You feel it in your gut when a new product does something truly fantastic.
For the past week or so, I've been testing the new Dyson 360 Eye Robotic Vacuum that comes out in the U.S. on August 1. There was one moment when a family member picked it up and brought it over to me, laughing about how much dirt and cat hair it had managed to vacuum up from the carpet on the upper level in my home. The curious part? It had only been "working" for about a half an hour.
Robotic vacuums are not a new invention. What is new about the 360 Eye is how it does the job. When I first started testing it, I thought I'd have to tell it where to vacuum or set up sensors that block doorways and a staircase. The most important detail to know about this product is that it cleans without a lot of human intervention.
There's an "eye" on top that scans the room and uses some rather complicated math to figure out where it's been and where it needs to go, almost like a personal GPS system. If it senses a drop at the edge of a hallway, it will stop and won't fall down the stairs. If it senses a lip in a floor divider, it can lift itself over the impediment--or decide not to bother; both of those scenarios happened during my test.
With Roomba products and other robovacs, you normally have to create a "virtual wall" using small plastic cones that send a signal to block off a room. Or, you have to lay down strips that block access (and look ridiculous). I've tested all of these bots in the past many times, and the one thing that's always annoying is how much you need to babysit them. You decide you want the bot to clean one room, so you move the virtual wall to block off part of a room. Or, you watch as it tries to maneuver into an area where you have too many gadget cables and other obstructions.
With the 360 Eye, I decided to let it roam freely to see what happens. You do have to prep the room thoroughly. I placed cables behind a barrier, made sure clothes were kept into a hamper, and relocated our border collie safely down on a lower level with a food dish. Like another robotic appliance I tested recently that mows your yard, I knew the 360 Eye worked when I forget it was even working.
Part of the reason is that you can automate the cleaning. On my phone, I set up a schedule for the vacuum to do its duty every morning at 8AM. It left its charging platform in the hallway, cleaned the upper level, and went to back for a recharge. Simple enough. Then, I noticed how much dirt it had picked up. The Dyson uses something called Radial Root Cyclone technology to suck up dirt and grime at 78,000 RPMs. The bin holds .66-pounds of debris or about as much as two fists. (It's a relatively small compartment, so I had to empty it once per day.)
The vacuum uses tracks that look like a small tank and power it over any carpet. In one room, it lifted itself easily over a pad and onto bare floor, then kept on going. (Unlike a few other robovacs, the 360 Eye can clean hardwood floors and doesn't leave any marks or streaks). The bot weighs 5.3 pounds so it was easy to lift and relocate to another room. I'm hoping for a stairbot some day, though.
The Dyson Link app on my iPhone, which I used to set the cleaning schedule, is pretty basic. You can manually set the vacuum to do its thing. I did enjoy seeing the route it took around each room, although it would have been even cooler if it showed me a video. One minor gripe is that it tends to be a little loud. And, if you have a massive house, you'll need a couple of them. The charge also lasts only 45 minutes.
At $1,000, this is not a cheap appliance for the home. I was impressed by how much dirt it could pull up from my carpets, even after I (thought) I had vacuumed already by hand. After several days, I started to realize how the 360 Eye isn't just a good product that works, it's one of the most innovative and useful products I've ever tested. That's because I forgot I was even testing it. My carpets are clean; the dog is safe.