How Do Robot Vacuums Work?

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Today’s robotic vacuums have come a long way from the first models. Now we find these robotic cleaners that move around our house automatically brushing and vacuuming the carpets, rugs, and floor. But, have you ever wondered- How do robot vacuums work? As one of the most innovative computerized cleaner, robot vacuums work via sensors that serve as its eyes and ears as they overcome obstacles and hazards in collecting dust and dirt off your floor.


Robot vacuums work in an orderly manner and require free movement to keep it running. Even with embedded cameras, these robotic cleaners make use of sensors which work together with an advanced programming system that allows not just detection of obstacles but also a measurement of areas covered and in creating a clear path in new areas.

From obstacle sensors to cliff sensors, wall sensors, and wheel sensors, these sensor navigation system is designed to stimulate programmed behaviors to ensure efficiency and safety of the device. Robotic vacuums use a self-navigation system and mapping technology in 2 ways:

  • Onboard digital camera
  • LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging)

A digital camera can be embedded into the robotic vacuum to snap pictures of furniture, walls, doorways, and other notable landmarks in a room. Other vacuums utilize laser-range finder called LIDAR to accurately calculate distance from objects smack right in its path. Whichever navigation system is being used, a robotic vacuum works by collecting data from these sensors and create a safe and efficient map via its mapping technology.

Can Robot Vacuum do stairs?


Quick answer – No. Robotic vacuums can only work on flat even surfaces and even have sensors to detect its proximity to stairwells in the same way as corners. For years, however, scientists continually do research and development on creating robotic cleaners that can vacuum stairs without the aid of human intervention. In 2018, a robotic vacuum cleaner – Tenzing – was introduced by Jacob’s Institute but is yet to reach the domestic consumer market.

Can Robot Vacuum clean multiple floors?

Yes, but one at a time and with the assistance of human hands. It still cannot deal with stairs hence, it cannot climb or go down from one floor to the next. Vacuum robots can work with different floor types though– wood, carpeted, tile, vinyl, and so on. Some brands can even differentiate different floor types and map out virtual no-go lines. In some cases, these robotic vacuums can be managed via a mobile app.

Can Robot Vacuum work in the dark?

It all depends on the brand you choose. Some robotic vacuums can do well in complete darkness. Others may require some light so the embedded camera can distinguish its surroundings and navigate seamlessly. Some non-camera brands may also have issues with too much natural light as it can twerk sensors. When it comes to dark floors, many new models are designed to work with dark floors. These types usually map out its cleaning area via wall sensors.

Can Robot Vacuums go from Hardwood to Carpet?

Yes. Most robotic vacuums today can easily shift from carpet to hardwood and vice-versa. And it’s not just hardwood or carpet. It can also shift from hardwood to tile to linoleum to carpet. Some new models are versatile enough to easily handle such rapid surface changes. Be wary of working around rugs though as some models can easily eat up tassels.

Can Robot Vacuum Clean Corners?

Yes. New models use a combination of wall following and random bounce navigation system to help attain this task. Wall following allows navigation via wall sensors utilizing the side-mounted brush that flails and cleans through corners. A random bounce usually cleans then, move when an obstacle is detected. This will then, randomly move to pursue corners. Some brands are also designed with a unique triangular shape. This is designed to specifically reach corners.


Year after year, a new design will be coming to the market with new navigation and sensor technology. One thing remains the same though– it aims to lighten the load in maintaining dirt- and dust-free homes.

1 thought on “How Do Robot Vacuums Work?”

  1. Pingback: Best Robotic Vacuums To Deal With Pet Hair | Robots Den

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