If you own a Roomba, you’ve certainly been curious.
“Why exactly are Roombas round?”
“Can’t it be square or rectangle?”
“Is there a significance to the round shape?”
Definitely interesting questions.
And we’ve got the answers for you.
Continue reading to find out:
- A brief history of the original robot vacuum.
- 5 practical reasons why Roombas are actually round.
- Whether we’ll see non-round robot vacuums in the future.
- Who invented Roomba and what he had to say about its round shape.
- And this is just the beginning…
Why are Roombas round?
Roombas are round for practical reasons. Round robot vacuums are easier to build and program. A round robot vacuum is also less likely to get stuck in corners. In addition, the round shape helps with your Roomba’s movement. And the design looks better compared to other shapes.
5 reasons Roomba vacuums cleaners are round
#1: Round is more practical
Let’s have a bit of a history lesson about robot vacuums.
The original robot vacuum
The first robot vacuum was actually made in 1996 by Electrolux. A Swedish home appliances company.
But it failed for 2 reasons.
First, those Electrolux robot vacuums weren’t able to do a thorough cleaning. They always missed certain spots on floors.
Second, they had poor technology. Especially when it came to bumps.
They didn’t handle bumps from other objects well. They’d always break down when they run into anything.
The invention of the Roomba
Fast forward to 6 years later. In the year 2002.
When Massachusetts-based iRobot released a fully-functional robot vacuum – the Roomba.
And they chose the round shape because it was easier to program.
When the Roomba bumped into something…
It was simply programmed to spin in another direction.
If it got stuck?
It was told to keep spinning until it made its way out.
This technology didn’t even need sensors. Just a bumper that was coded to spin in another direction when bumped.
A square-shaped robot vacuum would’ve been more difficult to program.
Especially with potential corner problems.
It would also need a series of complex movements. Just to get out of corners.
Thus, a much more advanced program would allow a square robot vacuum to do that.
And technology was still pretty limited in the early 2000s.
No edge detection yet. Navigation technology was minimal.
So due to those tech limitations. And the ease and practicality of producing round robot vacuums.
Choosing the round shape was the best way to go.
And as a result?
The original Roomba became a hit. And became the first robot vacuum to gain commercial success…
Changing the way we clean our homes forever.
You may check out this short video about the history of iRobot and Roomba:
#2: The round shape helps minimize human intervention
“Roundness improves autonomy.”
Those were the exact words of Joe Jones when asked why Roombas are round.
“Wait, who exactly is Joe Jones?”
Well, he just happens to be the inventor of Roomba.
Another quick history lesson here.
iRobot, Roomba’s parent company, was founded in 1990.
Its founders were Colin Angle, Helen Greiner, and Rodney Brooks.
They were all engineers. From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The first person they hired?
Joe Jones. A roboticist. Also a graduate of MIT.
Jones worked for iRobot from 1992 to 2006. And it was in 1999 when he first started working on Roomba.
“But what did he mean by “roundness improves autonomy”?”
Autonomy means independence. A round-shaped robot vacuum is likely to be more independent.
Round robot vacuums are less likely to be stuck. Especially in corners.
Round robot vacuums can easily maneuver their way out of tight spaces. Simply by continuous spinning.
In other words, the owner doesn’t have to keep watching out. In case their Roombas get stuck. Because it’s not likely to happen.
A square robot was likely to get stuck frequently. So the owner will have to constantly pick it up and move it to another location.
Pretty much defeats the purpose of owning a robot vacuum.
#3: It’s easier to produce round-shaped Roombas
From a production perspective, round-shaped Roombas are more practical.
Especially in the early days of Roomba.
This is because the round shape required fewer parts. They were easier to produce. The software didn’t need to be as sophisticated compared to a square design.
When you want to mass-produce a product, production cost matters.
And it’s another reason why Electrolux and Dyson failed in the 90s. Their robot vacuums were too expensive for the average consumer.
The round shape helped iRobot lower the production cost of their robots. Allowing them to sell it at a decent price. That many households can afford.
#4: Round looks better
When it comes to gadgets, functionality is king.
But if we’re being honest, looks also do matter.
We don’t just want a fully-functional device. We also want it to look good.
And that’s certainly the case with round Roombas.
The round shape simply looks much better compared to a square, rectangle, or others.
A lot of people find the round design adorable.
Some even go so far as dressing up their Roomba. While others actually treat their Roombas as pets.
And if you’re into interior design, the Roomba wouldn’t look out of place in your home.
With its round shape and sleek overall design. No need to hide it.
#5: People are now used to the round-shaped Roombas
Roomba’s been around for 20 years now.
And plenty of knockoffs had emerged. Almost all of them producing the same round robot vacuums.
The only exception is Neato. With their D-shaped robot vacuums such as the D10.
By this point, people are already used to the round-shaped Roombas.
And it’s been proven to work by millions of customers.
So there’s no reason for iRobot to change the design just for the sake of it.
The only time it makes sense to tweak the design is when trying to address certain issues. Such as the D-shaped Roomba s9+, serving as iRobot’s attempt to solve corner issues.
But the round shape works perfectly fine.
And as the saying goes…
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So expect to see more round-shaped Roombas in the future.
Why is my Roomba not square?
Your Roomba isn’t square because that shape isn’t practical. That’s true especially when Roombas were first invented. It would’ve required advanced programming to prevent square vacuums from getting stuck. And the technology was simply limited back then.
In modern times, however, Roombas have grown so much in technology.
Their edge detection and navigation system have become more advanced.
Roombas are also now capable of accurately mapping homes. This is with the use of a technology called vSLAM.
iRobot is now more than capable of programming square-shaped robots to function properly. Without the worry of them getting stuck.
In fact, their robot mops like the Braava Jet M6 are actually square-shaped. And they work perfectly fine.
iRobot had also begun to venture into non-round robot vacuums. With the release of the Roomba s9 in 2019.
It’s safe to say that iRobot will continue to make mostly round robot vacuums.
Because of practicality. And because of familiarity among their consumers.
But don’t be surprised, too. If they also release more non-round robot vacuums in the future.
With all the advancements in technology today. Anything’s now possible with Roombas.
You might also want to know: 10 Easy Ways To Get Roomba To Clean The Whole House