Robotic vacuum cleaner

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A cleaning robot from 2006

A robotic vacuum cleaner, sometimes called a robovac or a roomba as a generic trademark, is an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner which has a limited vacuum floor cleaning system combined with sensors and robotic drives with programmable controllers and cleaning routines. Early designs included manual operation via remote control and a "self-drive" mode which allowed the machine to clean autonomously.[1]

Marketing materials for robotic vacuums frequently cite low noise, ease of use, and autonomous cleaning as main advantages. The perception that these devices are set-and-forget solutions is widespread but not always correct. Robotic vacuums are usually smaller than traditional upright vacuums, and weigh significantly less than even the lightest canister models. However, a downside to a robotic vacuum cleaner is that it takes an extended amount of time to vacuum an area due to its size. They are also relatively expensive,[2] and replacement parts and batteries can contribute significantly to their operating cost.[3]


Retrofuturistic illustration of an "electric scrubber" in the year 2000, as envisaged by an artist in 1899

In 1956, the American science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein described the concept of a robotic vacuum cleaner with a recharging dock in his novel The Door into Summer: "Basically it was just a better vacuum cleaner .... It went quietly looking for dirt all day long, in search curves that could miss nothing .... Around dinner time it would go to its stall and soak up a quick charge."[4] The following year engineer Donald Moore filed a patent for robotic appliances, including a sweeper, that could follow a track laid below the floor. Whirlpool demonstrated the concept at the 1959 American National Exhibition but did not bring it to market.[5]

In 1969 on 2 April an episode of The Avengers was broadcast in which the character Inge Tilson played by Dora Reisser says "...I saw a demonstration once. A robot vacuum cleaner. It swept around the house, went back into its cupboard, automatically plugged in and recharged itself...". The teleplay for this episode which was entitled "Thingumajig" was written by Terry Nation. It was episode 27 of Season 7.[6]

In 1985, Tomy released the Dustbot as a part of their Omnibot line of toys. Dustbot was the first robot to feature a built in vacuum, and was able to turn when it sensed an edge or ran into something. Dustbot would carry a mini broom and dustpan for decoration.[7][8][9]

In 1990, three roboticists, Colin Angle, Helen Greiner, and Rodney Brooks, founded iRobot.[10] It was originally dedicated to making robots for military and domestic use. It launched the Roomba in 2002, which was able to change direction when it encountered an obstacle, detect dirty spots on the floor, and identify steep drops to keep it from falling down stairs.[3] The Roomba proved to be the first commercially successful robot vacuum.[11] In 2005, iRobot introduced the Scooba, which scrubbed hard floors.

In 1996, Electrolux introduced the first robotic vacuum cleaner, the Electrolux Trilobite.[3] It worked well but had frequent problems with colliding with objects and stopping short of walls and other objects, as well as leaving small areas not cleaned.[3] As a result, it failed in the market and was discontinued.[3] In 1997, one of Electrolux's first versions of the Trilobite vacuum was featured on the BBC's science program, Tomorrow's World.[12]

In 2001, Dyson built and demonstrated a robot vacuum known as the DC06. However, due to its high price, it was never released to the market.[13] Electrolux released the Trilobite robotic vacuum cleaner. The Robotic vacuum cleaner launched at a price of $1,800.00. There were two models: the ZA1 and the ZA2.

In 2010, the Neato Robotics XV-11 robotic vacuum introduced laser-based mapping, allowing navigation in straight lines rather than the traditional random navigation.[14]

In 2015, Dyson and iRobot both introduced camera-based mapping.[15][16]

In 2016, iRobot CEO claimed that 20% of vacuum cleaners sales worldwide were robots.[17]

As of 2018, obstacles such as dog feces, cables and shoes remain very difficult for robots to navigate around.[18][19]

In 2022, ECOVACS launched DEEBOT-X1 Family featuring YIKO[20] Voice Assistant, which was the industry's first natural language for home robots with Al voice interaction and control technologies.[21][22][23]

Main features[edit]

Cleaning modes[edit]

A cleaning robot as seen from below

Robotic vacuums have different types of cleaning modes, usually including the following:[24]

  • Auto: This mode is helpful for general cleaning. Typically, the mode cleans a space until the battery runs out.
  • Spot: with the help of this mode, the vacuum focuses on a particular dirty zone.
  • Turbo: This mode is used to clean and pick up the most dirt and dust, but it may create noise.
  • Edge: This mode helps to clean edges and corners.
  • Quiet: The mode helps to reduce noise levels while cleaning. It is helpful when the user is at home.
  • Remote control: It allows the user to control the direction of the vacuum.

Wet mopping[edit]

Some models can also mop for wet cleaning, autonomously vacuuming and wet-mopping a floor in one pass (sweep and mop combo).

The mop is either manually wet before attachment to the bottom of the robot or the robot may be able to automatically spray water on to the floor before running over it.

Some advanced robot vacuum cleaners have a sensor that detects and avoids mopping in carpeted areas. However, if there is no sensor, most of the robot vacuum cleaner manufacturers add a no-mop zone feature in the app to make robot vacuums to avoid certain areas to clean. These robot vacuums are also capable to mop about 150 m2 (1,600 sq ft) in one go.

A robot mop can tackle multiple surfaces and comes with a variety of different cleaning modes, providing options for sweeping, vacuuming and mopping damp or wet floors. Robot mops score better on hard surfaces and are ideally suited for hardwood, laminate and tile flooring types.


The first robovacs used random navigation. This sometimes caused the unit to miss spots when cleaning or be unable to locate its base station to recharge, and did not provide the user a history of which spaces were cleaned.

More sophisticated models include mapping ability. The unit can use gyro-, camera-, radar-, and laser- (laser distance sensor or LDS) guided systems to create a floor plan, which can be permanently stored for more efficiency, and updated with information on areas which have been (or have not been) cleaned. Thus, the cleaning efficiency is greatly improved and the repetition rate is reduced significantly.

Models with a multiple floor plan feature can store several floor plans.


D-shape vacuum cleaner
Most robots include anti-drop and anti-bump IR sensors.
When approaching obstacles, the robot vacuum cleaner will automatically turn away.
Prevents the robot vacuum cleaner from becoming tangled in cables.
Virtual no-go lines
Virtual no-go lines set boundaries to restrict the unit's movements to desired cleaning areas.
Quick recharge
Most robot vacuums come with a lithium-ion battery of around 2000 mAh that will last long enough to handle approximately 200 m2 (2,200 sq ft) of floor space (about 100 minutes). Regular charge time is five to six hours. Quick recharge allows the unit to calculate the shortest way to recharge (shortcut path) and charge only as much as needed, so it finishes more quickly (automatic cleaning resumption).
Scheduled daily cleaning. All-Timetable means a full week of different daily schedules can be programmed.
Connected app
Some models allow control of the unit using an app over a WiFi connection from the user's smartphone or connected home automation device, e.g. Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant.
Software upgrades
Some units are able to receive over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates.
HEPA filters
HEPA air filters are industry-standard now[as of?] for robot vacuum cleaners. These remove dust and pollen from the air.
Video camera, speakers, microphone
Some units can be used to record and monitor their surroundings as a mobile, internet connected security camera. Make voice or video calls, act as alarms and have voice command functionality.
Self cleaning
Some units have dustbin self emptying via another vacuum in the charging station. Mop self wash, scrub, auto clean water refill and dirty water sucked into grey water tank. No user interaction needed for weeks or months at a time.

List of robotic vacuum cleaners[edit]

  • Electrolux Trilobite – 1996. Named for its appearance, basic functionality and mild functional success. Introduced the public to the concept. Discontinued.[3]
  • LG Roboking – launched in 2001
  • Dyson DC06 – 2001. Deemed too expensive; not released.[3]
  • iRobot Roomba – 2002. Basic features on this early iRobot model succeeded in defining the retail category in America.[3]
  • Kärcher RC3000 and RC4000 – sold from 2002 to 2015
  • Friendly Vac RV400 – 2004, from Hoover and Friendly Robotics (Robomow); discontinued
  • Koolvac – all U.S. models destroyed in 2005 due to a successful patent infringement lawsuit by iRobot
  • Ecovacs Robotics Deebot series – introduced in 2007
  • iRobot Pet Series – 2008.[25]
  • ILIFE Robotics – introduced in 2010
  • Dustbot – prototype for street cleanup, 2010
  • Neato Robotics XV-11 – 2010.[26] The Neato had average specifications for its time but implemented a laser mapping system.[14][27]
  • iRobot Roomba 980 – 2015. iRobot implemented camera mapping, a WiFi module, and a smartphone app.[16]
  • Dyson 360Eye – 2015. Marketed as Dyson's first robotic vacuum, this model included camera-based obstacle detection and room mapping.[15]
  • iRobot Roomba i7 Plus with Clean Base – 2018.[10] The iRobot consumer lineup now self-empties, docks, and charges, enabling continuous cleaning.
  • SharkNinja AI, IQ, and ION Robot Vacuums.[28]
  • Roborock S7+ MaxV Ultra
  • Dreame X20 Pro Plus

Open-source designs[edit]

These are open-source designs that can be built using off-the-shelf components and 3D printed parts.

  • MARK II – released 2019[29]
  • Cesnietor VacuumRobot – released 2017[30][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ilumpruj (2018-06-24). "The History of Robot Vacuum Cleaner". Archived from the original on 2021-05-12. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  2. ^ "How Robotic Vacuums Work". How Stuff Works. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Invention of Robotic Vacuum Cleaners". Vacuum Cleaner History. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  4. ^ Heinlein, Robert A (1957). The Door into Summer. New York: Signet. pp. 20–21.
  5. ^ Novak, Matt (July 24, 2014). "This American Expo Invaded Russia With Shiny New Tech in 1959". Paleofuture. Retrieved 2023-11-23.
  6. ^ "The Avengers Thingumajig (TV Episode 1969)". IMDb.
  7. ^ "The Old Robots Dustbot".
  8. ^ "1985 Tomy Dustbot Japanese". 30 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Dustbot Robot".
  10. ^ a b "the history of the roomba".
  11. ^ Bennett, Brian. "Why are iRobot's new Roombas so damn expensive?". CNET. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  12. ^ "BBC NEWS - Technology - Robot cleaner hits the shops". 16 May 2003.
  13. ^ Ulanoff, Lance (13 February 2014). "Dyson Wants to Build a Robot Vacuum that Can See". Mashable.
  14. ^ a b "Neato XV-11 robotic vacuum review". Engadget. August 24, 2010. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  15. ^ a b "Deluxe brand Dyson creates its first robot vacuum, the 360 Eye". 2014-09-04. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  16. ^ a b "iRobot Brings Visual Mapping and Navigation to the Roomba 980". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News. 16 Sep 2015. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  17. ^ "iRobot says 20 percent of the world's vacuums are now robots". TechCrunch. 7 November 2016. Archived from the original on 2020-12-15. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  18. ^ Solon, Olivia (2016-08-15). "Roomba creator responds to reports of 'poopocalypse': 'We see this a lot'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  19. ^ Bryan Heater (2017-12-06). "PerceptIn has raised $11 million to help robotic vacuums and self-driving cars see". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  20. ^ "DEEBOT X1 Family | New Arrival All in One Vacuum and Mop". ECOVACS US. Retrieved 2022-11-25.
  21. ^ "ECOVACS Launches The DEEBOT X1 Range Of Robot Vacuums & Mops In Australia". 21 April 2022.
  23. ^ "DEEBOT X1 Family | New Arrival All in One Vacuum and Mop". ECOVACS US. Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  24. ^ Jones, Andy (17 July 2019). "10 best robot vacuum cleaners – how to pick between Dyson and Eureka". Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  25. ^ "History | iRobot". Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  26. ^ " - Neato XV-11 All Floor Robotic Vacuum System - Household Robotic Vacuums". Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  27. ^ "Neato XV-11 review | 22 facts and highlights". VERSUS. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  28. ^ SharkNinja - Robot Vacuums
  29. ^ [ - You Can Build This Open Source Robotic Vacuum Cleaner]
  30. ^ - Build your own vacuum robot
  31. ^ Cesnietor

External links[edit]