How Do Robot Vacuum Cleaners Navigate

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When it comes to technology, there are a lot of questions that most people have when it comes to how it works. Take, for example, your favorite house cleaning technology, the robot vacuum. Many people wonder how this small device navigates obstacles around your home without any type of optic attachment. Questions like how does it know where it’s been? How can I tell when the job’s done?

All robot vacuums navigate their surroundings the same way, although they may not do it in the same pattern as many people will notice. There are some models that meander through the room and others that have a very orderly path to their process. So we’re going to try to give you an idea of how your robot vacuum navigates so that you can understand the device a little better.

Guide By Sensors

In order to make sure whatever room in your home you have it set up to clean and is cleaned effectively, the robot has to be able to move to the space while navigating obstacles like furniture and stairs. Because they don’t have an optical input like a video camera, they don’t really see the world around them so easily.

In order to overcome this issue, all robot vacuum models are equipped with various kinds of sensors that help them see these obstacles and hazards in a digital form. These sensors are connected with an internal computer that, when triggered, activates specific programs that instruct the robot and what to do.

Every model will have sensors, but each one will have different kinds and numbers. However, most models will have a basic sensor we will look at below in some capacity.

Types of Sensors

When it comes to sensors installed in your robot vacuum, there are four basic types. Here is a closer look at each of those and what they are intended to do.

Obstacle Sensors

If you think about it and look around your home, you’ll see that for a device that has no optical input, there are quite a few obstacles that could get in the way. From coffee tables to chair legs, these devices have to deal with all this and still have to clean your home.

That is why the obstacle sensor is so important. These are typically placed somewhere near the bumpers of the vacuum. They are used to steer the device around these obstructions without slowing down its work.

The bumper impacts one of these objects; the sensor triggers the program in the vacuum that tells it to turn and move until it finds a path that does not have an obstacle.

Cliff Sensors

Another obstacle that robot vacuums have to deal with is stairs. For this, the cliff sensor was included in the design of these smartest devices. After all, nobody wants their robot vacuum to take a tumble down the stairs and have to buy a new one.

These sensors are crafted to measure the distance to the floor from the bottom of the unit. When the signal bounces back, and it is too far, the robot vacuum assumes that they are near a cliff or stairs. At this point, the sensor then triggers a program that instructs the robot vacuum to change direction and head the other way.

Wall Sensors

One of the biggest obstacles is a wall. The wall sensors included in the design help them avoid colliding with the walls and make sure that they can get the edges along the wall as clean as possible. These sensors help with doorways as well.

Wheel Sensors

The last main type of sensor that comes in robot sensors is wheel sensors. These sensors are light sensors that help to ensure the measurement of wheel rotation. This way, it determines the distance it has traveled.

robot vacuum on wooden tile floor

How It Maps Your Home

With older models, their navigation was the only way that these devices could work. There are still plenty of models that utilize only sensors, but they don’t function quite as well as newer models that use mapping systems. If you invest in a newer, more high-end model, many of them are outfitted with self-navigation systems.

Of course, depending on the model, the actual mapping technology that is utilized in the robot vacuum won’t vary. But most come with one of two systems. Some will use onboard digital cameras to take pictures of everything throughout the room. Then they will take this data and create a map for the robot vacuum so it can do its job.

There are also other models that utilize LIDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging systems. This type of system uses the sensors already built into the robot vacuum to collect data and slowly build a map of the room during the first cleaning of the robot vacuum. Models that utilize mapping do tend to deliver a different level of cleanliness. This is because not only can the robot avoid obstacles, but it also develops a route that is more efficient and can save energy as well.

Tips to Using a Robot Vacuum

In order to help your robot vacuum, you may want to take a few steps to set up your home for improved performance. Here are a few tips that we suggest you utilize to do just that:

  • When you set up your dock, make sure you give it lots of room without obstructions within one to two feet the way around it.
  • Take the time to clear away any tiny hazards like screws and nails.
  • Try to make anywhere you have massive amounts of cords tidier. A group of cords and messy wires can cause quite a problem for your robot vacuum.

Final Thoughts

The truth is no robot vacuum is ever going to be able to navigate every room without some issues. But at least now you understand the process that it utilizes in order to make the map it uses. Hopefully, this answers your question on how your robot vacuum navigates your home.

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