For me, practical and easy to use technology that gives me more time to be productive at work and to spend time with my wife and family are key. Whether its more computing power to smash through video editing, user-friendly home theatre equipment or a quick smartphone, I want technology to be simple, straightforward and that adds to my quality of life.
But who the heck wants to spend money on some stupid robot that surely can’t clean your house, never mind mop a floor? I say that because roughly ten years ago, I purchased an early version of the iRobot vacuums—and it was a total disaster. It smashed into walls leaving marks, it would fall down the stairs, it would jam easily, it ran out of power quickly and would get stuck anywhere that it was even remotely possible. I vowed never again to consider any sort of “cleaning robot.”
So could iRobot have improved? After a decade, could the technology have matured? I was certainly willing to give it another go—but this time I had a different need. My wife and I wanted an automated device to clean our kitchen and hardwood floors. We wanted something easy to use, something we could control from our smartphones with an attractive price point that would last for a few years.
That led us to the iRobot Braava Jet. It is normally at $499.99, but we picked it up on sale at a Best Buy north of Washington, D.C. for $399.99 (which is the current sale prices as of publication). The Braava Jet might be more than what you want to pay for something that just cleans the floor. However, after spending about a week with this tough little robot, I can’t stop singing its praises.
Setup: The setup was very straight forward, with the instructions being very clear how to assemble it and get it working. First, you assemble a charging base station—if you want to call it that as there is almost nothing to it. Next, you plug in the base station to an electrical outlet while connecting the iRobot to the charging station. From there, after a few clicks, you should easily be able to connect the device to your home Wi-Fi. My iRobot went through an update process for about ten minutes. After that, I installed a cleaning pad and poured in some cleaning solution—again, really easy to do. After a few hours of charging you are fully ready to begin. For someone who gets really frustrated at complicated setups of new tech products, I have to say this was really easy—my iRobot experience of the past was fading away.
Cleaning (see the pictures above and below): From there, to get the cleaning process started, all you have to do is hit the clean button on the top of the device or go into your smartphone and use the iRobot app to clean remotely. When the device began to clean, for the first few sessions I noticed it took its time, learning the terrain and setup, cleaning and recleaning certain sections, getting smarter and more efficient with each cleaning. The first cleaning was what I expected, a test run that was slow going but more of a prep for what was to come. But even the first session was pretty impressive. It cleaned the entire kitchen and living room hardwood floors easily. It was able to get around my dining room table, rugs, and never getting stuck on something—not once.
The end result each time was simply amazing—even after the first cleaning. The floor was super clean, I did not have to waste my time or my wife’s energy (she is battling end-stage renal failure, so this helps us out a lot), and the result was better than what we could do on our own. Heck, I even threw away my mop.
If I did have to complain about one thing is that the proprietary cleaning pads are a little hard to find locally here in the Washington, D.C. area. However, a simple google search and a little waiting solved that problem. There was also some confusion when I purchased the device at my local Best Buy on what cleaning pads were needed. However, Google also solved that.
Overall, if you are rushed for time or need a little help cleaning your hardwood or tile floors, this is the robot to do it.
Harry J. Kazianis is a Senior Director at the Center for the National Interest. His work and ideas have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, USA Today, The Week, The Hill, the American Conservative and many other outlets across the political spectrum. Harry enjoys writing about technology issues and products from a real-world perspective. You can follow him (or yell at him) on Twitter: @Grecianformula.
Images: Courtesy Harry J. Kazianis.