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iRobot Unveils World's Smallest Floor Washing Robot

Floor mopping just got a lot more interesting.

iRobot Scooba 230
Photo credit: irobot.com
iRobot Scooba 230

Robotics company iRobot has unveiled its re-imagined Scooba robot floor washer at the Consumer Electronics Show. It's smaller, faster, quieter and definitely ready to go where few robot mops have gone before—and no human ever really wants to go—behind the bathroom toilet.

At 3.5 inches, the iRobot Scooba 230 is slightly taller than the original Scooba, but the overall diameter of the round device is about six-and-a-half inches, making it less than half the size of its predecessor.

Its gray body bears no resemblance to the blue Scooba first launched in 2005 (and updated a few years later), however, the changes are much more than skin deep.

iRobot has replaced the clean and dirty water tanks with two bladders, which in a neat bit of innovation, occupy the same space. As the clean bladder empties its cleaning solution onto the floor, the dirty fills up with dirty solution.

The robot is now small enough that it can be held under your average kitchen sink faucet where you can fill it with water and/or vinegar and water (the company will also sell enzyme-based cleaning solution packets that you can add to water).

Scooba is still a smart mop. It has edge detection so it doesn't roll down stairs, bumpers to help it work around objects and a complex algorithm to tell it when it has successfully cleaned the entire floor.

If you've invested in iRobot virtual walls, which stop the company's Roomba robot vacuums (which have also gotten an update) from wandering into other open rooms, you can use them with the Scooba 230, too.

The robot still has a handle so you can tote it from room to room, but you no longer have to open the whole top to change out dirty water and solutions. The bottom is all new, too. No more rolling brushes; instead a fixed set of brushes on the base plate do their work thanks to Scooba's own shimmying action.

CES 2011 - Your Digital Life - A CNBC Special Report
CES 2011 - Your Digital Life - A CNBC Special Report

There's a squeegee similar to the one found on the original Scooba. That bottom, by the way, snaps on and off for easy cleaning. The robot, which goes on sale next year at iRobot.com for $299, will include three Scooba bases, a nice convenience if you want to use one for the kitchen one for the wood floor den and the last for the bathroom.

We watched a brief demonstration of the new device on our wooden conference table. It dropped clean solution as it quietly cruised along on its two large rubber-treaded wheels (this is probably iRobot's quietest robot) and sucked up dirty water with its squeegee and vacuum.

iRobot reps explained that this Scooba does leave a film of clean water as it goes along. It's there to help loosen difficult-to-clean spots—Scooba sucks up all the water and the remaining dirt on its last pass.

The Scooba 230 should work on all hard floors (tile and wood) and the enzyme-based solution won't harm natural surfaces. iRobot execs said the device offers two cleaning modes: standard and short, which lasts a about 20 minutes.

This new Scooba faces some competition. There are now other intelligent floor-cleaning devices on the market, including Evolution Robotics Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner. It works with special beacons to navigate and mop a floor. However, instead of solution or water, Mint uses Swiffer mop pads.

Be sure to check back in for PCMag's complete hands on review of the new Scooba and to find out how it fares against the competition. (Watch Lance's video demonstration here.)

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