Sunday, May 01, 2005

Evaluating Roomba

I had the opportunity to borrow a Roomba – robotic vacuum cleaner – from one of my colleagues. For many years, I’ve believed that the touchstone test of robotics is if humans can make affordable machines that automatically can clean a house.
So, what’s the outcome?
In terms of smartness, the Roomba is fine. It’s really blind as its main sensorium seems to be by bumping in to things (touch). It was really amazing to see it drive in under a kitchen chair and developing eventually applying a suitable behaviour to get out of there again.
Did it clean our wall-to-wall carpets, removing both dust and dog hair?
No. It did the dust but didn’t manage the dog hair. Compared to my old Nilfisk industrial grade manual machine, the power of the fan in Roomba is just a fraction, hence it’s understandable that it can’t deal with this kind of situation. If we didn’t have carpeted floors, e.g. wooden floors, I guess it would have worked.
Verdict: Smart but lacking power.