Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 October 2020

Why Buddy the robot vacuum might be the saviour my household was waiting for

Now all I need to do is to train my dog to ride around on it, like on Instagram

I loathe housework. It is boring, thankless and never-ending. But unfortunately, as I share my house with an assortment of animals, it is also a necessity.

Over the years, I have gone through an alarming number of cleaners (most never came back), while during lockdown I just sort of ignored it, hoping the house would magically clean itself (it doesn't).

Overwhelmed at the sight of dog fur rolling across the living room like tumbleweed, I finally admitted I needed some help. Enter online shopping and the undiscovered world of robotic vacuum cleaners.

Like a floor-dwelling UFO, this amazing contraption promises to clean the floor by itself, has an impressive 100-minute battery life, two suction speeds, was marked down by almost 50 per cent, and most importantly, if Instagram is to believed, will have my dog riding around on it in no time.

Obviously, I bought one.

Even when it got itself stuck under a coffee table. It just worked the angles until it was free. I felt like clapping

Living in a tiled floor, single level house, I did my research. It led me to picking a model that vacuums only. Some can also mop, but as I am a firm believer that water and electricity should never mix, I stuck to the original design. A day later, it arrived. Unboxing was suitably exciting as a stealth black, futuristic robo frisbee emerged, baring a striking similarity to the Star Wars spaceship, the Millennium Falcon. It even comes with space age language.

To charge, it has to be docked into a station (kind of like a tiny international space station). To prevent tangles, all loose cables around the house must be tidied away (it helpfully supplied ties for exactly this) which in my case meant finally doing something about the cable that has sprawled across the living room floor for seven years. Suddenly, the Dh700 price tag seemed well worth it.

Rabbit the cat takes a swipe at the new robo-vacuum. Sarah Maisey
Rabbit the cat takes a swipe at the new robo vacuum. Sarah Maisey

According to the website, my new machine is Wi-Fi compatible, but I was more interested in seeing how it worked using just the remote control (which arrived with batteries, thank you). So I clicked the auto clean button, and watched as the UFO-shaped vacuum scuttled across the floor.

Armed with a bumper around half of its outer rim, the little machine wanders about, spinning its little brushes, until it collides with something, wherein it will retreat a fraction, and then turn either left or right to move around the obstacle. It does this as many times as needed to get around something, even when it got itself stuck under a coffee table. It just worked the angles until it was free. I felt like clapping.

Giving off a pleasant hum as it goes about its work, it is not bothersome to have about, and at the time of writing, my UFO – now nicknamed Buddy – is happily burbling about, colliding with the furniture. As it meanders around the room on its erratic path. It's like having a content, but myopic, new pet who just cheerfully crashes into things.

Twenty four hours into life with Buddy, and I have learnt three things.

  1. It works. The floor is no longer crunchy underfoot, and the tumbleweed is gone.
  2. It managed to get snarled up in the spare room curtains because I haven't hemmed the bottom properly and long threads were hanging off. So, when the instructions say "clear away loose cables", it really means it.
  3. The instructions boast that Buddy will head back to its docking station when its finished. To check this, I went out to the shops, leaving it wandering the house. Coming home two hours later, I was unable to find it, and grew concerned the cats had pushed it out of the dog-door, but no – Buddy had taken itself home and was asleep in its dock. Such a good boy.

On Buddy's first lap around the house, the cats scattered in terror, but an hour later, even the kittens were unfazed as the blinking little spaceship trundled past.

Dog (yes, the name of my dog), however, remains deeply unimpressed. Nervous and skittish at the best of times, Dog is not a natural adventurer, and will never be that pup in a hammock on a mountaintop. Attempts to get him into a kayak have been traumatic for both of us, and his favourite place is chest deep in water, just being left alone.

Since Buddy's arrival, Dog has been hiding in the garden, but I am convinced that Buddy will instil him with newfound courage. I have no doubt that in just a few days, Dog and Buddy will be the best of friends and embark on great cleaning adventures together.

Any day now, Dog will drift past, riding shotgun on Buddy's back, ready to take his place with other canine companions on Instagram. Now where did I put my camera?

Updated: June 16, 2020 10:08 AM

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