Courtesy of Woot.com, I acquired a iRobot Roomba. It arrived Saturday, but I only had time to set it up yesterday. After I consolidated some of the junk in the office, and cleaned up a few odds and ends in the bedroom, I set it to charge, then turned it on and watched it work.
I let it operate for the first time while I was here so I could see how it behaved. I was worried that it wouldn't be able to figure out that it should cover all of the carpeted areas, and I was also worried that it would choke when it got to some of the uncarpeted (and effectively unfinished) areas of the basement. I was right - it needs to have its "virtual wall" set up to avoid things like the bathroom, so that it doesn't choke on the bath mat, and the laundry room, so it doesn't choke on the various trash there. It did both of those, and filled its waste bin on laundry lint (surprise, surprise). I put it back where it could find its home base and sent it home. I'll have to find some D cells to set up the virtual wall on one side of the basement to keep it where it should be working, and leave the door to the closet/bathroom area shut so that it avoids that area as well.
So, how did it do? Well, it's clearly not as powerful as a regular vacuum - there were times it ran over something and left it behind, or picked up a dust bunny in one area and dropped it off somewhere else. It did, however, cover many areas several times, and that meant it picked up lots of stuff. It spent a lot of time under furniture that a regular vacuum can't get under - the bed, the dresser, the nightstand, etc. It really did in fact clear the majority of dust bunnies and other visible dust (as well as, I assume, dust not visible to the eye) out of areas that I could see it wander over. It spent a lot of time cornering around furniture legs (tightly, I might add), and explored several wall corners. It didn't get everything, but I blame that on the fact that it only worked for an hour or so before it got full. If I'd sent it out again, it would probably have hit the areas it hadn't thoroughly covered on the first go-round.
My hope is that running it regularly means that our allergies stay at a manageable level, and that the constant cleaning that is needed to allow the Roomba to explore will help to keep the carpeted areas of the basement regularly straight. This week's not the best week to run it most days...I don't think I'll have time to get it going tomorrow, what with having to staff at 9am, for example. I'm at a conference on Wednesday. Thursday would be good. Really, any time I have time to set it up and walk away, that'll be pretty nifty. I look forward to it. But then again, I'm not a normal guy, right? Looking forward to cleaning? *snicker*