This Must be Baby Robot Love

Geek Culture

Although I’m more used to reviewing video games, when a little robot Hoover (vacuum) turned up I discovered it was just as hypnotic as the latest 360 or PS3 experience. Here’s what the Govan family made of our visiting Roomba 530.

This is a gadget for parents with busy lives looking for a way to multitask vacuuming with other jobs. The Roomba is one of a new range of labor saving robotic devices. They may not be cheap, but they offer a Tomorrow’s World style convenience in your hands today.

Our Roomba arrived while I was at work, and I had an excited email from my other half about an interesting shaped box. Her excitement turned to intrigue as I unboxed it that evening. But it wasn’t until we left our new robot friend to do its thing whilst we watched the TV for an hour or so that she got really interested.

Returning from the living room to our other three rooms we found them free from dust and dirt, with not a crumb left under the table (which after kid’s tea time is some feat). It was actually a surprise to both of us that this toy-like gadget had actually done its job very well. Our floors (being laminate and non-pile carpets) were possible quite well suited to the device, but never the less it still did a good job.

The next few days were spent setting our new family member to work on the various rooms around the house. It was funny, for some reason we all started calling it a him. Its determined, haphazard hoovering pattern, bumping into furniture and the like, reminded us of our youngest son Ollie (1). The little Roomba had a personality all its own.

Ok some details: the Roomba is a round self-powered low flat cylinder. It’s small enough to fit under most furniture. It has conventional suction and brushes that are impressively powerful for its diminutive size. It is powered by two wheels underneath that give a tight on-the-spot turning circle and can even lift the unit up when tackling awkward obstacles.

Our Roomba was the 530 model which could return itself to the charging station once finished, although didn’t have the scheduled cleaning option of the more expensive little chaps.


    * It could do the hoovering while we did other things – ideal to leave it going before you do the school run for instance. Just move any small objects from the floor press go, and when you return a nice clean floor.
    * There was a real sense of satisfaction (much like with a washing machine or dishwasher) "to hear it whirring away doing all the handwork" while we relaxed as my wife commented.
    * It was also great at cleaning under the furniture, all those places you can’t reach yourself the little Roomba happily scuttles under or into.
    * Finally, it was well designed (much like our Dyson) in that you could easily flip out the brushes to clean or empty the collected dust and debris.

    * The downside of the device for us was that it was quite noisy. It made too much noise to have it going while you were trying to relax in the same room.
    * It takes a long to clean a room. A room you could usually do yourself in 5 minutes would take the Roomba a good twenty. Not only more of a wait but also using more energy.
    * Because you really only do a room or two at a time, it means that you never hoover the whole house at once. So you never get that my-house-is-clean feeling like after a full manual hoover.
    * When you do send it back to charge (press the Dock button) it can take a good ten minutes to find its way there. We often picked it up and moved it there ourselves – I know, shocking manual labor!

Overall this is a toy-gadget that exceed our expectations. Whether it is worth the price of entry probably comes down more to whether you would enjoy having a robot like this in your life or not. Those to whom it does appeal probably already have a pretty tidy home and just want a hand with the finer details. Those that have more cluttered environments may well need something more substantial that a light hoover.

We were surprised how attached we grew to our little guy. But we know the day is approaching when our sample Roomba has to go back home – and that will be a sad day in our household.

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