Trusting a Robot in 2 homes

  • Jun 1, 2015

Robotic vacuum cleaners are common these days, but not many of you have one at home nor even tried once. Questions that come to our mind when considering one: How intelligent are these robots? And are they capable for efficient cleaning of your home without physically being there? We had the opportunity of testing out the latest model by Samsung - The Powerbot VR9000. In 2 different homes and lifestyles, resulting in different opinions. By staying in a 3rm HDB Flat, cleaning was relatively easier, but still as dreaded. =P We had all the while been using canister vacuum cleaner, and only recently changed to the handheld vacuum cleaner. Hence my opinions output this review will be as a first time user of a robotic vacuum cleaner. And to make this review even more interesting, I'm a bit of a clean freak. Not OCD though. =D


These are the key points that I will be focusing on (based on the opinion as a first time robotic vacuum cleaner user):
  • Is the movement and navigation accurate? (A basic reason of having a robotic VC.)
  • Will the machine go over humps, uneven surfaces? (It needs to know how to navigate and avoid promptly)
  • Will it stop and redirect when nearing a danger? (An intelligence it must have)
  • Is the suction really so powerful as it claims to be? (Self claimed shall not disappoint)
  • Does the Point Cleaning work? (Human overriding control must be available)
  • Does the virtual guard work? (Additional accessories should be useful. Or rather not have additional to begin.)
  • Is cleaning the dustbin easy? (Why trouble yourself by doing difficult post-cleaning when the sole purpose is to do easy cleaning?)

Tech Cleaning Indeed

Unboxing the product, reveals only some accessories along with the main body of VR9000. It's a pleasure at sight as I don't require fixing up parts of the vacuum cleaner together, unlike what you need to do for canister vacuums. So I have accessories, not parts. But on the other hand I can't start vacuuming with the 'plug and play' method. I had to look through the manual to understand the different tech functions and its quite a handful to read (I dislike following instructions you see. ^^). Still, my advice is that if you wish to utilise the machine to its fullest potential, read the manual before usage.


While looking through the manual, a function caught my attention - "Automatic charging". It has the ability to recharge itself when the battery is low, or I can also press a button, commanding the bot to return to its 'home'. It is like my dog being thirsty, and she knows how to go looking for her bottled water! I definitely have to test that out!  

First Impression


You can tell from its design that it is powerful, packed with technology that works, and doesn't confuse a homeowner with these features. With a start, the manual charging is as easy as charging a phone - just place both the charging dock and the Powerbot together with its charging pins aligned. There is little to no strength required.

I had a bad experience of fumbling with a dustbin full of trash, so this time I took initiative in exploring 'how to empty the dustbin'. I was pretty impressed with the foolproof access in getting the dustbin out for wash. (Contradicting to my earlier advice, I did not refer to the manual before fiddling with the dustbin, sorry!)

After charging it to 100%, I ran a basic first-round test on the suction of this Powerbot. Other than the usual dust and hair that I kept a week for this review, I've added the main challenge: Play-doh. My kid has been playing with these recently, and although it's really good for his creative development, it's a pain the in ass for me! I believe all parents have experiences with the floors or tables full of play-doh of different sizes and colours. And in fact, it comes in different texture (due to prolonged exposure to air). So what I've done is to have a mixture of semi-harden and soft play-doh, coupled with dust and hair for the Powerbot's first challenge. Will the bristles get stuck with play-doh?

By default I used the 'Auto clean' function, along with 'Point cleaning' for specific areas, and it does a nice job of vacuuming in the sample debris I laid. The noise level is fine with me as I don't expect a machine that is powerful in suction to be quiet. We've got to be realistic in expectations. I'd consider this dry run to be acceptable. There wasn't any spot of play-doh left on the ground, but there was a short strand of hair which the Powerbot missed. Revisiting the video, I saw that the strand of hair is approximately 4cm away from where the bot went over.



The Gladiator Challenge

For the first proper challenge, I tested the Powerbot on humps and uneven surfaces. And without a doubt it met my expectations with its well thought design, the huge wheels (they called it the Easy Pass™ wheels). Those wheels enable the body to power through humps without a hesitation. If I am correct, it is due to the FullView Sensor™ that is intelligent enough to know if it's a hump or an obstacle that it cannot pass through.

Next up is the 'danger approach' challenge. I'm so looking forward to this challenge as I wondered if its intelligence will enable itself from destruction. I'm not a sadist, but it is typical of a guy to love and see some actions! Yet… I was totally disappointed by the lack of impact. When the Powerbot is nearing to the 'edge of death', it somehow manages to make a knee-jerking break and turned to safety. You've got to see the video.

Some people may ponder, why is there a need for a virtual guard when it's supposed to be smart? Once again, lets be realistic and fair that this is still an electrical product with the necessary artificial intelligence that you will possibly fork out for its cost. Safety comes first. So the use of this virtual guard is to prevent the Powerbot from getting into restricted areas such as a baby cot, when your baby is asleep. Or near your pets' cage or sleeping area. I did a test not only to see if it works, but also to see if it works promptly. You won't want a gadget that requires a long activation time. And lastly, there is a good distance buffered between the virtual guard and the Powerbot before it reacts in avoiding. I must say that this additional accessories is not only essential but it also performs exceptionally well.

Prior to the AOC challenge, I tested out its ability in returning to its charging dock. And it was kind of fun to see the obedient Powerbot getting back to its home just by pressing a single button on the remote. Impressive indeed.


The AOC Challenge

As for its final challenge, I've created an AOC (Advance Obstacle Course) within the small space available in my home. These obstacles consist of; hair, dust, play-doh, toys, a live dog, wires, humps. You named it, I have it!

Looking at the obstacles that I've laid, I am a bit worried for the Powerbot. Haha! On the first obstacle, it didn't turned in time and bumped slightly at the toys that I've laid. Perhaps it was due to the size of the toy and that the Powerbot is not able to fully gauge its presence. It was a light bump nevertheless, so it wasn't a big issue personally. Play-Doh and the common debris are never a problem for the Powerbot's suction. Some of the areas with debris will require going over more than once to have it totally cleaned. Look at 0:52 of the video, I totally didn't expect the Powerbot's ability to do a curved navigation around my bean bag and into the corner between the wall. It's amazing! From 01:54 to 02:45, the Powerbot was able to navigate into pockets of spaces and very carefully exited without bumping onto the larger items. Wires on the floor did pose as a possible blockage that prevented the Bot from going through, and it made a U-turn. But it should have been, for not the wires would have possibly tangled with the bristles. Remember the 'danger approach' test that I mentioned earlier? The Powerbot still remembered that specific area and made a U-turn much earlier, without the knee-jerking break. Humps are never an issue once again. In fact the bot would have possibly clean my rooms, but I decided to cut the challenge short and sent it back to the charging dock. Now I have to clarify that I didn't expect the wires to be blocking the dock, its kind of an unfair challenge! But just by removing the wires, the Bot still remembered the last command of returning to the docks. Cleaning the dustbin can't be simpler. What pleased me, was there isn't any hair or play-doh stuck underneath, nor trapped in the bristles. So same as all other vacuums, you'll just have to empty the bin, wash it and let it dry.


What To Improve?

Reviewing as a first time user of a robotic vacuum cleaner, it has achieved all that I need for a home-owner for a 3rm HDB. The only suggestion I have would be an ability to track and differentiate the debris to vacuum, and items to avoid (floor mats especially). With that ability, the bot will be able to move forward towards debris instead of just by going through the systematic preset routes. Basically this feature I'm asking for, is to have a human brain and a pair of eyes on the bot that intelligently does its job.(Yes, I'm not realistic for this aspect. =P) Perhaps there already is a technology of such, but that mean it also comes with a hefty price. Will anyone be willing to pay then?



Is This Robot Worth Being Your Part Of Your Family?

It is definitely suitable for families who are looking to clean their house daily, without sweating it yourself. Especially if you are to leave your home without anyone in, relying on the Powerbot is ideal. Let it do the cleaning while the house is vacant saves plenty of time. And when it's running low in power, it will automatically return to charge by itself. What I've learnt from using a robotic vacuum cleaner, is to always remove the smaller items or accessories from the floor before you start the vacuum. This will allow an effective cleaning from the Powerbot.

On the other hand if you are looking to do thorough cleaning of your floors, I'd say not a single robotic vacuum cleaner is suitable for you. At the present moment, no robotic vacuum cleaners are able to reach the low corners of your TV console or sofa. As a matter of fact, just use canister vacuum cleaners for those. So what is your style of cleaning?


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