The 10 Best Budget Robotic Vacuums
A Brief History Of Home Automation
In the late 1960s, a rather misguided (and tellingly sexist) marketing campaign suggested that all would be well for buyers of the latest in home automation technology, a so-called kitchen computer, “if she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute” (cue deafening silence). Whether the failure of housewives to rally behind the new product had more to do with seismic shifts in gender politics or the $10,000 price tag and steep learning curve to use it remains an open question. Domestic work, often undertaken by the oppressed and perceived as inferior to labors outside the home, has long stood at the nexus of prevailing sociopolitical issues and efforts to resolve intractable economic struggles, racial tensions, gender bias, and class divisions.
Generation after generation, a seemingly endless stream of labor-saving devices promises to reduce the drudgery of housework and — more ambitiously — to do away entirely with the demand for a human workforce to dutifully tend our hearths, prepare our meals, and keep our domiciles clean. While it’s hard to argue with the relative usefulness of washing machines, as opposed to lugging bucketloads of dirty laundry outside to be scrubbed by hand, work has a way of increasing to match the extent to which it can be automated. The easier it is to get dirty clothes clean, the more often we expect to have to change our clothes in order to keep up appearances. By the same token, now that power mowers and electric vacuum cleaners have rendered scythes and straw brooms obsolete in the industrialized world, the social cost of letting gardens grow wild or dirt to accumulate on floors is much higher than it once was.
Although inventions like induction ovens and other electronic housewares have diminished the role of domestic workers in the average household, we’ve yet to achieve the level of automation required to completely eliminate human involvement in housekeeping. Widespread acceptance of subsequent generations of labor-saving devices, in spite of their shortcomings, suggests that the home automation market is still fertile ground for innovations in autonomous systems, however imperfectly they operate without human intervention.
Adventures In Absentee Housekeeping
While the introduction of artificial intelligence to cleaning technology comes with its own, unique pitfalls, those tasked with maintaining house and home often find welcome relief in the purchase of tools to automate their workload. The freedom to work, study, and pursue various amusements comes with the cost of new appliances or — more recently — app-controlled devices designed to see that dishes can be washed and meals prepared in our absence. From tumble dryers to slow cookers, we’ve come to rely on a growing arsenal of home automations to keep up with all manner of mundane chores so that we can get on with other business.
By almost any measure, cleaning floors is one of the most odious requirements of living indoors. With every step we take, the surface on which we walk becomes ever grimier and less appealing to the naked eye, not to mention our bare feet. When it comes to keeping in check the nastiness that’s tracked into our homes on footwear, paws, and various household objects, few household duties are more relentless or backbreaking. The constant onslaught of dust, dander and detritus can be overwhelming.
So, it’s no wonder that even the earliest, most rudimentary — let alone expensive — robotic vacuums have found a receptive audience across a number of demographics. Confronted by armies of dust bunnies and debris of unknown provenance under heavy furniture, one can hardly blame consumers who eagerly flock to the nearest department store or click that Buy now button en masse to hand the job over to the latest iteration of autonomous floor cleaners. And for those concerned about the prospect of facing their own personal Poopocalypse, should pet ownership and technology collide in such catastrophic fashion, robotic pets may offer a tempting alternative to going back to the old way of doing things.
Smart Solutions Or Risky Business?
With the field of home economics still very much in flux, smarthome technologies have more than their share of detractors — helped, in the case of networked systems, by the demonstrable security risks of having one’s home remotely infiltrated by hackers. However, in the ongoing struggle to manage competing responsibilities at work and home, sacrificing a bit of privacy may just be part of the balancing act. If the trade-off for effortlessly clean floors is the threat of having distant strangers sneak peeks into the untidiest corners of our lives, that may be a price we’re willing to pay. After all, is that really so much worse than the hazards of opening our doors to domestic workers we barely know?
Another common complaint is the prohibitive cost of intelligent labor-saving devices. But as market forces and technological advances help drive prices down, robotic vacuums and multifunctional floor cleaners become increasingly affordable. The rising ubiquity of smartphone apps has made it easier to add sophisticated software integrations to well-built hardware without the need for expensive onboard systems. Given that smartphones are now considered basic essentials even for individuals and families of modest means, it’s becoming more feasible for the average household to invest in app-controlled home automations than to hire outside help.
Feedback from early adopters has helped pave the way for significant improvements in obstacle detection and avoidance, navigational technology and battery capacity. Of course, the more effective and feature-rich the product, the higher the cost, but with basic functionality priced well below that of a maid service, there’s an automatic floor cleaning system to fit almost any budget.