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Robotics in the home... domestic cleaners from iRobot ( top) and Milagrow are now available in India
 
Household cleaning robots are here!

Domestic robots are invading Indian homes,  doing  jhadoo-pocha* tasks, but  can they replace you -- or your cleaning lady?
By Anand  Parthasarathy
Robotic vacuum cleaners  and  floor washing  robots  with  sweeping and wet mopping  functions,  doing chores inside homes,   is not exactly new.  They have been around, for  a decade and more in the US -- after  a robotics engineer  from the MIT Artificial  Intelligence Lab, Rodney Brooks co-founded  iRobot in 1990 with two colleagues.  However  the company's first domestic cleaning robot, Roomba was launched only in 2002.   
Home cleaning robots were first introduced in India in 2012 by a domestic  company founded by Rajeev Karwal, under the brand name  Milagrow which today has a slate of half a dozen home cleaning robots  including  some for  cleaning    glass windows, swimming pools and  lawns. They have also cannily adapted the technology to Indian needs,   by  getting  most of their indoor range to do both jhadoo and pocha.|
iRobot has finally brought its flagship  Roomba products  to India a few weeks ago through Bangalore-headquartered  Puresight Systems, offering   models  in 3 series -- 600, 700 and 800 --  all looking and working   alike, with small variations in vacuum power, and ranging in cost from Rs 32,900 to Rs 69,900.    I have been trying out the model 700 for a week. Like all models it has a   pair of  extractors  rotating in opposite directions, to pick up debris from the floor.  The extractors  are  enhanced by a  vacuum, which directs the airflow through a narrow slit to collect fine dust.  Another  horizontally mounted "side spinner" brush sweeps against walls to reach debris not accessible by the main brushes and vacuum.  The robot is powered by a battery that has to be recharged from mains through a docking station, which is the homebase to which it returns after its chores are done.  It includes a cliff sensor so that it doesn't  fall down stairs. To create  no-go areas,   which you don't want cleaned, you can  build   infra red 'virtual walls',     using two additional  'Lighthouse'  units provided
The robot  is programmed by a built-in algorithm that follows  a spiral path, cleaning in widening circles, and in another mode,  follows the wall, changing its angle if it bumps into an obstacle like a chair leg.   One common problem  with  floor cleaning robots is that   hair on the floor tends to entangle in the rotating parts,  slowing it down. But the Roomba  has a very simple system to remove and clean the extractors.  The Roomba  700 which is a mid range model costs Rs 49,900. The Roomba robots are dry cleaners. For wet mopping, iRobot has another product  the Brava 380t  for hard floors, which uses reusable cleaning cloths.(  Rs 27,900)
 Milagrow:  Doing double duty
Milagrow has obviously   studied the Indian use case well before launching its floor cleaning robots here.  So their recent launch RedHawk 3.0  has what is claimed to be the largest  dust receptacle and the largest brush  for this class of robot.  My wife and I have been using the RedHawk 1.0 for two years now -- so we can appreciate  why a larger dustbin would be useful.  Milagrow   works in much the same way  as other cleaning robots, but has added a few features of its own -- like an ultraviolet light source  that sanitizes the floor after cleaning.  Like the Roomba   it also boasts a high efficiency air filter to remove   fine  particles.
For Indian users, the fact that the RedHawk  also comes with a wet cleaning mode might be a plus point ( you have to  moisten and attach the cleaning mop provided).  This is good for one room, after which you have to  wet the mop again.    It costs Rs 25,990
For more   dedicated  'pocha' Milagrow has just launched  a full wet cleaning robot -- the AquaBot 4.0 with its own built-in water tank  that costs an additional Rs 4000,while doing everything the  RedHawk does.  If you don't need wet cleaning, Milagrow has a basic dry model for Rs 13,999.
To sum up...
iRobot's Roomba range  is a global brand and you have to pay a premium price.  Milagrow is a desi   design  and offer a more affordable entry into the world of robotic cleaning.   For home owners especially ones where  both spouses  have jobs,  robotic floor cleaners are a huge advance on  vacuum cleaners  and will   be  good buy.  But here is a small caveat:   what with  their programmed patterns  and odd course corrections,  they take their time.  Humans  can do  the job in half the time.   Robots may beat  us  at chess  but in cleaning,   you ( or your bai*) are more than a match.  

*Jadoo and pocha: Hindi for sweeeping and cleaning.  bai: literally 'lady',  Hindi (especially Mumbai) usage for cleaning lady

 




    


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