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Our colleague Marc Saltzman from USA TODAY is here to share some insight into how smart robots can help do your housework and make your life easier.
Now that society is cautiously opening up ahead of the fall season, the last thing you want to do is more work around the house. Seriously, would you rather scrub your kitchen floors or sip a cocktail with friends on a rooftop patio, to toast the end of the weirdest summer on record? Not to mention, you might be busy getting the kids ready for another school year – at home, in class, or a bit of both.
Fortunately, technology can help, so you can focus on what matters. From window- and floor-washing robots to autonomous lawn-cutting machines, this may be the year you invest in a domestic device.
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OK, so we’re not talking Rosie the Robot – the mechanical housekeeper who petered around “The Jetsons’” family home in the classic ‘60s cartoon – but you might be surprised what’s out there.
Budget permitting, here’s a look at what’s available at your beck and call.
Robotic vacuum cleaners make up the biggest selection of home robots. These circular suckers navigate around your home – ideal for carpet, tile, and wood floors – and suck up dirt, dust, crumbs, and pet hair (and allergens, too).
iRobot’s Roomba family is probably the best known, starting at about $249 for the entry-level Roomba 600 Series, which uses dual multi-surface brushes (they don’t get tangled with pet hair) and strong suction to remove what’s in its path. Sensors intelligently navigate the ’bot under sofas and around objects, like chair and table legs. The Roomba 675 model, for instance, runs for up to 90 minutes before automatically docking and recharging.
You can start the clean in one of four ways: pressing the button on top of the unit, tapping the app, setting a schedule (for it to clean a specific time, even if you’re not at home), or using your voice with an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant speaker (e.g. “Ask Roomba to start cleaning”).
On the other end of the price spectrum is the top-of-the-line Roomba s9+ ($999), which not only cleans floors by intelligently mapping your floor plans, but will navigate itself back to the base to empty its dust bin for you. That is, a second vacuum is inside the charging base, which is plugged into the wall, and the disposable bags – which capture and trap 99 percent of pollen and mold allergens, says iRobot – only needs to be removed after 60 days or so.
For $499, Shark also offers a robotic vacuum that can empty its dust bin into the charging base. Called the Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL, it’s IQ NAV technology maps your whole home, and then lets you select which rooms to clean via the Shark Clean app or your voice (through an Alexa- or Google-enabled speaker). It cleans row by row, with the help of its self-cleaning brush roll and high-efficiency filter, and then drives back to its home when the job is done, where it deposits dirt and debris into a bagless base (up to 30 days).
Floor, window washers
And what about mopping ’bots? The Braava Jet M6 ($399) helps clean your hard floors, whether you’re there or not, so your home is kept spotless.
Simply attach either a wet mopping pad (for sticky messes and grime) or a dry sweeping pad (for dirt, dust, and pet hair), and your helper will do the rest.
Both one-time use and washable/reusable pads are offered (and extra bottles of cleaning fluid).
As with many of the Roomba robots, this autonomous mopper uses artificial intelligence to get to know your home’s floor plan and optimize its clean accordingly. With a wet clean, a small nozzle on the Braava spritzes fluid onto the surface before driving over it. You can even control which rooms are cleaned, and when, and will return to the base and charge up to continue the job (like the above-mentioned Roomba s9+).
If you own a Roomba (model i, s, or 900 Series), after the smart vacuum is finished it communicates with the Braava Jet M6 to then mop automatically.
Also for $449 is a window-washing robot called Winbot X by Ecovacs. While it might freak you out if you see this thing crawling up your windows, the aptly-named Winbot could lend you a helping hand – especially when it comes to cleaning hard to reach areas outside of your home.
Simply stick the doohickey to a window and it’ll initiate three cleaning stages: soaking the glass with a solution-dampened pad, wiping it down with a squeegee, and then drying with a second, clean pad.
And it can do more than windows, too, as the 9.64-by-9.64-by-4.29-inch cordless Winbot also cleans mirrors and glass doors, of any thickness, says the company. Features include a safety pod and tether, included remote control, and a rechargeable lithium battery.
If you want to spend time outside doing more than mowing, the Husqvarna Automower family of robotic lawnmowers ranges in price from $2,499 for the Automower 315X model (for up to 0.4 acres of grass) to $5,199 for the Automower 435X AWD model (an all-wheel-drive model for up to .9 acres, and handles steep inclines up to 35 degrees).
These waterproof mowers can quietly cut your grass with its electric motor (yes, even at night) and will return on its own to the charging station, power up, and then continue mowing. Anti-theft alarms will prevent anyone from lifting your ‘bot.
Powered by GPS-assisted navigation and by following a guidewire placed along the perimeter of your property, the mower can even handle lawns with a complicated shape and navigate around obstacles, like rocks and garden gnomes.
Smart water sensors
While not a robot, per se, Flo by Moen Shutoff ($499) might be considered a security system for your home’s water supply.
It’s a smart valve that proactively identifies problems before they become a headache – such as if a pipe bursts, or if a tap is left running – and then automatically turns off the water supply before notifying you on an app.
This Wi-Fi connected device detects flow rate, temperature, and pressure, and also allows you to better understand your home’s water usage, such as teenagers taking excessively long showers or if a toilet is running in a spare bathroom, to help reduce costs.
There are no monthly fees, and home insurance providers may give you a discount of you have it installed.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at https://marcsaltzman.com/podcasts.
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