Robot vacuum cleaners and mopping devices were all the rage when they launched. While they’ve become more commonplace now, many of us still don’t know exactly how they go about doing the cleaning. While the exact methods and technologies might vary between companies, the broad underlying principle is common. Here’s how a robot vacuum works.


The design of robot vacuum cleaners mostly has a combination of spinning and rolling brushes underneath the body to push the dirt and dust towards the centre, where a powerful vacuum sucks it up into a storage bin. However, the most intriguing part of its functionality is the automation, and that is enabled by two aspects of its construction – sensors and algorithms.


Humans use five senses to move around the world. In a similar fashion, robotic cleaners use an array of sensors to make sense of their environment. Various types of sensors like infrared, touch, piezoelectric fulfil different functionalities. For instance, an infrared sensor located on the front & top can help the device map the room and detect obstacles, while one underneath can prevent it from rolling off stairs and ledges. Others like the touch sensors and the piezoelectric sensors can help it move away from obstacles and over particularly dirty areas respectively.


Even the most impressive set of sensors won’t be of much use if the vacuum doesn’t know how to make sense of the data it generates. This is where the movement algorithms come in. Again, the exact methods and process used by each manufacturer is different, but we’re going to include the most known ones.

There are two main patterns followed by these cleaners – wall following and random bounce. The first one is exactly what it sounds like – the cleaning device moves along the walls of your room to clean the corners. The latter, random bounce, is also just what the name says – the cleaner moves around until it hits an obstacle, then it turns into a random direction and keeps on moving. This has been proven to be more efficient than a strict route. However, newer models come with mapping technology that allow them to maintain a semblance of their coverage so that they don’t repeatedly clean the same areas even by accident.


Now that you know how a robotic vacuum works, a large part of its usefulness for an average home should be quite evident. However, another aspect that deserves focus is how low maintenance they usually are. When running low on charge, most of them can find their way back to their docking station and put themselves on charge. In addition to that, app-based operations can make life easy for everybody.

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