How does a Robot Vacuum Cleaner Navigate Your Home?

In today’s modern world, we rarely have to think too hard about how to clean floors. Thanks to all the hi-tech gadgets and tools designed to make our lives easier, there’s really very little effort involved—especially when it comes to vacuuming. But, let’s be honest: there’s just something exciting about a robot vacuum, or a robovac, that works its magic all on its own, without any input from you.

But How? Actually, the self-navigation system of a robotic vacuum cleaner makes it robotic. 

Have you ever wondered how does a robot vacuum cleaner navigate your home? Let’s find out;

How Does a Robotic Vacuum Work and Navigate Your Home?

While cleaning a room, the robot needs to navigate the space, so it can operate easily without hitting any obstacles, just like us. We do this by using our senses and sight, and even move out of the way if we find any obstacle around. The robot vacuum works the same way.

They have laser sensors and built-in motherboards that map your home (assess the shape and size of the room) in a logical pattern and store your floor plans for the most efficient cleaning. 

There are different types of onboard sensors for different inputs. These onboard sensors allow the robotic vacuums to maneuver through optimal cleaning paths and navigate efficiently to areas they have yet to cover. As a result of real-time input from the sensors, the robot makes autonomous, on-the-spot decisions based on pre-programmed actions.

These sensors also prevent the vacuum from bumping into objects and avoid hazards. 

Different Types of Sensors Used by Robotic Vacuum to Detect Obstacles and Other Hazards

How Does a Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Navigate

1. Wall Sensors

The robotic vacuums are featured with Infrared Sensors that allow them to detect the wall to avoid the collision. Thus, they can easily clean along the edges and skirting of the wall without bumping or scuffing. Even in the models featuring mapping technology, the wall sensors enable them to navigate around doorways and discover new areas to clean.

2. Obstacle Sensors

There is no doubt that objects in a room, including loose furniture, sofa legs, tables, chairs, and scattered toys around the room, create an obstruction while the robotic vacuum is in operation. This is for what robot vacuums have sensors placed on the shock-absorbing bumpers of the robot. So, if in case the robot bumps into an object, the sensors trigger up and allow the robovac to change its direction until it finds a clear way. 

3. Cliff Sensors

Stairways and changes in floor level are another biggest obstructions for robotic vacuums. Therefore, cliff sensors on a robot vacuum act as a safety mechanism for them and protect them from damage. These sensors warn the vacuum when they reach a drop like the edge of stairs. 

In order to enable them to work on the same plain, the cliff sensors send out the signals to measure the distance between the vacuum cleaner and the floor. If the signals bounce back immediately, the robovac recognizes that it is working on the same plane. But if the signal takes time to return, the robot knows that there is a cliff, and thereby it follows a pre-programmed algorithm to change its path. 

4. Wheel Sensors

Robots need to calculate the total distance they’ve covered in the room, essentially so they can ensure they’ve thoroughly cleaned the room’s surfaces without missing any spots. That’s why they are equipped with light sensors on the wheels of the robot. 

It allows the robovac to measure its wheel rotation. This figure, when calculated with the wheel circumference, gives the measurement of how far it has travelled. 

What is Mapping Technology in a Robot Vacuum?

The high-end robotic vacuums are featured with self-navigation systems that use mapping technology. The mapping technology allows the robot to learn the layout of your house and form a digital map, so it can clean the designated areas with ease. 

In fact, the mapping technology makes navigation around your house more efficient. By creating the map, the robot can create the most effective cleaning path, so it doesn’t miss any spot while cleaning. With the interactive mapping system, the robot can determine which spots have already been cleaned and which ones need to be cleaned. It also assists the robot to not run over the same area repeatedly. 

Another most significant benefit of the mapping system is that if the vacuum’s battery runs low in the middle of the job, it can return to its dock to recharge and then resume where it left off. 

However, the robotic vacuum can also be controlled with an app on your smartphone. Alternatively, you can assign virtual walls to your home and let the robot vacuum clean only inside the designated area.

Different models come with different mapping techniques to learn and map the terrain. Let’s know about that:-

Different Types of Mapping Systems

1. Camera-Based Mapping

With this technique, the robot uses onboard cameras to take shots of the entire room and then marks the location of the furniture, ceilings, walls as well the overall layout of the room. This mapping allows the robot to recognize areas so it can clean efficiently. But the biggest drawback of the camera-based mapping technique is that it doesn’t work in dark conditions.

2. LiDAR Based Mapping

LiDAR refers to Light Detection and Ranging.  The robovac uses this type of mapping to measure the distance between itself and the objects in their paths, including walls, and then creates an accurate map of the environment. It allows the robot to clean the room systematically in straight lines instead of random movement. 

The best part is that LiDAR-based mapping offers the most precise navigation than other mapping technologies.

3. Gyroscope/Accelerometer Based Mapping

This type of mapping is generally used in cheaper robot vacuums. They use gyroscope or accelerometer sensors to measure the distance and direction of objects around your house.

The biggest drawback with these robotic vacuums is that they don’t create an accurate map, and their navigation is also not as good as the camera or lidar-based techniques. 

Read Next: How to Stop a Robot Vacuum From Getting Stuck?

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