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How do Robot Vacuums Avoid Furniture? Obstacle Sensors Explained

From the viewpoint of a robot vacuum cleaner, our homes are nothing more than glorified obstacle courses filled with furniture legs, pet bowls, vases, and everything else that stands in its way.

So, if you’re wondering a robot vacuum works, specifically how it avoids furniture, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ll briefly explain how a robot vacuum’s obstacle sensors work.

How do Robot Vacuums Avoid Furniture

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Robot Vacuum Navigation Systems

First and foremost, it’s important to know how a robot vacuum navigates your home. It can come with one or multiple navigation technologies, which help it identify its surroundings and avoid certain obstacles.

In a nutshell, robot vacuum navigation systems are split into three categories: gyroscope/accelerometer, camera-based, and laser-based. These systems offer varying levels of reliability, but their end goal is the same: to allow your robot vacuum to vacuum a wider space per charge.

Camera- and laser-based systems are the more high-tech varieties. They actively record the robot’s surroundings and identify the location of walls and obstacles, which it saves in a digital map. The robot then accesses the map to figure out its location and distance from all obstacles, allowing it to avoid obstacles throughout its vacuuming cycle.

Obstacle Sensors

Obstacle Sensors

However, even high-tech navigation systems are prone to making mistakes. That’s why robot vacuums come with extra insurance in the form of built-in sensors to stop them from running head-first into hard objects.

Obstacle sensors are typically found near the built-in shock absorbers. When the robot makes contact with an object, the sensors alert the robot that it needs to turn in another direction before heading in another direction.

The direction your robot vacuum moves will depend on which obstacle sensor was activated—i.e., a triggered left obstacle sensor will force the robot right, and vice versa.

Obstacle Sensors on Robot Vacuums
Neato Robot Vacuum

Other Obstacle-Avoidance Sensors

Apart from the general obstacle sensor built into or around the robot vacuum’s shock absorbers, your robot may come with other sensors to assist your robot to clean a larger area per charge. These are as follows:

  1. Cliff Sensors Cliff sensors do exactly what their name suggests—they actively seek out the location of cliffs or drops that could potentially destroy the robot.
  2. Wall Sensors Wall sensors use infrared lasers to detect the presence of vertical walls, which the robot vacuum then sores in its digital map.
  3. Wheel Sensors While moving, the robot vacuum keeps close track of how many times its wheels have rotated, thus allowing it to accurately determine how far it has traveled.

Robot Vacuum Obstacle Sensor

Don’t Obstacle Sensors Leave Parts of Your Floors Uncleaned?

This was the problem in olden-day models. Back then, robots with gyroscope/accelerometer navigation systems had no way of knowing which parts of your floors were already vacuumed and which parts were untouched. With the help of high-tech navigation, especially LiDAR, your robot will be kept in the loop at all times.

Some manufacturers use a more “intelligent” approach to maximize a robot vacuum’s cleaning potential in the face of obstacles. Take iRobot, for instance, which has robots that slow down before colliding with an object.

If the obstacle in its path is something it can move, like curtains power cords, it won’t ignore the spots entirely—it’ll push the objects out of its way carefully while vacuuming those spots.

Robot Vacuums Avoid Furniture

Recommended Robot Vacuums

Affordable Option The iRobot Roomba 694 is a basic robot vacuum. It feels well-built, offers fantastic battery performance, and can adjust its suction power and brushroll height automatically depending on the surface that it's on.

Best of the Best The Roborock S7+ can vacuum and mop, and does an excellent job at both. It's also the company's most powerful vacuum yet, with 2,500Pa of suction.

Popular Option The Shark AV911S EZ is one of the least expensive robot vacuum with self-empty base. The bagless, self-emptying base holds up to 30 days of dirt and debris.

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About the author

Hi I’m Alex, founder of HouseholdMe.com and I’d like to say thank you for dropping by. Like most of you, the first thing I look at before buying something online is reviews or buying guides. By reading what other people say will help me gauge whether or not a product is good or not.  I am trying to help people find answers, solve problems, and get inspired.

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