I would love to have a Scooba, iRobot's floor-washing robot, to keep my kitchen and bathroom shining. But for my New York City-sized dwelling (read: tiny cramped apartment), the rotund robot is an overkill -- it could probably clean the entire bathroom floor just by spinning in place.
It appears that iRobot heard the same complaint from many people and decided to shrink the Scooba. The new Scooba 230, unveiled at CES, is about the same height but only half the diameter of the original Scooba 300 series [see photo above]. At 16 centimeters in diameter (6.5 inches) and 9 centimeters tall (3.5 inches), the new Scooba can get into small areas such as that dreaded space around the toilet.
Like the original models, the shrunken Scooba uses a three-stage cleaning approach: first, it deposits water or a cleaning solution on the floor; then it uses scrubbing brushes to lose dirt and grime; finally, a squeegee vacuum removes the dirty water. The Scooba 230 is designed to clean up to 14 square meters (150 square feet) of tile, linoleum, or sealed hardwood floors in a single session, while the larger Scooba units can clean from 23 to 80 square meters (250 to 850 square feet), depending on the model. Watch the video below to see how the Scooba 230 works:
And how did iRobot engineers manage to shrink the robot and still allow it to clean a sizable area?
The trick is the robot uses the same internal volume to store both clean and dirty water. The two are separated by a flexible membrane and never get mixed; as the clean water goes out, the membrane makes more room for the dirty water coming in from the squeegee vacuum [see illustration].
In terms of navigation software, the Scooba uses the same approach as the Roomba to make sure it covers an entire area, following walls, going around obstacles, and driving over the same spot multiple times -- and sensors below the front bumper prevent it from falling down stairs and other drop-offs.
The new Scooba 230 will be available this spring in the United States and will cost $300. We plan to post an in-depth review soon.
Erico Guizzo is the Director of Digital Innovation at IEEE Spectrum, and cofounder of the IEEE Robots Guide, an award-winning interactive site about robotics. He oversees the operation, integration, and new feature development for all digital properties and platforms, including the Spectrum website, newsletters, CMS, editorial workflow systems, and analytics and AI tools. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.