As an owner of the original Roomba, I received a letter from iRobot informing me of a brand new Roomba line coming out – the Roomba Discovery. The thing looks sweet. Aside from small niceties like a battery that charges faster (3 hours vs. 12) and a larger particle bin (3 times the size), there are some larger improvements. One of the two flagship features is “Dirt Detect” – the vacuum is able to detect that it’s cleaning extra stuff so it will slowdown and concentrate on those spots. The second main new feature is the ability for the Roomba to realize when it’s running out of batteries, and actually return to it’s docking station and charge itself.
When I’d first read about the “charge itself” behavior on the Electrolux Trilobite, I figured that’s why the thing cost $1800. I apparently was wrong though, because iRobot managed to add that feature and still keep the price of the thing down to $250. So, my current theory is that the price difference is probably navigation related. The Trilobite uses ultrasound to map out a room, whereas the Roomba kind of “wings it” and uses some heuristic algorithms to figure out when it’s done. One of the cool things the Electrolux does which I don’t believe the Roomba can is go back to vaccuming once it’s done charging. From what I’ve read, the Roomba will simply go back and charge when it’s done, whereas the Trilobite will charge, then take another stab at vaccuming, and then rest. Still… it’d be cheaper to get 3 f’n Roombas and let them loose at once than to get a single Trilobite (and you’d still save yourself a grand).