The Samsung Powerbot VR9000 robot cleaner
A robot vacuum cleaner? I have to admit I was a little sceptical at first. It sounds like a great idea in principle, but surely a robot cleaner would be clumsy? Wouldn't it bump into the furniture and leave scuff marks on the skirting board? How would it negotiate its way under the new coffee table I've just bought? What about the stairs? Most importantly, would it freak the dog out? Would he follow it around the living room barking at it and trying to trip it up?
Despite my concerns I was intrigued when Samsung invited me to test their Powerbot VR9000 robot cleaner. This is the first piece of robotic technology I've tried out at home and after eagerly awaiting its delivery, there was lots of excitement when we unboxed it and put it to work.
First the technical stuff. The Powerbot has an onboard digital camera and ten individual smart sensors that enable it to scan and build up a map of your home, including furniture, walls and stairs. It then uses this mapping system to follow the most efficient route around the room, avoiding obstacles and cleaning with a powerful suction action as it goes.
Setting it up is easy - you just select a programme, press start and off it goes. The sensors are impressively accurate and it niftily navigates its way into and out of tricky tight spots, easily negotiating obstacles, and slowing down when it senses that it is approaching a wall or piece of furniture so that it doesn't bump into things. It also transitions with ease between our hardwood flooring and rugs, and the brush automatically adjusts to suit the floor type - carpet or hard floor - so that you always get the optimum cleaning power for each surface. On one or two occasions it has got caught on the corner of a rug as any traditional cleaner might do, but generally this isn't an issue.
It can cleverly detect stairs. If you are using it at the top of the stairs it approaches right to the edge, senses the drop and then retreats. I no longer worry about it falling down the stairs, but if you do want to avoid a particular area, or keep it confined to one room only, there is a guard shield (an infra red ray sensor) you can use to keep it away from any areas you don't want it to enter.
It also impressively manoeuvres up to skirting boards, under tables and around chairs and, although Samsung don't claim that it can reach 100% into all tight corners, I've found that it easily covers most areas. I give skirting boards or tricky areas a quick dust or sweep before switching it on and let the Powerbot do the rest.
After using it a few times I was happy to allow it to operate unsupervised, so now I put it on downstairs first thing in the morning before heading upstairs to start work in my home office. You can even programme it to come on automatically at the same time every day.
When it has finished cleaning it switches itself off and automatically returns to its docking station to recharge, or if it's in another part of the house - for example if it's upstairs and the charging dock is located downstairs - it just switches itself off and waits for you to manually return it. It is relatively light to pick up so it's easy to move around.
It's fairly compact too. It takes up less storage space than a traditional cleaner, so is an ideal option if you live in a small flat, but this doesn't come at the expense of suction power. It cleans thoroughly and effectively. I've never needed to redo any area it has cleaned, but if you do want it to just concentrate on a particular area there is a remote control spot cleaning function. So if for example you wanted to clean up some biscuit crumbs you'd just point the light beam on the remote at the area you want to direct the cleaner to. The Powerbot will then follow the beam, cleaning as it goes. When the dustbin is full it can be lifted out quickly and easily for emptying.
Before I started using the Powerbot my cleaning routine consisted of a thorough clean every weekend followed by a lighter clean to freshen things up in the middle of the week, but those Saturday morning chores always made me irritable. Who really wants to start their weekend with a two hour cleaning session? I've been using the POWERbot almost daily for around six weeks now. Our home is a lot cleaner, I have more free time and I'm no longer bad tempered on Saturday mornings because I have fewer chores to do.
Is it a substitute for a traditional vacuum cleaner? Yes. I've stopped using our old cleaner altogether now, although I still use a handheld cordless cleaner for the stairs and a few other hard to reach areas.
So finally the all important question, would I buy one? Yes, absolutely. All the scepticism I initially had about the idea of a robot vacuum cleaner evaporated the first time I used the Powerbot. It may be more expensive than a traditional vacuum cleaner but in my view its usefulness and effectiveness justifies the price tag. It's a great option for anyone who simply doesn't have the time or the inclination to spend hours on household chores, and if you employ a cleaner you could easily offset the cost of the product against the cost of paying someone to come in and clean. I also think it could be a really useful product for older people or anyone who finds cleaning difficult because of a disability. In fact I can't help thinking that it won't be too long before every home has a robot cleaner!
If you fancy a peek around my home take a look at the video I made of the Powerbot in action. It's one of my first attempts at video, so I'm still getting to grips with the technical side of things, but I had fun putting it together. I even make a little cameo appearance, although I'm usually much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. Oh, and you can find out how Albert the whippet got on with it too.
Styling, photography and filming by Design Hunter & posted in partnership with Samsung Home Appliances. All views and opinions my own.