Nothing quite gets the dirt out like a skilled pair of hands, but technology is coming close to replicating that level of efficiency. And aside from the loss of jobs and small effect on the economy and unorganized labor industry, there are plenty of benefits of letting a robot do the dirty work. And if you have long work days, can’t hire help or simply want to do a bit of cleaning on your own, products such as the iRobot Roomba 980 might make a lot of sense.
An upgraded version of the iRobot Roomba 886 that we reviewed last year, the Rs 69,900 iRobot Roomba 980 is an improved robotic vacuum cleaner that offers more features and a promise of better cleaning. We’ve put this robotic vacuum cleaner to the test, and find out just what all of that money buys you.
Not very robot-like
If there’s one thing the iRobot Roomba 980 does not look like, it’s a robot. It doesn’t conform to the typical humanoid form, and if you were expecting something like Rosie from the Jetsons, think again. The Roomba 980 is disc-shaped, with wheels at the bottom to help it move around and the vacuuming motor at the bottom. The front and top is where the sensors and camera are, allowing the Roomba to sense where it’s going.
Since the iRobot Roomba 980 is meant to be autonomous in its cleaning, there aren’t too many controls on the device itself. The top has three buttons, with a large power button that starts the cleaning, along with a home button and a locate button. The front portion has a flexible bumper, which helps the device sense when it’s touching a wall so it can change direction.
There are additional sensors at the bottom which help the Roomba maintain its orientation and direction, apart from making sure that the device doesn’t roll of an edge, such as stairs or a ledge. All of these sensors work together to ensure that the Roomba 980 stays on track and follows a fixed path to vacuum every part of the floor of the room it’s working in.
The cleaning mechanism is fairly simple; the device has a sweeping brush which pushes dirt and impurities towards the center, where the rollers pick up the dirt and suck it into the dust bag. You can then open the back to clean out the dirt, and the Roomba will even alert you with a prompt when the dirt bag is full and needs to be cleaned out.
When it comes to after-sales support, the iRobot Roomba 980 is covered under a one-year warranty, and is represented by an official distributor in India, which can be contacted in case of issues. You do have to register your robot soon after purchase through the company’s website to be entitled to warranty support, and you can also buy optional accessories such as replacement filters, brushes, virtual wall beacons and more through the website itself.
Cleaning with technology
The Roomba 980 isn’t a vacuum cleaner that you need to drag around the house with you. The device creates its own path, following a virtual map that lets it capture the dirt from every part of the room. It does this using its array of sensors, part of its iAdapt 2.0 navigation and visual localization system. This includes multiple cameras and sensors that help the device keep track of where it’s been and where it’s going. It can use this system to navigate through various rooms, and does a great job of it. When it reaches a wall, it automatically backs away, changes direction and keeps moving.
A big advantage of the Roomba is that its low profile allows it to reach places that you’d ordinarily have trouble getting to. It’s possible to vacuum under sofas and beds, and the device simply rolls under and picks up all of the dirt. This is a great way to ensure every bit of floor space is effectively cleaned, and the fact that you don’t have to actually do anything yourself apart from turning on the vacuum cleaner is a big bonus. Additionally, the Roomba features carpet boost, which increases power to the vacuuming mechanism and sweeper motor to do a more effective job when cleaning carpets. The device automatically senses when it’s on a carpet and boosts power accordingly. The filter also claims to capture 99 percent of all allergens, pollen and particles as small as 10 microns.
You would think that a device such as this needs a lot of power, and you’re right. While the Roomba 980 can run for about two hours on a full charge, it also knows how to charge itself. Once you’ve plugged the charging station in, the Roomba will start cleaning a room, and automatically, return to its base station when it’s running low on power. This works perfectly, with the device never running out of power as long as the charging base is within the sights of its sensors.
Also included in the box is an extra sweeping brush, a replacement HEPA-grade filter and two ‘virtual wall’ beacons. When switched on, these emit a signal that tells the Roomba to change direction and not cross the invisible line drawn. This works as advertised most of the time, allowing you to create a border or a kind of a force-field against the Roomba, protecting fragile items or keeping the device out of specific rooms.
There’s an app for that
The one thing we missed during our review of the iRobot Roomba 886 was a companion app for smartphones, and that’s where the Roomba 980 comes through. iRobot has finally developed a controller app for its robotic vacuum cleaners, and it’s available on both iOS and Android. iRobot Home connects your smartphone to the Roomba 980 using Wi-Fi, either connecting directly to the Roomba or involving your home Wi-Fi network as an intermediary. The latter is the better option, as this allows you to keep your smartphone connected to the Internet while using the Roomba.
Once connected, the Roomba can receive commands from your smartphone no matter where you are, provided your phone has access to the Internet. You do of course need to have the Roomba connected to the Wi-Fi at home, so it can receive the signal from the app. This is absolutely brilliant, as it lets you trigger a cleaning job regardless of whether you’re at home or not.
The app itself is fairly simple, with a large ‘clean’ button on it, which starts the cleaning. Once you pause a cleaning job, you can command the device to either abort the current job or have it go back to the home base. You can also control the carpet boost, number of cleaning passes, edge cleaning and other settings. An important feature of the app is that it also allows you to set cleaning schedules, where the Roomba will start cleaning at a particular time of day if you choose. All of this lets the Roomba 980 do its job with minimal intervention by you, and that’s what makes it so brilliant.
In a world where ordinary vacuum cleaners with a whole lot of suction power can be bought for well under Rs 10,000, spending Rs 69,900 on a cleaning device seems rather silly. This isn’t the kind of home appliance that a lot of people can afford, but it well and truly is the future of home cleaning. Your money buys you pride, convenience and a clean house, courtesy of the great grandfather of Skynet.
The iRobot Roomba 980 is also a big improvement over previous models, thanks to improved navigation, cleaning technologies and the benefits that the app brings you. The ability to control the device from anywhere, and its improved smarts in being able to clean your home on a schedule makes this the future of home cleaning. While it is expensive and may be a bit spooky to your pets and family when it switches itself on, it’s most definitely worth it if you can afford it.