What is it?
The Vileda Robot VR 101 is a robot vacuum cleaner especially designed for hard floors and short carpets (up to 1cm). Essentially it's a floor-sweeper/ vacuum cleaner for people who don't want to floor-sweep or vacuum!
What does it look like?
It's a red box about the size of a biscuit tin that scoots around the floor like a miniature baddie from Doctor Who.
So, how does it work?
This nifty little robo-vac is incredibly easy to use - all you have to do is charge it (it takes about 5 hours to fully charge) and then choose one of two options... the 20 minute cleaning mode (recommended for a small room) or the 60 minute clean (for larger rooms).
Place it in the centre of the room you want to clean and let it rip.
The clever robo-vac begins by moving a circular motion, sucking up dust and dirt in an ever increasingly bigger circle until it hits something. At this point it relies on its front bumper to determine what to do next - attempt to go around the object, or accept it is an unmovable obstacle (like a wall) and then turn back on itself and enter its "meandering" mode meaning it attempt to go in a straight line from wall to wall.
Is it any good?
Yeah, it is. By robo-vac standards this is a budget model (costing not much more than £100) and therefore has to be judged in this way.
If you're looking for a robot to replace all of your vacuuming duties, you will be disappointed. It can't climb stairs (or climb on and off thick rugs or heavy carpets).
However, if you want a nifty and easy to use device that will remove all the debris from your kitchen floor while you are in another room or the bedrooms whilst you are watching TV downstairs, this thing really does work.
It's fairly quiet, and has a relatively powerful vacuum that collects debris of a good size. It only has a small dust collection area, but it's easy to empty. It also has a fairly effective "cliff" function that recognises steep drops and prevents the machine from throwing itself down the stairs.
It's hard to work out how it does it, but certainly on the 60 minute mode robo-vac manages to find almost every part of the floor in the room, even when there are obstacles and strange shapes to the room. It also seldom gets stuck and persistently nudges left and right and reverses until it gets out of trouble between chair legs and the like. It's actually quite entertaining to watch, although I don't believe that is intended as a selling point.
Is there anything to look out for?
As previously discussed, this vacuum has its limitations.
The more complicated the room layout and the more obstacles there are, the harder it finds it to clean properly, and it struggles to mount rugs of any depth.
Although the vacuum is well designed to sweep and suck in debris around the edges, just like a traditional human operated vacuum cleaner, it struggles to get to very corners of the room.
It also appears the "cliff" function is less effective on black or very dark floors, so it's worth shutting robo-vac in the room if you want him to finish the job without a fall.
An ingenious entry level model for those looking to enter the automated cleaning market.
It does a great job for the price and is a real help in places that regularly attract dirt and mess like kitchen floors, hallways, utility rooms and playrooms.
It won't remove the need for vacuuming completely - but it will certainly save effort and human time.