Robots — our benevolent protectors, mundane task performers, future overlords.
Despite the ever-present threat of being overthrown by tin men, we love robots. So anthropomorphic. So sweet. The Samsung NaviBot is kind of like that too. It looks like the illegitimate child of a cough lolly and an ornamental shrimp.
The robot wasn't long out of the package before other people in the CNET Australia office adopted it as their own — soon spawning a set of yellow eyes and a tail. It even got a nickname: Sadie.
As endearing as people found its little whirring ways we had to step in and stop them dressing it up like a new puppy...
Sadie the cleaning robot(Credit: CBS Interactive)
The Samsung NaviBot comes in two versions: the AU$799 SR8845 Neutral Grey and the AU$999 SR8855 Mirror Blue. The beginner model features basic functionality, a remote control and a "Virtual Guard", which can be used to fence off areas of your house. The step-up version features two Virtual Guards, a handy daily schedule cleaning mode, extra brush accessories and a touchscreen control panel on the robot.
We received the basic model and so were unable to test the scheduling features, and found that most of the functions had to be done manually. To go about its work, the NaviBot features an on-board camera that takes 30 photos a second of its environment. Samsung says it's able to clean 100 square metres of floor in 40 minutes, but remember that's only a 10x10-metre square. The robot also includes 38 on-board sensors that help it negotiate obstacles, such as table legs, sofas and stairs. The Navi' also boasts "three anti-tangle sensors that automatically unwind any cords and carpet tassels it encounters".
Once turned on the NaviBot is relatively quiet — somewhere between a desktop computer and a DustBuster — and it looks fairly methodical in the lines in creates up and down your floor. One thing we did notice is that you need to place the charger square with the wall or the NaviBot will try cleaning at a strange diagonal skew.
The Virtual Guard sections off parts of your house. (Credit: Samsung)
The Samsung will clean up most little things like dirt and dust bunnies, but larger things like bottle tops can actually get clogged in its workings causing it to shut down. The vacuum comes with a 600ml tray, which should clean most areas once, but be careful emptying it: on our first try we realised the end was open and tipped it all over the floor.
While we liked "Sadie" we thought that, maybe perhaps, she's a little bit dumb. The unit sends out a wireless distress signal when it needs to charge, but unless it has direct line of sight it can get lost trying to bash its way through walls or furniture trying to get back to the base. Usually we would find it huddled under someone's desk out of juice and usually wrapped around a cable. While it's able, in theory, to navigate cords up to 1.5cm in height it will get lost behind your TV most times than not. We wish it had a "whistle" finder like the old key chains, as the remote won't find it either.
While the remote control is fun it works on line of sight and a range of about 3 metres, and while it's fun you'll most likely have to get up and rescue it once it rolls out of range.
The Samsung NaviBot is a unique talking-point, and the Virtual Guards add some flexibility and peace of mind, but if this device is any indication robots still have a way to go before world domination. If it were cheaper it would be easier to justify, but as it is we'd say save your money and just get a AU$200 Kmart job instead.