Remember in the old days when people vacuumed their floors rather than having a robot do the job? What? You still push the vacuum around yourself? Me too.
I'm a gadget nut so I'm not sure why I've never taken the robot vacuum plunge. Maybe it's because my apartment seems hopelessly cluttered. It's a pain for me to vacuum and I've got this big human brain. How can I expect a robot to do a good job?
But robot vacuums keep improving. Yesterday Neato (which is a wonderfully punny name for a company that makes vacuum-cleaning robots) announced their new Neato Botvac D Series.
So what makes these 'bots special? Here's Neato's chairman and CEO Giacomo Marini with the PR pitch:
"A Neato robot vacuum is truly a ‘bot with a brain. Neato knows where it’s been, where it’s going and how to navigate an entire house. No other robot vacuum has this kind of intelligence. The addition of a Neato to a home means one more task can be taken off the household chore list, leaving the owner with the gift of time to do other things."
What caught my attention is first of all the design. I never understood how a round robot could vacuum corners. The Neato Botvac D series looks like the working end of a traditional upright vacuum cleaner. Rather than roaming the room seemingly at random, the company says their 'bots work methodically (using the company's Neato Botvision™ technology which combines laser scanning, room mapping and real time object detection) which they say leaves your carpet with that "just-vacuumed, clean-home look." I'm not sure how worried about that I am, as long as the floor gets clean and it seems to me working methodically is the best way to accomplish that.
The other marketing point that caught my eye is that they're supposed to be quiet; I work from home and I'm pretty noise-sensitive. If you leave your house all day you probably don't care how loud your robot vacuum is but for me quiet is good.
The only downside for me is the price. Neato prices seem competitive with similar products but this entire class of device is priced a bit out of my comfort zone. The Botvac D75 has a suggested retail price of $499. The Botvac D80 and D85, which are the quiet models and which also have brushes designed for picking up hair (we have both a dog and long-haired humans living here) are $549-$599. I'm pretty sure these things can't climb stairs so we'd need two of them or to constantly move one around (and I wonder if that would screw up its 'map' of the place) so... for now I think we'll stick with the Dyson and a bit of elbow grease. But I do look forward to the day when either the price of vacuuming robots drops, or I hit the winning lottery numbers.