The Robot Vacuum Thread

Perc

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So, I'm guessing many of us geeks in here have robot vacuums by now. I certainly do and I don't really see myself going without one of these in the future. Time for a thread?

I have a Xiaomi Roborock II S5, which is another way of saying a vacuum manufactured by Roborock but sold by Xiaomi, so I have to use the Xiaomi home automation app to run it. It's a year old now and it's been faithfully running every weekday at 3pm since new. I just took it apart to see if there was any dust or dirt in the wrong places, but everything looked fine. I guess I'll treat it to a set of new brushes and a filter soon.

Back in the day I decided to try this robot vacuum malarky by buying a second hand Roomba that lacked all sorts of smarts. It just changed direction whenever it bumped into something, including my IKEA TV bench with its bump-to-open doors. :D When battery was running low it started looking for the infrared beacon that was the charging station. If it didn't manage to pick up the beacon before it ran out of electricity it just died. If it managed to find the charger in time it usually pushed it around without managing to mate with the charging contacts... and then it died. I would say that it successfully docked about twice for every five cleaning cycles.

You also had to remember to turn it on before leaving in the morning, which meant it never got used. If I did remember to turn it on I had to remember to empty it afterwards because it couldn't store more than a cleaning cycle's worth of dirt before it started leaving little turds all over the flat.

The Roborock goes for a week before I have to even touch it, it has smart navigation to make sure it actually cleans the whole area, and if your house is too big for a single charge it goes back to the dock for a while mid-clean before completing the job. My ~50 square meters are nowhere near big enough to run the battery down even with the suction set to full tilt.

Every couple of months or so it eats a sock and dies, or rips my phone charger out of the wall. 99% of the time it just does its job and goes back to the dock afterwards. The dock is under the bed because you never have to carry the robot back manually. When it's time to empty it you just send it to the kitchen using "pin and go" the app. You then knock the contents of the dust container into the bin and press the "return to dock" button.

So what robots do you guys have, and most importantly, what are they called? I originally named mine Bengt but it's now Edgar, from J Edgar Hoover of course. Had to steal that one from a friend because his family didn't let him use it. 😅
 

eizbaer

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We have a first generation Xiaomi robot vacuum, also about 3 years old now. Very happy with it. Same intelligent Routing as the s5, I believe and it very rarely eats things. Sometimes gets stuck in one of our thick and wooly carpets 🤷‍♂️
Besides just knocking out the dust I sometimes take out the Filter and bash it around a bit to get out some of the fine dust - it’s mostly a big mess but I tell myself i somehow prolong the life of the filter by doing it... i should probably exchange it along with the brush soon, too.

My wife christened him James.
 

Perc

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I just ordered a filter and brush kit from Amazon.

Edgar has gotten stuck on the corner of my thin but fairly stiff living room carpet a couple of times. It catches the corner and tries to drive forwards, and this causes the carpet to actually lift the robot up far enough to make it think it’s in the air.
 

leviathan

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My robot vacuum history is similar to yours. After I moved from the shared student flat in Darmstadt to my own place in Bad Homburg, I originally got a "dumb" robot vacuum - some research pointed me to the Medion MD 16192.

1611410638395.png


It was made by Eufy, which is basically the same as Anker, which is a name I'm comfortable with :) and it was very reasonably priced (€149 back in 2017) compared to many others and had decent reviews all around, so I went for it. It worked just the same as you describe: turn on in the morning, schedule a time via IR remote when it will run, then it starts driving around and bumping into things randomly until it eventually runs out of battery, at which point it'll try to return to the charger.

I actually liked it quite a lot. It couldn't really work unsupervised - I had to "prep" the room it would run in by lifting the curtains off the floor and moving some of the smaller furniture around, or it'd get stuck. I also only let it run in a single room at a time, since it would basically never find the charger when it was in a different part of the apartment by itself... and also had an annoying habit of bumping and closing doors, locking itself away from where it needed to go. Once it actually managed to properly lock itself in my bathroom - bumped the door closed on the inside, bumped the toilet paper and towels holder against the door, and then ran out of battery and died right there, lodging itself against the door as well, making it actually quite hard to get it and free it. Although when left to run in the same room as the charger, it found and docked to it rather reliably. Oh, and it was very loud.

Still, it vacuumed quite well - and my mother ordered the same one, after seeing it in action in my place, and still uses hers to this day. However, I eventually decided that all the manual-carrying-between-rooms and scheduling-each-morning was getting a bit much. So I gifted the thing to my brother, who moved out into a place of his own now as well, and upgraded to a smarter one. Which, unsurprisingly, ended up being a Xiaomi.

1611410968206.png


Specifically it's the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum Mop Pro. Which I think is the latest generation that Xiaomi made and marketed themselves and not through Roborock or any other company/brand? To be honest I've lost the overview of their products at some point. However, this one has the following:

- Lidar-based navigation
- Xiaomi Home app for control, updates and automation
- Vacuum and mop modes, complete with a replacement dust bin with a water compartment and a detachable mop
- Voice output (scared me quite a bit when it unexpectedly started talking the first time I used it)

It was also rather cost-effective at just under 260€ in mid-2020, and it is a tremendous upgrade over the old one! No more manual carrying around or remembering to turn it on in the morning or basically any care for it, except emptying out the dust couple times each week. I run it every two days, for now it's manual since all the Covid-related home office stuff makes my being home or in the office schedule a bit unreliable. But it's much easier to just pull up the app and hit "Start" from wherever, than having to program a start time in advance in the morning before running off to work. It's also easily smart enough to navigate my 63m² properly, the map it generated even auto-detected the room boundaries (almost) correctly. And it handles a lot more obstacles around the place correctly without pushing things around or getting stuck. I still sometimes move chairs and other smaller furniture around before I run it - but that's more out of habit and to increase the accessible floor coverage, it manages the cycle just fine when I forget to "prep" as well.

It's had some minor issues with the software over the months I've run it so far, but nothing major. In the beginning it forgot the apartment map for no reason multiple times, and the one it eventually permanently remembered is for some reason crooked instead of properly aligned:

1611411812781.png


So when it does the parallel lines covering the room area, those are slightly angled in the room and not straight along a wall. I guess I could manually clear the map and have it re-map the place straight again, but I frankly can't be bothered.

There's also an interesting map artifact: the area marked as "room4" doesn't actually exist. Instead there is a wardrobe with mirror doors on the left edge of "room3" - and the Lidar obviously isn't smart enough to see that it's a mirror, and "sees" a room in there that's the opposite of "room4"'s layout. When it goes along the wardrobe, it bumps into the mirror instead of smoothly driving along it like it does with other walls - so I guess there is no fusion logic to combine collision data with Lidar output for mapping purposes. But it's not an issue in practice, so again, can't be bothered to do anything there.

Very happy with the Xiaomi so far. I haven't used the mop function yet, but I could try it at some point - my kitchen ("room1") has tile floors and no carpet anywhere, so it could be useable there.
 

eizbaer

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Xiaomi Home app for control, updates and automation
Oh forgot about this - mine also theoretically has this, but I haven't used it or even had it installed anywhere in years (think 2018). I went on a quick dive down the rabbithole that is alternative firmware and stuff (keyword to google: valetudo), but i couldn't be bothered because I didn't miss the app or any of its functionality for the last two or so years either. It was mostly just fun seeing the lidar make a map of the place...
 

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It seems fairly obvious that you'd want a way to rotate the map manually after the vacuum is done building it, but it seems most vacuums lack this. I don't know why. You're stuck with whatever orientation it decides to build the map in and that's annoying. Thankfully it built the map the right way up this time. I've had it rotated 90 degrees since the last time I messed with it.

Here's mine, sadly not with a neatly recorded vacuuming job. I just called it to the kitchen to empty it earlier today and that's the trail it left doing the round trip from the bedroom. The little blue splotch below the yellow room is a wardrobe with a mirror on it. It never recognizes it as an actual room, thankfully.



IMG_0172.PNG
 
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Matt2000

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I have too much junk for a robot vacuum to be practical (it would probably be buried alive) but I've followed the developments through the Vacuum Wars with interest. The LIDAR scanning and intelligent features are very impressive, the ability for them to avoid obstacles like dog turds (or random piles of surprise cat vomit in my case) is really coming along well. As is the self-emptying feature, although I'd like to see them integrate this with a portable or stick vacuum so you can have the best of both worlds. Bags kind of seem like a step backwards but there's just no other way to contain the mess in a hygienic way.

I think I would buy Roborock if I was buying right now, I think the really good new Roombas are just too expensive and sadly Dyson just don't seem capable of producing a competitive produce for some reason.

The most important question for you owners is have you added googly eyes to the front of your vacuums? If not, why the hell not? :p

My wife christened him James.

Does the app work with Siri Shortcuts? If so you should set one to make him return to the base when you say "Home, James". Or the German equivalent. :|
 

eizbaer

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The most important question for you owners is have you added googly eyes to the front of your vacuums? If not, why the hell not? :p

Does the app work with Siri Shortcuts? If so you should set one to make him return to the base when you say "Home, James". Or the German equivalent. :|
I have, and they have fallen off only to be swallowed instantly by the robot :| I should not try this again... despite the fact I have like 500 googly eyes of different sizes around. My wife doesn't understand why they're funny.

Yes, now there's a proper use for the damn app I haven't had in two years! If it does indeed work, that is...
 

Perc

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I need to Wish myself some googly eyes.
 

Matt2000

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I need to Wish myself some googly eyes.
One should always have a supply of googly eyes. They're also a perfect gift the person who has everything, because that just means more shit to stick googly eyes to.
I have, and they have fallen off only to be swallowed instantly by the robot :|
You need to up your googly game. Superglue time! :LOL:
 

Perc

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One should always have a supply of googly eyes. They're also a perfect gift the person who has everything, because that just means more shit to stick googly eyes to.

I blame you for the order confirmation for 700 googly eyes that just is about to land in my inbox.
 

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I've had a Neato BotVac Connected for a few years-- LIDAR assembly was failing during the original warranty period, but their support was so horrendous that it wasnt able to be repaired prior to it expiring. "Margaret" would get lost randomly during cleaning and attempt to auto-fellate itself with walls and objects, and repeatedly attempt to wallhack. A $60 replacement LIDAR from ebay (and about 8 hours of troubleshooting the LIDAR drive motors) resolved the issue, and it is now able to successfully navigate around the upper floor. However it still does not manage to reliably dock itself, pausing 20cm away then a software crash occurs. Interestingly enough it can manage to recharge during cleaning without any issues.

The Roborock S4 I purchased last year is a much nicer unit for navigation and reliability; gently approaches objects and walls versus a full-speed Koolaid Man wall buster. The cleaning power doesn't appear to be as strong, but it just works every time I send it out. Roborock has finally pushed out the firmware update allowing for multi-floor mapping, so I can just grab it and bring it between floors as needed. Only negative is the S4 can't scale thicker rugs due to it's lower clearance. Overall recommended, just not not great for carpet.
 

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I blame you for the order confirmation for 700 googly eyes that just is about to land in my inbox.

The package from china took exactly one month to arrive, apparently. Time to googly eye all the things 😅
 

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Go go go! Thread needs food... my googly eyes have started to yellow a little from lying in the Sun too long. Time to plaster the place!

On topic: I changed filter, brushes etc on my mi vacuum this week. I originally ordered two sets of replacements when we got the suckbot 3 years ago and this was the first change I did. Only to discover each set actually includes a magnetic fence (handy, did not have that before) and actually two filters and mini brushes each (so I could change those a bit more often and not care so much about cleaning the filter out - good!). Haven’t seen any change in performance though, I dunno 🤷‍♂️
 

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I decided to mess with the robot today and close the door to the room where the charger is while it was out vacuuming. It kept bumping into the door trying to find a way in for at least a couple of minutes before it went on a tour through my flat, snooping in all the corners and occasionally doing 360 degree spins to try and figure out where it was and why the world was messed up. Eventually it just gave up. Poor thing.

After that I tried sending it to the kitchen for emptying, but it refused to leave the charging station at all. I had to erase the map and do a cleaning cycle to let it build the map again.

I wonder if it has asperger's or something because with half the bedroom left, it decided to go around the corner into the kitchen, do a little bit there and then back again. on my first screenshot it had just finished what was left of the bedroom. On the second screenshot it's managed to scan my entire floor plan again, and for some reason it decided to split it length-wise into two halves.

IMG_0892.PNG

IMG_0893.PNG
 

eizbaer

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I wonder if it has asperger's or something because with half the bedroom left, it decided to go around the corner into the kitchen, do a little bit there and then back again. on my first screenshot it had just finished what was left of the bedroom. On the second screenshot it's managed to scan my entire floor plan again, and for some reason it decided to split it length-wise into two halves.
This is the exact behavior I've experienced with my old mi vacuum as well - although not documented through the app. It seems the algorithm has a fixed maximum distance (in one direction - resulting in a rectangle area) it will go from the start point of the cleanup or something like that. this first barrier then persists through the entire cleaning cycle, while the vacuum makes its way across the place in rectangle increments (cna also be seen in your 2nd screenshot i think, where you see an overlap right after the first door and then a bit from the second door). this leads to the cleaning pattern you see above (where it's not too bad i guess), but also to unfortunate crap where it'll clean an entire room except for literally one lane (for lack of a better word), then clean the rest of the entire place and then come back to ride past that forgotten lane once.

it works. but it's not smart :|

edit: this is also why i usually ditch the robot in the office and bedroom and bathroom to clean and just close the door. that way, I don't have to ponder what the hell it's actually doing and can just collect it once it's done and move it to the next room. also i don't have it drive to my garbage, i usually carry the dustbin myself - but that's just 3m, so who cares :D
 

Perc

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I put the charging dock under the bed to keep it out of the way, so it’s a huge faff to retrieve the robot manually for emptying.
 

eizbaer

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Yeah, I can see that'd be a bit of a hassle, might as well have it go all the way then :) Over here it just lives under some dresser in the living room that it just barely fits beneath, so it's easy enough to just reach down.
 
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