For years, robotics promised us an easier life, yet none of us had one trundling about doing our chores. Now, they’re finally delivering with the advent of robotic vacuum cleaners. So, put your feet up and find out more about just what they can do for you.

While basic models have been around for some years now, it’s only recently that home robotic vacuums have undergone a revolution. Thankfully it hasn’t been a “kill all humans” styled revolt (sorry, Bender) but rather a series of advancements in just how well they can take the boring chore of vacuuming – and even mopping – off our human hands. Seriously, does anyone enjoy vacuuming and mopping?

Generally round, fairly flat and quite non-assuming, robotic vacuums are designed to travel about of their own accord, doing what a vacuum does – sucking up dirt and storing it for later emptying. How they accomplish this task, however, can be the difference between an entry-level, just-the-basics priced model, and one that delivers all the cleaning bells and whistles.

Seriously, does anyone enjoy vacuuming and mopping?

Your basic robotic vacuum is dumb. Now, before any electronics rights advocates get on our case, it’s just a fact. Once let loose, they’ll go about their business blindly. If something gets in their way they’ll turn, then keep going until they encounter another immovable object. They’ll continue on in this random manner until it’s time for a recharge, and even more basic models know how to find their way back home to their charger.

Possibly the coolest function that smarter robotic vacuums have in their arsenal is laser tracking. This allows them to create a map of your home, which leads to systematic, instead of ad hoc, cleaning. It will take into account everything from furniture to the dog, and work around it appropriately. Also, rather than just doing their cleaning thing blindly for up to around two hours, they’ll perform a thorough once-over then head on home. Efficiency at work!

Robotic vacuum

Other handy features to look out for are whether a robotic vacuum can sense drops such as stairs and, if they’re a vacuuming/mopping combo, whether they can tell the difference between hard and soft surfaces. Some do this instinctively, while others require physical borders to be popped in place, or virtual borders that can be drawn into their mobile apps telling your robotic buddy where it should or shouldn’t go.

Better robotic vacuums are also able to be easily absorbed into a smart home setup, allowing simple voice-activated commands. Sure, you can use the cleaner’s bespoke app – and for more refined tasks like virtual boundaries, you’ll want to – but for a quick and dirty clean, things can be as simple as saying, “Hey Google, start robot” (assuming that you’ve named your helper “robot” – you can name it anything that you wish).

Another joy of robotic vacuums is that they’re generally not as loud as your typical home vacuum cleaners. Ever tried watching telly while somebody’s vacuuming? You either turn it up to ear bleed level so as to drown out the noise, or just give up. Robotic vacuums are getting quieter all the time, with many now able to happily trundle under your feet while you’re watching TV, without any need to reach for the remote. Or, of course, you could just leave the vac to it and head out.

Ultimately, robotic vacuums accomplish something that many of us have always hoped technology would give us, in that they’re a way of bypassing one of the more menial chores in life, leaving us more time to do other stuff. Even if it is just watching TV!


You may be sceptical as to how well a robotic vacuum can do the job that you might usually do with your trusty upright vac. When we first got one, we certainly were. So, before we first let our new helper loose, we did a thorough manual vac of our whole home. We then let our shiny new entry-level robotic vacuum do its stuff, thinking that it wouldn’t come up with much. Boy, were we wrong! It filled its dust catcher… and left us rather red-faced.

Robotic vacuum


If you find the whole robot helper thing a little impersonal, or if you’ve gone totally in the other direction and started talking to yours, why not personalise it a little? We added a couple of boggle eyes to our delightful Deebot U2 (that we christened Roberta, to go along with its sunny robotic fembot voice). As long as you don’t put anything in the way of any of the sensors or otherwise impede its ability to get its job done, it can add a little fun.

Robotic vacuum