I’ve never trusted robots to do my chores. As the platitude goes, if you want something done right, it’s best to do it yourself. No smart dishwasher is going to beat a good hand scrub, and I don’t need an AI washing machine that tells me bedtime stories. But even I must admit: they’re getting good, really good.
CES 2024 was packed with autonomous appliances. There’s the usual candidates: smart TVs, washing machines, thermostats and such, but more and more “dumb” tools are getting smarter, too. Just a decade ago years ago, Roombas were still a novelty, but there were so many robot vacuums this year that you’d think they’re in every home.
As technology becomes increasingly entrenched in our daily lives (for better or for worse), the integration of intelligent appliances is reshaping the way we live. I believe we’ve reached the inflection point where smart appliances have become more than novelties. Driven by “smarts” powered by increasingly sophisticated AI, they really are alleviating some of the menial labor that we loathe doing.
Returning to the Roomba example, these little robots have improved to the point where they can vacuum, mop and then dump their messes back into their base stations completely autonomously. And since we’re glued to our phones anyway, they let us control their behaviors through a few touches through the screen. Their functions are improving, too. One company called Dreame showed off its robot vacuum that had an “anti-tangle roller brush” that cuts the hairs wrapped around its rollers. I’d imagine this is a blessing for those with longer hair or pets. Dreame called this robot the X30 Ultra, and touted that it can even connect to your house’s plumbing to siphon up fresh water, and clean both the mop pads and charging station on their own. Hands free, baby.
And that’s not even the smart part, Dreame demoed that if it can’t raise its mop pads high enough to prevent wetting carpets, the X30 Ultra will return to its base station, drop them off and then return to vacuuming. Seeing this little thing scurrying back and forth like a corgi playing catch was simply fascinating. Moreover, almost all high-end robot vacuums today feature room mapping and object avoidance. No need to worry about tripping on one when you’re moving heavy boxes.
These connected devices are cool, the security and privacy concerns associated with smart appliances cannot be ignored. The data we share, the communications within the internal and external networks are too nuanced to understand for an average user. In an era where data breaches pop up like dandelions in spring, it does make me wonder if having an army of robots in my home reduces my digital security and privacy.
Despite their increased prevalence, these things don’t come cheap. The X30 Ultra costs a whopping $1,700 each, and that doesn’t even include the hair cutting roller brush. Budget options do exist, like the Eufy RoboVac 11s recommended by PCMag, but you’d be giving up the awesome, time-saving features of the higher end offerings. It all comes down to how deeply your dread for cleaning your floors can dig into your wallet.
For me, I’m still sticking to my manual mops and vacuums–housework can even be therapeutic in moderation. But I do feel like that if I do decide to pick up a robot vacuum, I’d never be able to go back.