Discovering the World of Robots

Publish Date
Thu, 21 Oct 2021, 2:25PM

Discovering the World of Robots

Publish Date
Thu, 21 Oct 2021, 2:25PM

I have reviewed a lot of gadgets over the years. Phones. Smartwatches. TVs. Laptops. Even cars. And the earbuds! So many earbuds.

Yet through it all, the Domestic Manager has remained stoically, skeptically and yes, perhaps even stubbornly unimpressed.

In fact, sometimes it's almost as if my tech obsession is kind of... annoying.

Anyone would think taking the entire household's internet connection offline for hours at a time, just so I can try out the latest Wi-Fi router is some kind of inconvenience.

It's not like I do that every day. Probably not much more than twice a month.

And does she not realise how amazing smart speakers are? I suppose it can be a bit confusing when I keep swapping between Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri... but she'll figure it out after a bit of trial and error, right?

As for the excitement of flashing lights as devices reboot themselves in the middle of the night, not to mention forgotten alarms set to go off after I leave the house at 3:25AM... could I be any more loveable???

Then the other day, finally, something arrived at the door that to my surprise, made her exclaim, "That is never going back!..."

What was this magical device? The one electronic toy that finally won my long-suffering Domestic Manager's heart? It was the Roborock S7.

Yes, a robot has literally moved in and taken over my job. And I couldn't be happier.

To be clear, I don't think Domestic Manager was overly impressed when I first took it out of the box. "Where's that supposed to go?" she complained, with some justification. The S7 is certainly a lot larger than I remember robot vacuums being and the docking station comes with a surprisingly short power cable, limiting where you can set it up. 

I was also sent the Self-Empty Dock which is sold as a separate accessory - this replaces the default docking station but is obviously bigger again. The point being, you'll need a decent chunk of floor/wall space for this little robot to call home. At least you get a longer cord with the Self-Empty Dock.

Not that the S7 unattractive for what it is - let's be honest, most devices of this ilk look fairly similar; effectively a low hatbox on wheels. The Self-Empty Dock is actually pretty compact and subtle, considering what it does - but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Friday is vacuuming and mopping day for me. The glennzb house is a fairly large, two-storey, four-bedroom home with quite a lot of hardwood flooring. I hate vacuuming and mopping but because I'm home by late morning most Fridays, it just makes sense I'm the one to get the house looking reasonable for the weekend.

This has recently become more challenging due to Auckland's extended lockdown - there seem to be a lot of people around working and studying from home. Not only do I not like to disturb them with loud vacuuming noises while they're online, I'd also prefer they didn't wander across my freshly mopped floors while they're still wet.

Even more challenging, the puppy. According to statistics just out, like more than 6,000 other Aucklanders, we've just bought a dog. Cue general chaos. Cue specific mess.

Good luck, S7.

Turns out, it's totally up to it.

You take the S7 out of the box, charge it up (this actually takes a few hours each time, so don't get too excited) and download the Roborock app to create yourself the obligatory profile - or just add the S7 to your household if you're an existing Roborock user.

At that point, technically, you can start cleaning. Simple, right? Seriously - just push the central Power/Clean button on the top of the device and it will set off, vacuuming, mopping and mapping your home. Of course, there are lots of settings you can play with in the app before, during and after that. My point is, you don't have to. That's how smart the S7 is.

As a hybrid machine, the S7 both vacuums and mops (just like me). What sets it apart from many other similar devices is it can do both at the same. I was dumbfounded by how easy-to-use and well designed the mopping part of that process is. The water tank clicks out and is easy enough to fill (with ordinary, clean water). Then there's the removeable Mop Mount - this also simply clicks in and out - so you can slide on the VibraRise Mop Cloth which then valcroes firmly into place.

Obviously the S7 will only mop with the cloth attached and its other big selling point is it will raise the mop out of the way when it detects carpet, so nothing ends up wet that shouldn't be. This is super clever - up to a point - that point being 5mm off the gound. If you're dealing with a deeper pile carpet or a shaggy rug, best to set the S7 to Avoid mode - so it won't do those areas at all if the Mop Cloth is attached.

The S7 maps your home as it cleans - you can then edit that map as you desire, manually dividing it into rooms or letting the app do it for you automatically. You can also specify particular zones that require more or less attention and place "Invisible Walls" on the map so the S7 won't go where you don't want it to - like down the stairs or into the Lego room. (Sadly, not even this robot can do stairs yet. Also sadly, I don't have a Lego room. Sounds fun though.)

This all works very well for the most part - although I have quite a few floor-level windows in my house and this seems the confuse the mapping abilities of the Roborock somewhat. It doesn't seem to spend too much time trying to drive itself through the windows but you do end up with some weird shapes outside because the S7 has scanned through the glass.

The other fun thing that happens with your app maps is you can see exactly where the S7 is and where it's been - it leaves a path on the screen. This means if you've scheduled cleaning to happen while you're out, you can log in and check to see everything is going according to plan.

For me, the only time it didn't was when I let the Roborock loose on my rug. Because the puppy spends a lot of time on the rug, it ends up covered in bits of bark, grass, tennis ball fluff and a bunch of other unidentifiable detritus. Interestingly, the S7 actually does a great job of the rug most of the time, partly due to the fact it automatically increases its suction power when it detects the change from hard floors to carpet. The trouble seems to hit when it bumps up against the furniture and has to quickly change direction. As you can see in this image, it's trying to deal with the rug, the armchair and a pretty steep angle caused by the disparity in floor heights. 

The result? The five-armed side brush gets tangled up in the long pile of the rug and the whole thing eventually jams. That side brush is an important part of the cleaning process as it flicks any dirt or debris from the corners where wall meets floor into the path of the S7's main brush. Unfortunately, it does not get on well with the edges of my rug and as a result, one of its five arms is now significantly shorter. Just as well you can buy a replacement.

In fact, long-term maintenance is my only real concern in using the S7 as my primary cleaning device. Both the instruction manual and the app have a disturbingly detailed maintenance schedule laid out for most of the external components - ranging from regular cleans to the eventual replacement of parts - not something I generally consider with a more conventional vacuum.

Damn, it's convenient though. Especially in conjunction with the Self-Empty Dock - talk about no fuss, no muss. The dock even gives you the option of a bagless or bagged storage bin. I prefer not having to shell out for replacement bags but if you're an allergy sufferer, the sealed bag system will definitely keep things more dust-free.

But what matters most? The S7 definitely does an excellent job of both vacuuming and mopping. In fact, the mopping is quiet, fast and uses water sparingly so the floors are very quick to dry with no streaks. In fact, it was just after my very first Roborock mopping session when the Domestic Manager arrived home, took one look at the results and decided she could find space for it in the living room after all. It was at this moment she said, "That is never going back!" I guess I'd better start saving up. At $1099.00 from PB Tech, it's a significant investment - but still actually cheaper than many other premium, more conventional vacuums.

The results speak for themselves. I think it's worth it. After all, it is Domestic Manager approved.


Click here for more information and pricing on the Roborock S7 smart robot vacuum cleaner.

Click here for more information and pricing on the Roborock S7 Self-Empty dock.