits an obstacle during cleaning, it will redirect to a random direction.

The robotic vacuum often retraces its steps to double-check and pick up any dirt it might have missed. A cleaning robot uses several different cleaning modes, including flailing its brush to clean right into corners, retracing over very dirty areas, spiraling outward to cover larger areas, and sweeping across the room at a high speed to cover large space.

Onboard sensors

For an effective job, a cleaning robot needs to move freely throughout the room while staying out of trouble. Modern versions of robot vacuum cleaners have built-in sensors that help it to read its environment. These sensors are designed to detect any problems and the progress of the cleaning process, during which they trigger programmed behaviors that determine how the machine responds.

The type of sensors a particular robotic vacuum uses and their functionality varies by model and the manufacturer, but the most common ones include:

Obstacle sensors: These sensors work mechanically, much like cars’ airbag sensors. They are often located on the side of the machine and allow it to steer clear of any obstacle, including furniture, toys, and the likes. Different manufacturers use different approaches to obstacles.

Robot vacuum Obstacle sensors
Credit: Kowon

For instance, the iRobot Roomba will slow down as it nears an obstacle. When it hits an object, it will rotate and move in another direction. This machine will, however, push through soft objects like bed skirts and curtains and continue cleaning, thus offering better coverage.

Cliff sensors: If your cleaning robot goes tumbling down the stairs, it will likely get damaged, requiring costly repairs or a new replacement altogether. For this reason, cliff sensors are a requirement on all robotic vacuums.

These machines are constantly sending infrared signals. They will know more about their environment based on how the signals return (by bouncing off objects). If the signal doesn’t bounce back immediately, the cliff sensors assume a staircase or some other cliff is coming up, so it redirects the vacuum cleaner to another direction.

Wall sensors: As the name suggests, these sensors use infrared light to help robotic vacuums detect continuous straight lines like walls so they can move along them. Your machine will be able to clean along the edges, where walls meet floors, without bumping against them or scuffing the wall. A robot vacuum with mapping can even help the machine to follow around open doorways and discover new spots to clean.


Cleaning used to be random in earlier versions of robotic vacuums. But modern models have moved away from random cleaning to a more systematic and fast-paced approach. They use built-in infrared cameras to take photos of walls, doorways, ceiling, and other landmarks. Other vacuums like Neato’s Botvac series use a laser range finder to measure the distance to objects in the machine’s path.

Either way, a robot vacuum with mapping capabilities use the information they collect, together with data from its other sensors to gradually build a map of the cleaning space. They are able to learn the layout of your house and use that information to create a more efficient cleaning path for future cleaning sessions.

What to Look For In a Robot Vacuum Cleaner

With so many options available in the market to choose from, making a single best choice can be overwhelming. Throughout this text, you’ve already seen a few important things your machine needs to have for the best cleaning experience like mapping functions, self-docking, scheduled cleanings, larger dustbin capacity, and sensor technology. Here are other things to consider for the best robot vacuum cleaner:

The design and size of your house

Robotic vacuums are available in different sizes, shapes, heights, and performance. The design and size of your house play a big role in determining what machine you buy. Some robotic vacuums will work well in larger spaces of up to 2,000 square feet. These devices generally have a long battery life, usually over 90 minutes, and a large dustbin capacity.

Others are, however, better suited for smaller apartments and units. You should also consider how much room there is under your furniture for the device to pass through. For example, robot vacuum cleaners that are more than 4 inches tall will likely not fit under many dressers. A small sized device, on the other hand, less than 3 inches tall will have it easier navigating through tight spaces.

Cost Of the Robot Vacuum

Robotic vacuums are available are different price points to suit every budget. The best budget robot vacuum will set you back around $200. Fancier models with all kinds of features, including Wi-Fi connectivity, mapping technology, self-docking and self-charging functionality, moping functionality, multiple types of sensors, and so on will cost you over a thousand dollars.

Brand of The Robot Vacuum

There are several reputable manufacturers for robot vacuums. iRobot, for starters, has been a household name for nearly two decades. iRobot’s Roomba brand has become synonymous with robotic vacuums; it offers powerful and reliable devices but they tend to be costly. Other robot vacuum companies that create great devices include Roborock, Shark, and Eufy just to name a few.

If you check the Roborock S6 vacuum cleaner review, you’ll find a truly exceptional device. Unlike other robot vacuum cleaners that will run into poop and spread it all over the house without realizing, this device can recognize pet waste and avoid it.

When you search for the 5 best shark robot vacuums you will find The Shark IQ Robot. This is one of the best self emptying robot vacuums reviewed, combining convenience with intelligence and performance. It automatically empties its dustbin into the bagless base after each cleaning session, holding debris and dirt for up to 30 cleaning sessions.

Type of flooring

Robotic vacuums usually specify the type of flooring their model is suitable for. Carpeted floors, for starters, require a deep-cleaning machine with HEPA filters. Rugs are pretty difficult to maneuver around, especially if they are shaggy, thick, and have tassels. In that case, you’ll need a device with powerful suction and extra-large wheels for easy maneuverability.

For tiles of vinyl floors, a robot vacuum and mop like the like Roborock S6 could be handy.

The best robot vacuum for hardwood floors should be able to leave your floors unscratched after cleaning.

Type of flooring to be cleaned by the robot vacuum
Credit: Keytion

Since most people have different kinds of flooring in their houses, you may want to consider a device that can handle cleaning both soft and hard flooring. When reading reviews for the best robotic vacuum for all floor types, take note of comments about how a particular device transitions from one type of flooring to the next.

Is the transition smooth or does it get stuck easily or send an error message? Higher-end models like the Roomba S9 is able to accommodate rapid surface changes. It will throttle back when it detects hardwood and ramp up power when it senses carpet.

Do you have pets?

Pet hairs are a challenge for robotic vacuums as they usually get stuck in the cleaning mechanism of the device, blocking airflow. If you are a pet owner, go for a robotic vacuum with rotating central brushes as they are better at picking up dander without getting it tangled.

Another important thing to take note of when reading the best robotic-vacuums for pet hair reviews is the filtration system. You are bound to kick up dust and dander when vacuuming. This can be harmful to the people around, especially those suffering from allergies. Consider models with HEPA filters to help capture even the tiniest of particles hanging in the air for cleaner air.

Wi-Fi connectivity

A lot of robotic vacuums are smart-home enabled. They will connect to a wireless router and come with a dedicated app that allows users to take complete control of their machine from anywhere. The functionality will vary depending on the device’s level of sophistication but they should all be able to perform basic functions like turning the machine on/off, monitor battery life, schedule cleaning with your preferred cleaning time and frequency, map where the robot has cleaned, and send notifications when the machine is done cleaning.

A cleaning robot with app and Wi-Fi capabilities is also likely to feature an in-built voice assistant like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. With the best robot vacuums that work with Alexa and Google Assistant, you will be able to issue voice commands. For instance, you can command the device to start cleaning and it will get right into it.

Some high-end models even double as a security camera. They come with inbound cameras that allow you to watch images via the app.

Robot Vacuums FAQ.

Do any robotic vacuums clean stairs?

Despite being very high-tech, these machines are still unable to clean stairs. They have sensors that can detect steep drops and cause them to change course. There are versions with adjustable climbing capabilities. For instance, the iClebo robot vacuums review and buyers guide have proven that it can climb up to 1.5cm, making it possible and easy to clean landings, thick carpets, and even door sills.

Who should be using a robot vacuum cleaner?

Basically, anyone who wants a machine to help vacuum their spaces could use a robotic vacuum. However, they are particularly beneficial for people with mobility issues, working individuals with a very hectic daily schedule, and to also help allergy sufferers.

How do you clean a robot vacuum cleaner?

To maintain optimal functionality and performance of your machine, you have to clean it weekly and perform routine maintenance. Most models come with specific instructions on how to clean and maintain them. Pet and human hairs tend to get stuck in the brushes, wheels, and other parts where they can block airflow.

Use a hair-removing comb or a blade tool to remove the hair and dirt stuck in the machine; otherwise, it can get greatly damaged. Another way to minimize such damages is to get the best robot vacuum for pet hair in the first place.

What are virtual walls and how to set up one.

These are magnetic strips that can help the robotic vacuum distinguish between rooms. They are created by a device that emits infrared rays. When the sensors on the vacuum detect these infrared beams, they alter its path.

Video Credit: iRobot

Virtual walls act as a boundary to keep the machine from venturing into the forbidden territory or bumping into valuables.

What is the best robot vacuum cleaner?

The answer to this is highly subjective as it depends on an individual’s needs and preference. But if you read our article about the best robot vacuums cleaners reviews in 2020 while keeping in mind the features mentioned above, you will definitely find the best possible option for you.

Like this article? Then you would definitely love our other article About Vacuum Cleaner and 15 Carpet Cleaning Hacks for Your Apartment

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Matink is a "Jack Of All Trades" writer and admin at Matink love writing, and reading more about Technology, origin of life and understanding the universe. He is a qualified Master Electrician, Welder, Safety Professional and currently doing SEO and Google IT Support Professional Certificate at Follow Matink on twitter @thegadgetsjudge


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