Doing the right thing, after we exhaust the alternatives



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iRobot practices free will, with limitations

QuantumFog approaches sentient contraptions with a cautious, but visceral, longing for shared experiences. The thrill of this expectation piques as your rotund scribe removes the galaxies' most intelligent vacuum cleaner from its box. A plastic protective cover slides away, inviting a quiet enquiry:

"Hello, iRobot. Can you do something? Hello?"
Hopeful enquiry is met with silence.

You see, my Lorenzian imprint regarding technical matters occurred years ago, watching Robbie the Robot shoot that monkey off the fruit platter in Forbidden Planet.

The ostensible reason for the purchase was an anniversary gift to the good wife. She, like others of her kind, initially retreated from the notion of a present that was cold and mechanical. That is, until,
"You mean I won't have to vacuum?"
"Probably so", my cautious reply.

Such practical matters typically transcend gender and she agreed. Not only that, but I got a "twofer". Considering the cost, this also counted as her birthday present.

That was three months ago. Since then, we've not had the need to touch a conventional vacuum cleaner. Granted, there are some corners where furniture is placed that appear suspect from a distance. But we rarely go there. Cursory inspection indicates nothing to fear in such places, except for those those with a fastidious karma.

The particulars

The company has done away with model numbers, opting for the warmer and more descriptive feel of model names. Ours is the iRobot Scheduler. I've come to find our habit is such that we could have chosen a less expensive model. Scheduling the robot to operate at specific times during the week supposes that someone will regularly empty it's bagless container. Instead, our habit is to empty the container and rinse the filter before each vacuuming.

Cleaning is required about every two weeks or so, depending on your situation. That means removing the brushes and using a damp cloth to clean the innards, including the sensory contacts. A "pick" is provided to remove hair and the like from brushes. Not a difficult job at all, in fact, its easier to clean than our upright.

Pay attention to how you take it apart; it's simple to put back together, but if you're challenged by such things, well.

The Scheduler comes with an automatic charging unit that sits on the floor, called the Home Base. iRobot is always coupled to the charger; just hit the start button and walk away. It disengages and like a wanton Hollywood journalist, starts looking for dirt.

Our domicile is a split level ranch. Mindful of the steps, iRobot dutifully cleans the living room, kitchen, dining area and three bedrooms. It complains only if it gets hung up on electrical cords, socks, shoe strings and other flimsy non-euclidian geometries. Certainly, one of the worst places for it to get hung is under the bed - check those areas for loose cords. Once the space is clear, iRobot will gently bump its way around for over an hour.

It has a method for circling around chair legs, following along walls and getting itself out of trouble. At first, it appeared to need help among the forest of legs under the dining table; but its algorithm prevailed. A few minutes later it was free and enroute to another trash pickup.

When the battery gets too low, it starts looking for the homing signal coming from the home base, finds its way back to the charger and plugs itself in.

Sweet.


A year passes...

iRobot seems sluggish. It stops before it should, making an assortment of beeps. I wasn't listening.

Dust bunnies multiplied under the beds as a few weeks pass. Eventually, I visit the website support page and find those beeps are part of its communication. A two-toned high-low beep followed by two more beeps means to check the base of the side brush.

The side brush rotates along walls to sweep debris into the main brushes. You won't see the debris underneath without removing the spindle with a screwdriver. The pivot under this side brush was clogged with hair. A few minutes with a pair of needle nosed pliers to pull the debris away solves the problem.

I set it on the floor, push "clean" and iRobot takes off across the floor with renewed energy. This time it cleans three bedrooms, the dining area, kitchen and living room before it heads for the charger.

Took about an hour. The coating of dust bunnies under the beds were gone. Wife happy.

I haven't vacuumed in a year. It's still sweet.



Other reviews and a video on iRobot are available at Amazon.




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