Most of the items we test on "Does It Work?" cost between 10 and 30 dollars. This time we break the budget with a product that, admittedly is quite pricey. But it was so cool, we couldn't resist. It's called the Roomba... basically a little robot, that vacuums your floors while you relax. But "Does It Work?"
The Roomba is the "Intelligent Floor Vac". At 200 dollars it had better be very intelligent.
Tanya Williams agreed to help us try it out.
You get the Roomba's virtual wall unit. It creates a "virtual wall" by emmitting an infared beam across the floor. If it does what it's supposed to do, it will keep the Roomba out of the kitchen area.
You also get the battery charger and of course, the Roomba. Plug the charger in the wall. Plug the other end into the roomba. And in 12 hours, the Roomba should be fully charged and good for about an hour of cleaning.
Tanya's little girl Kaylee will help us out with a sleeve of crackers. "You can make a big mess all you want baby," says Tanya. Soon we had a nice mosaic of cracker crumbs.
But, there's more. We used some carpet freshener to spell out "DIW?" on the rug, for "Does It Work?". If the letters are all gone when the Roomba's done, we've got our answer.
One more thing. If you have a rug with tassels, you need to fold them under. Select your room size, small, medium or large and watch it go.
The Roomba starts out moving in a spiral pattern. Eventually, it works its way off the rug looking for something to bump into. It makes its way under the couch-- out from under the couch-- pulling some interesting, but long forgotten items (toys, papers, etc.) out in the process. And we think the Roomba was showing off a bit when it pulled a plastic hanger out from under a chair. That brings up a good point, because it demonstrates one thing the Roomba can do that an ordinary vaccum cannot-- clean under beds and sofas.
But what about the mess we intentionally made? It seems the Roomba is having trouble jumping the rug. This one curls up a bit, but even on the flattest edges, with assistance, the Roomba thinks it's bumping into a wall and turns and runs. And when it got onto the vinyl floor it couldn't even make it back onto the carpet. Over and over, like training a puppy to "go" on the paper, we'd have to put Roomba on the rug and it would head off on its own and get stuck. "It's stuck in the front of the house now," says Tanya.
Finally, we shook the mess onto the carpet and moved the Roomba back into the middle of the room. Almost immediately, Roomba ran from the work and started working circles around itself in a remote corner. Tanya and I agreed we had seen enough. And besides, Roomba was almost full. Plenty of evidence that it picks up-- but so does a broom.
What is it Tanya? Yes, no or maybe.
"If you have rugs, it would do fine on the rugs and then it would get off the rug," says Tanya.
"And then once it got off the rug it couldn't get back on the rug to clean up the mess. So I would say it's a maybe."
The virtual wall worked well. Roomba got no where near the kitchen. And we found some toys the kids had been looking for. But you heard her. For 200 dollars, the Roomba still leaves some things to be desired. The best we can rate the Roomba is a "maybe".