I am a very busy man with a couple of jobs, three daughters, a house, and a wife, all of which occupy my time. Thus, if I can find ways to have today’s modern electronics take care of tasks and lift the chore load, then I am going to pass off what I can.
See it now: Roborock S5 robot vacuum on Amazon
One area that I’ve given over to robots is vacuuming the lower level of my house, which is primarily composed of hardware floors and a couple of area rugs. Various models have been tested over the past couple of years, so I have some practical experiences with these devices. Most people have heard of Roomba, Samsung, and Neato in this space, but there are some other options out there that are worth consideration.
Also: Beyond vacuums: Home robotics
A couple of months ago the Roborock S5 arrived, and it has been cleaning my lower level floors since then. This has included through a couple of business trips, vacations, and weeks of activity with two dogs, a cat, and a family of five moving around throughout the house.
Hardware and box contents
The Roborock S5 arrived in a plain cardboard box with some identifying words in black. It was actually shipped from Amazon since that is the retail partner for Roborock and Xiaomi. You may recall that the Mi Electric Scooter I tested in April was also from Xiaomi and sold through Amazon.
The Roborock brand is not prevalent in this space or in the US, but it seems to be gaining traction with highly rated reviews on Amazon and a selection as Amazon’s Choice. After using it for a couple of months, it is definitely one of my favorite robot vacuums due to its capability, reliability, functionality with smartphones, and effectiveness at cleaning up the house.
There is a power button on the top center with two other buttons on either side. The left button is for spot cleaning, and the right button is to send your vacuum home to the charger. I only used these occasionally, as I relied on the smartphone integration and apps for most functionality.
The top houses the LDS (laser distance sensor) in a central round area that rises above the top of the vacuum about half an inch. Behind this is the lid to access the dust bin and other internal parts of the vacuum. A wall sensor sticks out from the front half of the vacuum with a rotating side brush over on the right side peeking out from under the vacuum. The speaker and an air vent are found around the back.
Lifting up the lid reveals the Wi-Fi indicator light, system reset button, main brush cleaning tool, and the dust bin with a removable filter for fine dust.
Also: Hands-on with the iLife A7 robot cleaner: A must-have for automated office and home cleaning
On the bottom, we have two large main wheels with silicone tire treads that are sure not to scuff up your hardwood or tile floors. There is a main brush, the side brush, an omnidirectional wheel, and two charging contacts.
The Roborock S5 also supports wet mopping with a slim water tank, mopping cloth, and moistureproof mat. One of the primary problems I have had with robot vacuums is having them return every time to the charging station and recharge on their own. The moistureproof mat connects to the dock charger so that the vacuum properly aligns with the charging contacts every single time and the only time the vacuum has died on me was when it ended up in a stuck position under a chair or behind some other obstacle.
The dust bin, 480ml capacity, has proven to hold one to two vacuum sessions for the approximate 700 square feet of coverage on my wood floors with a few raised area rugs. My floors look pretty clean, but it is stunning to everyone how much dog hair and other things are picked up by this vacuum on a regular basis. There is a washable E11-grade strainer/filter in the dust bin that is rated to provide 95 percent filter performance after a year of normal use.
Our acacia hardwood floors are beautiful and well taken care of. My wife was concerned about the vacuum creating marks on the floors, but the soft silicone wheels turn and navigate around the floors with no trace of their passing. The bumper also quickly detects obstacles so has not dented or marked up our walls, table legs, or chair legs in any way.
The retail package also includes a main brush cleaning tool with a hook end that slices through hair stuck on the brush bar. With my long-haired dog and women in the house, hair is a constant battle for the vacuum.
Software and services
You can control the vacuum using your iOS or Android device by downloading and installing the Mi Home app. This is the same app used to manage the electric scooter that I tested earlier this year, along with other products from Xiaomi.
Simply walk through the setup of the Mi Home app to connect your phone or tablet to the Roborock S5. The great thing about this Mi Home app is that you can install it on multiple devices, which can all control the Roborock S5 with the same login. Unlike some other robot vacuums I have tested, the Roborock S5 map translates over to all connected devices. This was a major frustration with other vacuums that constantly wanted to recreate my floor map.
The Mi Home application launches with the floor plan (after it creates it the first time), history of last cleaning event, and quick controls below the map. These controls currently include Go, Dock, Clean, and Zoned Cleanup. The Go option lets you designate spot cleanup and manual control over where you want the vacuum to operate. The Dock option sends the vacuum back to its charging station. The Clean option initiates a full cleaning operation.
Also: Startup Kindred brings sliver of hope for AI in robotics
Zoned cleanup lets you designate one or more square zones for targeted vacuuming. This takes some time if you want to vacuum most everywhere except for one or two spots, so I am hopeful that a future software update will take the opposite approach and let you designate exclusionary zones.
I would also like to see virtual barriers supported, so I could draw lines across some areas that really do not need cleaning as often as other areas.
The smartphone software provides the ability to control the vacuum volume, carpet mode, level of suction (higher levels are louder), setup a cleaning schedule, update the firmware, monitor the status of accessories, and much more. It is a full-featured software application that is easy to use.
Price and competition
The Roborock S5 has a MSRP of $579.99, but the white model can be found on Amazon for $463.99.
Competition includes the array of Neato Botvac Connected vacuums ranging in price from $500 to $700, the iRobot Roomba vacuums priced $400 to $550, and the Samsung POWERbot line from $400 to $900. All these have different capabilities, so there is a lot to check out when comparing these vacuums to the features included in the Roborock S5.
Also: Best Robot Vacuum Cleaners for 2018 CNET
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
The Roborock S5 has proven to be a very reliable vacuum with a floor map that is captured and then maintained across devices. It is very powerful and does an excellent job of sweeping and mopping while having battery power to easily vacuum my entire main floor of the house. The Z-shape cleaning pattern has excellent coverage to make sure everything is cleaned. The 5200mAh battery is advertised to last 150 minutes and that is just about what I have been seeing over the last couple of months.
See it now: Roborock S5 robot vacuum on Amazon
I appreciated using the floor wet mopping feature, as the system adds just enough to wet and clean the floor without soaking it or leaking water everywhere. It seems to be an effective system and has helped keep our floors clean, although it is obviously not as powerful as cleaning your floor on your hands and knees.
Also: Photos: Robot vacuums and rolling laptops TechRepublic
It rarely gets stuck, unless someone in the house changes the arrangement during vacuuming. One time, the vacuum had some issues going back and forth attempting to vacuum over a thick carpet, but that only occurred once in the two months of use.
Another area for improvement in the software is to include voice assistant support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and others.
Overall, the Roborock S5 Robot Vacuum Cleaner has proven to be a great performer at a price that is reasonable given its power, efficiency, and utility.
Previous and related coverage:
Automation: How iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner became part of the family
CEO Colin Angle talks about Roomba’s path from research thesis to vacuuming your house, and why nearly everyone names their robot.
iLife V8s robot vacuum hands on: A great 2-in-1 cleaner for the office
I wanted to see if the iLife V8s could handle the day to day cleaning of a small to medium office. Here’s what I found.
Ecovacs Deebot R95 review: Amazon Alexa and smartphone control bring us closer to the Jetsons’ lifestyle
The Ecovacs Deebot R95 is the most affordable high end robotic vacuum that gives you full control over your cleaning experience while also making sure the job is done well.
Neato announces Botvac D7 Connected: Robot vacuum controlled by your smartphone, Google Home, or Amazon Echo
As a busy person working two jobs, finding the time to vacuum can be a challenge. Robot vacuums used to be a Jetsons fantasy, but products like the Neato Botvac D7 Connected are capable, functional, and make chores enjoyable.
DIY vacuum actuators make robots that squirm and squish
Video demonstrates the flexibility of robots that run on air
Facebook is testing pop-up messages telling people to read a link before they share it – TechCrunch
Years after popping open a pandora’s box of bad behavior, social media companies are trying to figure out subtle ways to reshape how people use their platforms.
Following Twitter’s lead, Facebook is trying out a new feature designed to encourage users to read a link before sharing it. The test will reach 6 percent of Facebook’s Android users globally in a gradual rollout that aims to encourage “informed sharing” of news stories on the platform.
Users can still easily click through to share a given story, but the idea is that by adding friction to the experience, people might rethink their original impulses to share the kind of inflammatory content that currently dominates on the platform.
Twitter introduced prompts urging users to read a link before retweeting it last June and the company quickly found the test feature to be successful, expanding it to more users.
Facebook began trying out more prompts like this last year. Last June, the company rolled out pop-up messages to warn users before they share any content that’s more than 90 days old in an an effort to cut down on misleading stories taken out of their original context.
At the time, Facebook said it was looking at other pop-up prompts to cut down on some kinds of misinformation. A few months later, Facebook rolled out similar pop-up messages that noted the date and the source of any links they share related to COVID-19.
The strategy demonstrates Facebook’s preference for a passive strategy of nudging people away from misinformation and toward its own verified resources on hot button issues like COVID-19 and the 2020 election.
While the jury is still out on how much of an impact this kind of gentle behavioral shaping can make on the misinformation epidemic, both Twitter and Facebook have also explored prompts that discourage users from posting abusive comments.
Pop-up messages that give users a sense that their bad behavior is being observed might be where more automated moderation is headed on social platforms. While users would probably be far better served by social media companies scrapping their misinformation and abuse-ridden existing platforms and rebuilding them more thoughtfully from the ground up, small behavioral nudges will have to do.
State AGs tell Facebook to scrap Instagram for kids plans – TechCrunch
In a new letter, attorneys general representing 44 U.S. states and territories are pressuring Facebook to walk away from new plans to open Instagram to children. The company is working on an age-gated version of Instagram for kids under the age of 13 that would lure in young users who are currently not permitted to use the app, which was designed for adults.
“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the coalition of attorneys general wrote, warning that an Instagram for kids would be “harmful for myriad reasons.”
The state attorneys general call for Facebook to abandon its plans, citing concerns around developmental health, privacy and Facebook’s track record of prioritizing growth over the well being of children on its platforms. In the letter, embedded below, they delve into specific worries about cyberbullying, online grooming by sexual predators and algorithms that showed dieting ads to users with eating disorders.
Concerns about social media and mental health in kids and teens is a criticism we’ve been hearing more about this year, as some Republicans join Democrats in coalescing around those issues, moving away from the claims of anti-conservative bias that defined politics in tech during the Trump years.
Leaders from both parties have been openly voicing fears over how social platforms are shaping young minds in recent months amidst calls to regulate Facebook and other social media companies. In April, a group of Congressional Democrats wrote Facebook with similar warnings over its new plans for children, pressing the company for details on how it plans to protect the privacy of young users.
In light of all the bad press and attention from lawmakers, it’s possible that the company may walk back its brazen plans to boost business by bringing more underage users into the fold. Facebook is already in the hot seat with state and federal regulators in just about every way imaginable. Deep worries over the company’s future failures to protect yet another vulnerable set of users could be enough to keep these plans on the company’s back burner.
Spotify adds timestamped podcast sharing and other social features – TechCrunch
On the heels of its expanded partnership with Facebook, Spotify this morning announced new sharing features that broaden the way Spotify content, including both music and podcasts, can be shared across social media. As part of this, Spotify’s Canvas feature, which adds a looping, visual art experience to songs, is being improved. Spotify will also now allow users to share a timestamped link to a podcast, which allows users to tune into to a particular moment of the podcast episode.
Previously, if you wanted to share a podcast episode, you could only post the link to the entire episode. But many times, people want to comment on or discuss a particular part of an episode. Now, they’ll be able to do so by using the “switch to share” feature at the current playtime, after tapping the “share” button while listening to the show.
This is toggle switch that lets you share from the timestamp where you’ve paused the show. After turning this one, you’re able to choose where you want to share to — like Instagram, Facebook (Stories or Feed), Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, SMS, and more.
The feature could also potentially be used for podcast marketing purposes. Typically, creators post an interesting clip from their latest episode that includes a link to the episode. But Spotify’s new feature could entice someone to tune in at a particular part, then continue listening. They may even choose to follow the podcast after doing so, as they’ll have already found themselves in the Spotify app. While it may not replace other marketing — not everyone uses Spotify, after all — it could serve as a handy supplement to the creator’s existing promotional activity.
The update to Spotify’s Canvas, meanwhile, is a smaller improvement. Now, users are able to preview their social share across Instagram Stories and now Snapchat, to see how it will appear. Before today, Canvas art could only be shared to Instagram Stories.
Spotify notes that social sharing features had become a more important aspect of using its service during the pandemic, as in-person concerts and fan events had been shut down. Artists and creators still want to engage with their fans, but have had to do so remotely and digitally. And fans want to support their favorites by posting their content to social networks where others can discover them, too.
The new sharing features are a part of Spotify’s larger investment in expanded social media distribution, which recently led to its partnership with Facebook on something the social network called “Project Boombox.” Facebook in April introduced a new miniplayer that streams Spotify’s music and podcasts from the Facebook app. That way, users can listen while they scroll, with Spotify playing in the background. But Spotify’s deal with Facebook doesn’t limit it from making it easier to share to other platforms, as well, as these new features indicate.
Spotify says the new features are rolling out now to global users on both iOS and Android.
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