Rise of the Robots
Hectic work schedules, the need for more personal time to pursue our own interests, whatever it is, it seems that 24 hours a day is never enough, and the last thing on our minds is to do chores around the house. For the past 10 or so years, one little gadget has been helping keep our homes clean and that is the robotic vacuum cleaner.
While they are certainly helpful (to a certain extent), they do have their limitations. Firstly, path-finding is often quite suspect on these gadgets and most robotic vacuum cleaners seem to go about doing their jobs in a random, haphazard manner, making them inefficient and at times downright silly.
Secondly, one of the biggest challenges facing these cleaners is the ability to avoid and navigate around obstacles. Seeing that self-braking technologies are already quite effective and advanced on motor vehicles, one would assume that this technology could be easily transferred to robotic vacuum cleaners too, but this could not be further from the truth. On the roads, a car’s sensors need only look out for other automobiles, which are usually quite large and come in fairly standardized shapes. Back at home, the robotic vacuum cleaner has to navigate their way through a limitless variety of obstacles including rugs, floor lamps, chairs, tables, ornaments and decorative pieces and much more. To complicate matters, these come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making it hard for robotic vacuum cleaners to avoid hitting and bumping into them.
Thirdly, most robotic vacuum cleaners that we have seen thus far have a circular design. Although the reasons why have not been explicitly explained, we believe that in the event of a collision, a circular design would lessen the area of impact and allow the robot an easier path of corrected navigation. In addition, early models often lack sensors and instead rely on a retractable bumper to absorb shock when it bumps into an obstacle. This makes it difficult for such robotic vacuum cleaners to clean certain areas such as along the walls, corners and around obstacles such as floor lamps and the legs of tables and chairs.
Having reviewed the very first mass consumer robotic vacuum cleaner more than a decade ago, the Electrolux Trilobite, we thought it's time we revisited this space to see how these smart home gizmos have progressed and LG's second generation Hom-Bot caught our attention. Costing about a third of the distant Trilobite predecessor, we check out how if it has made enough progress to warrant our recommendation.
Design & Features
It is with the above mentioned problems and limitations in mind that the new LG Hom-Bot Square was designed and conceived. The most notable design change with regards to previous generation robotic vacuum cleaners from LG is that the Hom-Bot Square has, you guessed it, a squarish, cube-like design (when viewed from the top).
Coupled with its glossy candy red chassis, touch buttons and a display that is integrated into the top lid, the Hom-Bot Square certainly looks modern and stylish, but more than that, the squarish design is actually functional as it allows the device to better clean corners. Like other modern robo-cleaners, the Hom-Bot Square also features two sweeping brushes that help to catch dirt and dust so that it can be more easily sucked up by the device. In addition, these sweeping brushes have also been made longer by 1.5cm (compared to its predecessor) to better reach hard to access places.
That said, a new squarish design and longer sweeping brushes can only do that much, and what makes the LG Hom-Bot stand out from other robotic vacuum cleaners is its array of sensors and cameras that help it navigate around the tricky landscape that is our homes; as well as its ability to adapt, recognize and 'learn' areas for more effective and efficient cleaning.
To begin, in order to recognize obstacles and prevent collisions, the Hom-Bot Square has three front-facing ultrasonic sensors. The sensors are positioned to give a wide angle and is sensitive enough to even recognize glass and transparent objects. Once it detects and senses an obstacle in its vicinity, it will automatically slow down and proceed more cautiously.
Secondly and perhaps more impressive are its top-mounted camera and bottom-mounted optical sensor. Together, they are referred to as Dual Eye 2.0 and it enables the device to recognize and map its surroundings so as to be able to memorize routes and clean more thoroughly and efficiently. According to LG, the top camera takes as many as 30 photos per second while the bottom optical sensor scans the surface up to 2000 times per second to map out its surroundings and pinpoint its position in a room. The bottom optical sensor also helps it to avoid falling off stairs or split levels. With the information gathered from the camera and optical sensor, the Hom-Bot Square then calculates up to 50 times a second to work out the most effective cleaning route.
One can control the Hom-Bot Square either using the touch buttons on the lid of device itself or the provided remote controller. The remote controller also lets users manually control the Hom-Bot Square making it possible to navigate the device to areas that it might have missed.
Finally, the Hom-Bot Square also comes with a charging station. We found that the device would last around 1.5 hours on a full charge and once it finds itself low on battery, it will automatically find its way back to the home station and then resume from where it stopped once it is fully charged. You can also send the device back to the charging station at any time you like using the touch buttons on its lid or the remote control.