Stick Vacuum Cleaner
Let’s face facts, here. Now that society is slowly beginning to open up, the last thing you want to do is more work around the house.
Seriously, would you rather scrub your kitchen floors or sip a drink with friends on a rooftop patio?
Fortunately, technology can help.
From window- and floor-washing robots to autonomous lawn-cutting machines, this may be the year you invest in a domestic device.
Ok, so we’re not talking Rosie the Robot — the mechanical housekeeper who petered around The Jetsons’ family home in the classic cartoon — but you might be surprised what’s out there.
Budget permitting, here’s a look at what’s available at your beck. And call.
Floor vacs: Robotic vacuum cleaners make up the biggest selection of home robots. These circular suckers navigate around your home — ideal for carpet, tile and wood floors — and suck up dirt, dust, crumbs and pet hair (and allergens, too).
The iRobot’s Roomba family is probably the best known, starting at about $449 for the entry-level Roomba e5, which uses dual multi-surface rubber brushes (they don’t get tangled with pet hair) and strong suction to remove what’s in its path. Sensors intelligently navigate the ’bot under couches and around objects, like chair and table legs. The Roomba e5 runs for up to 90 minutes before automatically docking and recharging.
You can start the clean in one of four ways: pressing the button on top of the unit, tapping the app, setting a schedule (for it to clean a specific time, even if you’re not at home), or using your voice with an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant speaker (e.g. “Ask Roomba to start cleaning”).
On the other end of the price spectrum is the top-of-the-line Roomba s9+ ($1,399), which not only cleans floors by intelligently mapping your floor plans, but will navigate itself back to the base to empty its dust bin for you. That is, a second vacuum is inside the charging base, which is plugged into the wall, and the disposable bags — which capture and trap 99 per cent of pollen and mould allergens, says iRobot — only needs to be removed after 30 jobs.
For $699, Shark also offers a robotic vacuum that can empty its dust bin into the charging base. Called the Shark IQ Robot, its IQ NAV technology maps your whole home, and then lets you select which rooms to clean via the Shark Clean app or your voice (through an Alexa-enabled speaker). It cleans row by row, with the help of its self-cleaning brushroll and high-efficiency filter, and then drives back to its home when the job is done, where it deposits dirt and debris into a bagless base (up to 30 jobs).
Finally, Dyson — a company that’s no stranger to vacuum cleaners — recently unveiled its latest autonomous cleaner, the Dyson 360 Heurist robot vacuum for $1,199.99. Controlled via an app for added convenience, this floor vac offers up to 20 per cent more suction and 20 times more memory than its predecessor (the Dyson 360 Eye). Its eight sensors and fish-eye hemispheric lens help it to navigate around a room and its obstacles, so it always knows where it is, while it’s “heuristic” (learning) capability maps and remembers your home’s layout for an optimal clean. Most notable, perhaps, is the robot’s powerful and patented cyclone technology that generates some serious suction.
Floor, window washers: And what about mopping ’bots? The Braava jet m6 ($649) helps clean your hard floors, whether you’re there or not, so your home is kept spotless.
Simply attach either a wet mopping pad (for sticky messes and grime) or a dry sweeping pad (for dirt, dust and pet hair), and your helper will do the rest. Both one-time use and washable/reusable pads are offered.
As with many of the Roomba robots, this autonomous mopper uses artificial intelligence to get to know your home’s floor plan and optimize its clean accordingly. With a wet clean, a small nozzle on the Braava spritzes fluid onto the surface before driving over it. You can even control which rooms are cleaned, and when, and will return to the base and charge up to continue the job (like the above-mentioned Roomba s9+).
If you own a Roomba (model i, s, or 900 Series), after the smart vacuum is finished it communicates with the Braava jet m6 to then mop automatically.
Also for $649 is a window-washing robot called Winbot X by Ecovacs. While it might freak you out if you see this thing crawling up your windows, the aptly-named Winbot could lend you a helping hand — especially when it comes to cleaning hard to reach areas outside of your home.
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Simply stick the doohickey to a window and it’ll initiate three cleaning stages: soaking the glass with a solution-dampened pad, wiping it down with a squeegee, and then drying with a second, clean pad.
And it can do more than windows, too, as the 9.64-by-9.64-by-4.29-inch cordless Winbot also cleans mirrors and glass doors, of any thickness, says the company. Features include a safety pod and tether, included remote control, and rechargeable lithium battery.
Lawn mowers: If you want to spend time outside doing more than mowing, the Husqvarna Automower family of robotic lawnmowers ranges in price from $2,499.99 for the Automower 315X model (for about 1,600 square metres) to $5,599.99 for the Automower 435X AWD model (for up to 5,000 square metres and handle slopes as steep as 70 degrees).
These waterproof mowers can quietly cut your grass with its electric motor (yes, even at night) and will return on its own to the charging station, power up and then continue mowing. Anti-theft alarms will prevent anyone from lifting your ’bot.
Powered by GPS-assisted navigation and by following a guidewire that you place along the perimeter of your property, the mower can even handle lawns with a complicated shape and navigate around obstacles, like rocks and garden gnomes.
Along with the app, those who own a Google or Alexa smart speaker can use their voice to start and stop the Automower.
Advanced water sensor: While not a robot, per se, Flo by Moen Shutoff ($699) might be considered a security system for your home’s water supply.
It’s a smart valve that proactively identifies problems before they become a headache — such as if a pipe bursts, or if a tap is left running — and then automatically turns off the water supply before notifying you on an app.
This Wi-Fi connected device detects flow rate, temperature and pressure, and also allows you to better understand your home’s water usage, such as teenagers taking excessively long showers or if a toilet is running in a spare bathroom, to help reduce costs.
There are no monthly fees, and home insurance providers may give you a discount of you have it installed.
Delivery ’bots, too
We’re likely a few years away from delivery drones flying items to your downtown condo or suburban doorstep, due to technical limitations and legislative hurdles. But ground-based robots might soon be tested in the GTA.
Amazon, for example, has started a test of its Amazon Scout in some U.S. states, like California and Washington. They can ferry parcels from “urban distribution points” to Amazon Prime customers.
About the size of a large dog and light blue in colour, these six-wheeled ’bots can slowly drive down sidewalks to reach a customer’s home, after navigating around pedestrians and other obstacles.
Amazon Scout is currently accompanied by a human to ensure everything works smoothly.