While we have a healthy fascination with robots, we’re also a little bit scared of them. After all, the T-1000 did a grand job of imitating household objects, and an autonomous robot vacuum sounds like it could be a potentially savage killer.
But if any robot can overcome our fears it’s Samsung’s Navibot. It’s an ‘intelligent machine’ with no motive other than helping you towards your life-goal of eliminating domestic chores. Frankly, we’d kiss it if it didn’t spend its whole time trundling around sucking up dust, muck and dead spiders.
In typical Samsung style, the Navibot looks remarkably cute despite being made for one of the domestic world’s least glamorous jobs.
Its roughly circular shape, high-gloss finish and rugged-looking edge ‘bumpers’ really are quite endearing. The higher-end model of the two Navibot variations even has touch-sensitive controls.
The techy bit
The Navibot isn’t the first robot vacuum cleaner – models like the iRobot Roomba have been around for years. But it is the cleverest we’ve seen, thanks in particular to its ‘visionary mapping’ functionality.
This uses a camera mounted on the Navibot’s top to take 30fps pictures of your ceilings so it can ‘learn’ the layout of your rooms and calculate the most efficient ‘travel route’. This also stops it from covering the same area more than once.
The Navibot can additionally be prevented from going into areas you don’t want it to by ‘virtual guards’ that throw an invisible line across the room that the Navibot won’t cross. You get two of these guards with the £450 Navibot, and one with the £400 version.
Another brilliant little touch finds the Navibot able to recognise when it’s running out of battery, and hot-foot it back to its powered docking station where it parks itself until fully charged again – all without you having to lift a finger. Genius.
Yet more good news finds its retractable wheels able to handle rough tiled finishes and even a step up onto a rug or carpet, provided the step isn’t more than 2cm high.
We were impressed, too, by the number of different modes the vacuum carries, including a spot clean mode that focuses on a particularly messy section of the floor, an edge-cleaning mode, a basic timer on the entry-level model, and even a weekly clean-up scheduler on the step-up model, so you can, say, set it to clean at a particular time every day.
Finally, the Navibot has special sensors to top it getting tangled up in cords or draped material, and sports a HEPA filter to handle allergens.
The Navibot’s mapping system makes it easily the most efficient and effective robot vacuum to date. It didn’t miss an inch of the main part of our floors as it ‘drew’ its diagonal lines across our rooms, and with hard floors it did a good job of picking up dust, crumbs and even quite large bits of pasta we helpfully through in its path.
It worked reasonably quickly, too, given how accurate its path was, and moved between rooms with almost eerie intent.
That said, it’s not quite a Dyson replacement. While it’s effective at picking up mess on a hard floor, it struggles to pick small bits of detritus out of thick carpets.
Also, we found we had to scoot round the edges of our room every week or so with a normal vacuum, as even if you use the edge clean option, it doesn’t get right up to the wall.
The vacuum also refused to go under our dining table and chairs at all, and its dust box capacity is, inevitably, extremely limited compared to our trusty old Henry model.
Finally, while the Navibot’s auto-docking feature is really clever, it will only work if the docking station is positioned well away from any walls or obstructions, making it impossible to tuck it away into a corner as tidily as we wanted to.