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First impressions of the Roomba Discovery robotic vacuum



Man, oh man! Our new Roomba Discovery Robot Vacuum just arrived. Yah, I'm that excited about a robot that can vacuum. The Discovery might just be the robot hobbyist's robotic platform of choice (more on that later) but here's the short review, some photos and a video of our new dirt sucking clean-bot.

What is it?

The Roomba Discovery Robotic Vacuum is the 3rd and latest generation of robotic vacuums from iRobot, and it?s practically an entirely new unit, from packaging to performance. (If you want to know more about iRobot, check our interview with Helen Greiner, Chairman and Co-founder of iRobot, Corp.) It?s one of the few devices that does exactly what you?d expect?vacuum robotically?and it does it surprisingly well. Nothing will replace that super charged Dyson for thick shag carpeting, but for my pad, the Roomba zips around the hardwood floors every couple days and picks up the bits of dust, solder, wires, parts, and other bits of robots and gear underfoot. It?s kind of like the robot version of the detail that cleans up the battle-wounded after a skirmish.

Bigger, better, faster, cooler?
Compared to the previous generations of the Roomba, the Discovery has 3 times the direct storage, better edge cleaning, longer cleaning times (up to two hours), faster charging (three hours), a new spot clean mode, improved dirt detection for better cleaning, and perhaps the coolest (or at least the most convenient) feature yet, it self docks when it needs to be recharged.

First tests
Our first running tests lead us to believe the AI (as well as most of the Roomba?s hardware) has been substantially updated, for the better, too. It?s even quieter than the past Roombas.

Here?s a video (Windows Media) of the auto-docking in action. It?s bizarre that it?s worked each time without a hitch, unlike the Aibo, which often seems to miss its charging station.

It did a great job in a house with hardwood floors, an organic cat + dog and a dozen or so robots. In corners it has a brush that whips in dirt (for the folks who asked).

The Discovery comes with two virtual walls to stop it from going in to other places it shouldn?t, like the robot room (can?t have the Roomba witness it?s Franken-vac fate quite yet!). On a side note, I?m pretty sure you can make your own virtual walls, once I tinker around a bit we?ll post a How-To on it.

Robot vacuum pr0n gallery
Here are some photos of the Discovery Robotic Vacuum, from unpacking to in-action. I also mounted our hacked camera to take time lapse photos from the view of the Roomba; we?ll cover all that in a future article.

In the last photo, there?s a port. This is big news. We haven?t started poking around with it yet, but we suspect there?s a lot of fun to be had, and when we figure it out, you?ll find it here first. With previous generations of Roomba, we mounted a Tablet PC to the unit, so we?re thinking there could be a lot tighter integration besides the IR control we used before.



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