picaBot

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picaBot floor vacuuming robot.

picaBot is a domestic robotic floor cleaner that sweeps, vacuums, and disinfects floors simultaneously.[1]

Description[edit]

Photocatalytic UV tube on the underside to kill harmful microbes.

picabot originated from the words pica and robot. Pica means a craving to eat substances that has no nutrition like dirt or chalk.[2] Literally translated, picabot is a robot that likes to eat rubbish.

picabot eVo2, based on QQ2L by Metapo Inc, was launched in July 2008. It operated on rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery, comes with a docking station(home base), power adaptor, remote control and a spare filter. The robot would return for recharge automatically whenever it finished its job, the battery level is low or anytime commanded to return with a remote control.[3]

Since Metapo first launched the US version of the robot called Infinuvo QQ1 in the US market sometime in 2003, it has undergone several upgrades including 3 major ones.[4] Compare to QQ1, the QQ2L has improved much on its Artificial Intelligence(AI), battery run time and product reliability.

picaBot eVo2 has further improved on the floor disinfecting, the suspension system and battery pack of the robot compare to the US version of QQ2L. The result is better germicidal effect when it added photocatalysis[5] to the UV tube mounted on the bottom of the robot. The improved suspension system allow the robot to traverse different type and height of floors with greater ease. Higher spec battery increase the robot's running time significantly.

How it works[edit]

Brush on the underside for sweeping up debris.

Domestic robotic floor cleaners are made to be as easy to use and maintain as possible. Like most other popular brands like Electrolux, Kärcher, and iRobot, it is rather intuitive to use and maintain picaBot eVo2. Just press the "Start" button and you can leave the room or house with it. picaBot eVo2 sweep, vacuum and disinfect the floor simultaneously. While the sweeping and vacuuming will be activated by default once the robot starts running, the photocatalytic UV floor disinfecting function needs activation with the remote control. It moves around in random alternate between several pre-programmed moving patterns; straight-and-bounce(zig-zag), spiral, along-the-wall, ladder-shaped and polygonal in order to fully cover a given room. Generally, picaBot takes about 10 minutes to cover a 100sq ft area.

Unlike iRobot’s Roomba, picaBot eVo2 sweep and vacuum simultaneously while the Roomba sweep and vacuum in separate compartments/inlets. picaBot uses a side brush to sweep in dust and debris from the side (and edges of the wall) and a main brush ‘kick’ them towards the vacuum inlet so that the vacuum can easily suck them into the dust box. This "combined" sweeping and vacuuming design makes picaBot stronger and more thorough in cleaning smaller particles like dust, lint, hairs and fur. It is therefore understandable that oriental market seems to favor this "combined" cleaning action as most families practice bare foot culture indoors. Even a very small amount of dust would cause discomfort and concerns. It also has a small UV tube coated with photocatalytic Titanium Dioxide on the underside of the robot that helps to eliminate organic micro-organism like germs and dust mites on the floor. The photocatalytic coating on the UV tube was developed by Corvan which is not found on Metapo's QQ2L. Users need to take note that loose items like string, cable and clothes that can possibly get caught by the spinning brushes are to be cleared off the floor where the robot is supposed to cover. By the end of its cleaning cycle, the robot will go back to the home base to recharge automatically. When it is time to recharge, it will make 2 circles before moving straight to any solid object(most probably a wall) and start to move along the wall in clockwise direction to locate the charger(or called "home base"). The advantage of this method of docking station(charger) seeking is that the successful docking rate is higher but it usually take longer time to reach the docking station.

The filter and dust box are washable to minimize flying dust when clearing the dust box. Three anti-fall infra-red sensors mounted under the body detect steps or edges about 4 cm or deeper to prevent it from falling down such steps. With a dimension of 34 cm diameter and 9 cm height, it is reasonably nimble to move around and under furniture. Nevertheless, due to the top of the front bumper is designed to be in line with the body of the robot,it is possible that it may get wedge in with overhead object which has a very small declining angle. In most cases, it will struggle and free itself but there may be cases it get stuck and need human intervention. picaBot eVo2 also come with a slim remote control at 1 cm thick which can be place fittingly onto the top cover of the robot. Functions on the remote control include: driving the robot(left, right, forward, reverse), cleaning duration setting, start, stop and shut down the robot, moving pattern selection, home returning, switch on and off the germicidal photocatalytic UV tube and switch on and off the vacuuming function.

Maintenance is relatively easy. There is only 1 dust box to clear of rubbish. Users are advised to wash the filter every time, clearing the rubbish to reduce flying dust and at the same time to prolong the useful life of the filter.

In case picaBot moves through a puddle of water, it will not cause any harm as the turbine inlet is designed to be located at a higher position to avoid water or any liquid entering the machine through the inlet. Simply dry up the dust box and filter would suffice.[6]

More improvement needed[edit]

While it does not affect hard surface tiled, marble, matt lacquered and laminated wooden floor, the fixed axle front wheel can possible cause light turning marks on glossy lacquered floor when the robot change direction. The moving speed of the robot is a tad slower at 1.8 m/s than iRobot(3 m/s) making one to wonder if it is necessary to move at that low speed to clean effectively. Some users have reported that their robot's battery capacity are below what the manufacturer claimed of 70 to 100 minutes run time. They have to get the battery replaced to achieve the claimed run time. However, this issue has been resolved since early 2009 with its new battery supplier. The vacuum inlet is too narrow (approximately 1 cm) to take in anything bigger than something the size of a rice making picaBot eVo2 effective in picking up small particles, dust and hair but not pebbles or crumpled pieces of paper.

Latest development[edit]

In early 2009, the issue of short run time has been resolved with the new battery supplier. The latest picaBot eVo2M which was launched in early February 2010 with a 2800mAH battery pack has received favorable feedback from users with many claiming run time of more than 100 minutes. Besides upgrading done in Malaysia, Corvan also introduced a 100% run-in program since 2008 where every robot is run a full cycle with all functions working. The objective of the upgrade and 100% run-in program is to improve the reliability of the robot.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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