Friday, January 3, 2014

Beasley at Work!

Vacuuming and sweeping are not my idea of fun, an affliction that I share with my wife.  Dust bunnies seem to flee from surrounding homes to take refuge in my more friendly environment, although for the most part we have managed to keep the population somewhat under control; although just barely.  So, in an attempt to get the upper hand on the invasive bunnies, this Christmas I bought my wife a Roomba 650 by iRobot, and have been using it for the past week; and it has been quite an interesting week.

The Roomba is a small robotic vacuum cleaner that will wander around your house, sucking up dust bunnies, hair, dirt and other small things that it encounters.  And, in general, at least so far, it appears to do a fairly decent job of it.  iRobot produces several models of the Roomba, and what we have is a basic no frills model, other than the ability to schedule when it should make its rounds around the house.

Beasley, the name we have given our Roomba, is about 13.5 inches in diameter and rises to about 3 inches off the floor.  The vacuum pickup occupies the middle half of the bottom and it also has a small brush, along an outside edge, that helps to herd the bunnies away from a wall and into the vacuum mouth.  On the top are the simple controls that allow you to start the unit, send it back home and schedule it to clean automatically.  And around the sides are a number of sensors that give it some awareness of its environment as well as a small prison for captured bunnies.

We currently have Beasley setup in an out of the way location in the living room, although that will likely change once we get better acquainted with how he works.  He normally sits connected to his docking station where his battery is charged between cleanings.  Push the 'Clean' button on his top and he pops into action.  And when he is finished for the day he will return to the dock to rest up for the next bunny hunting expedition.

Beasley doesn't make any attempt to systematically vacuum the house.  Instead he appears to just randomly wander around the house from room to room, sucking up anything that he wanders across.  Mostly he will charge off in a straight line until encountering an obstacle, at which point he will rotate some seemingly random amount, and then charge off again until hitting the next obstacle.  Sometimes he will, for some unknown reason, halt in the middle of the floor, rotate, and head off in a new direction, and sometimes he will carefully work his way around the perimeter of an obstacle or wall.  It all seems rather random, and I am sure it is.  But over the course of an hour to 90 minutes, he does seem to cover the bulk of the house at least once.  And if run every day, so far he seems to be keeping the resident bunny population under control.

Beasley has a downward pointed sensor in his nose that is used to detect stairs, although I have yet to test this.  It is supposed to turn him around before he takes the plunge.  He also appears to have at least one forward facing sensor that lets him know when he is approaching a wall or other large obstacle.  With this, Beasley will slow down just before slamming into a wall and just lightly touch it before heading off in another direction.  Unfortunately this does not work all that well of the obstacle is small, like a chair leg or plant stand.  These he just slams into before careening off in another direction.

Beasley proofing the house has been ongoing since he was hired.  Wrapping a towel around a plant stand makes it visible and protects the plant.  Setting the plant stand in a shallow potting saucer does not, apparently it is not tall enough to be seen.  The included 'virtual wall' also works to keep Beasley away from a couple of plants and the back of the home entertainment system with its plethora or cables just waiting to capture him.  I have bought one "Keep Off" mat, with a couple more on the way.  These small black floor mats look like a cliff to Beasley and makes him turn around, so whatever is on the mat, plants, speakers, etc., is protected.  Currently on order is a softer bumper to protect the furniture from his bumper car operation.

I have not tried the scheduling feature yet, wanting to be around when he works until I have the house fully Beasley proofed.  Once I have developed a level of comfort with him, I will set him up to run on his own, at a time when he will not disturb anyone with his noise, or attempt to vacuum up my slow moving mother-in-law.

All in all we have been pleased with Beasley so far.  Hopefully he will give use years of faithful service.  And who knows, someday we may hire his sister Scooba, to take care of the mopping chores.

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