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By Chris McConnell
I recently had the pleasure of unpacking a Braava floor mopping robot and putting it to work.
Source: Flickr user Steve Maw
I say pleasure because it was genuinely — and surprisingly — a really fun experience. You'd have thought a new family member had arrived the way my family took photos and notified relatives and friends. It was kind of a big deal — more so than I thought it would be — handing off an item of our collective chore list to an automaton.
Though it doesn't look anything like what science fiction movies promised us, the robot invasion is well underway. A spokesperson for iRobot, the company behind Braava and its well-known sibling Roomba, told me their company alone has already sold more than 10 million robots worldwide. The majority of those sales have come in the last few years.
Robots exist to solve problems. They're perfect for tackling repetitive tasks or jobs that people consider a serious pain. In other words, they're great for handling stuff you and I don't want to do.
Practically speaking, as the robot invasion progresses, humans should have more time to be more productive or to pursue hobbies. We'll have more family time and more time to relax. In short, we'll be better, happier people. In theory.
Here's a quick and dirty list of tasks that you can already outsource to robots, ordered by price:
• Waking up yourself or sleepy family members (Clocky, $39)
• Giving back massages (WheeMe, $69)
• Cleaning the grill (Grillbot, $129)
• Cleaning gutters (Looj, $299)
• Precision-watering plants (Droplet, $299)
• Cleaning cat litter (Litter Robot, $369)
• Taking pictures from the sky (Parrot, $349+)
• Washing windows (Winbot, $399)
• Mowing the lawn (Robomow, $700+)
• Cleaning pools (Mirra, $999)
• Carrying groceries (Budgee, $1,399)
• Entertainment and protection (Keecker, $4,000+)
• Providing therapeutic comfort to the elderly (Paro, $5,000+)
• Plowing snow (Snow Plow Robot, $8,500)
If you can investigate only one robot from the items listed above, make it the Keecker. It's the closest thing to a real-life R2-D2 I've ever seen.
Got to Get You Into My Life, Robot
Do I really need robots in my life right now? The answer is mostly no; they're not a necessity. I can mostly do what they can do — more cheaply — by hand.
But I definitely want more robots in my life.
But do the robots listed above work well enough to justify their prices? I can't tell you because I haven't tried 99 percent of them. But I can tell you about my experience with Braava and perhaps you can use that as a frame of reference.
I mentioned that Braava was a time-saver. In reality, it takes Braava longer to sweep or mop the floor than me. But when I can push a button and have Braava take over the cleaning duties, it frees me up to accomplish something else. As my days have been busier and busier lately, it's time I'm happy to have back.
Using Braava is easy (and fun). Though it is meant to be a complement to an existing vacuum, I still find it quite capable on its own. To get it started, I simply remove it from its charging cradle, attach the proper cloth (dry or wet), place it on the floor, and hit either the sweep or mop button. When it's finished it returns to the spot it started from.
I'm always amazed at the stuff it picks up. Even after a week. With pets in the house, it doesn't take long for the floors to get a bit dirty. With Braava in the house, it doesn't take long for the floors to get clean again.
Braava works in conjunction with a NorthStar navigation cube that projects invisible dots on the ceiling. It's akin to a sailor using celestial navigation to map out a destination. The result is that Braava goes everywhere it needs to. Sometimes its cleaning pattern does seem slightly random, but I could care less as long as the floor is clean by the end of the cycle.
Additionally, the unit is sturdy and very quiet, and the engineering is impressive. I wish I had owned it years ago.
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