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After weeks of waiting, Roomba Deutschland finally delivered my new Roomba Discovery SE! It seems they needed to ship it from the U.S. so it took time, but I got it just in time for Christmas.

After running it for a week now, I can recommend this device to anybody looking for some relief in home cleaning. It won't replace a traditional vacuum cleaner completely, and it's not totally automatic, but it still goes a long way.

The iRobot Roomba is basically a combination of rotating brushes and a vacuum cleaner running on motorized wheels. There is also a collision detector and some seemingly smart algorithms that attempt to make sure your house is completely cleaned. The model I purchased, Roomba Discovery SE, is also equipped with a docking station where the robot can recharge its batteries. It will automatically seek it using an infrared beacon when the battery runs low.

You can read more detailed reviews of the device all over the web, but Roomba is basically designed for on-demand cleaning of an area within the house. It can span several rooms if the thresholds are not too steep. There is no timer functionality, so you need to press the Clean button to operate the robot. You can, however, use the infrared remote control to do this. It also allows you to move the device around or pause a cleaning cycle, if you don't want to chase it and bend down to lift it.

When I first got the device, I instantly came up with some thoughts on how it could be improved. First of all, there should be more options for programmability, to somehow automate the process of cleaning the whole house. Currently, this product requires that you manually move the device around in the various rooms of your house. It would also be nice to be able to set up a recurring, automatic cleaning event to run every day at noon, for example.

Taking the idea of programmability even further, I would really like to have a PC based application that would display the progress of the cleaning job. Ideally it would show the floor plan of the house, with markings on the areas that have already been cleaned. I could then click on whatever location within the house, and the robot would automatically drive there and clean it up.

Anyway, even if the robot isn't fully automatic, it's still a great help. With it, you can vacuum your house daily, instead of monthly. Eventually, the total amount of dust and other crap that accumulates around the house should decrease dramatically. It's quite enlightening to see how much dirt Roomba's vacuum chamber collects (you need to empty it every now and then) that would otherwise be floating around the house.

For Finnish people, it's interesting to note that Roomba Discovery SE costs about 525 EUR (including shipping) when ordered from Roomba.de. This price category is much more appealing than the 1500 EUR Electrolux Trilobite that is being sold at Stockmann and Anttila in Helsinki.

Published 2.1.2005