They’re Making Roombas for Everything Now, From Lawns to Tennis Courts

A definitive roundup of autonomous picker-uppers

April 25, 2018 9:00 am

Roombas: those intrepid little cruisers that’ve been rumbling their way around living rooms for a good decade and a half now.

A concept originally brought to market by consumer robotics company iRobot, the device quickly earned its stay with impressive auto-detection features — namely the ability to spot obstacles and drop-offs (e.g., stairs) that might otherwise send it careening to an early demise.

Having solidly entered the pop-culture lexicon (DJ Roomba, anyone?) and earned ever-lofty generic term status, copycat tech was inevitable. Mindless automatons eager to pick up anything in their path are pretty dang useful … and folks have found a way to introduce the concept across several medium in recent years.

Below, you’ll find a definitive round-up of new-age Roomba lookalikes, from tennis to lawn-mowing to the expert-level beer-pong accessory you never knew you needed.

For vacuuming … iRobot Roomba 690
Hunting Cheerios and dust mites remains Roomba’s tried-and-true trade, and there are quite a few vacuum iterations on the market. We recommend the 690, which is a full 500 bucks cheaper than the 980 (iRobot’s most expensive model) without sacrificing many of its features. The 690 connects with Alexa, pairs with an app so you can schedule circuits, fits under furniture and targets highly-trafficked areas. You might lose a bit on charge and brawn, but it’ll get the job done just the same.

For mowing the lawn … Honda Miimo Robot
Ideal for those with an expansive lawn who don’t want to splurge on a tractor, or anyone tired of hauling the old rustbucket out from the back of the garage. Miimo isn’t cheap and requires setup, but it’ll chop away at a stretch of grass under user-instructed conditions (type of grass and season, set boundary area), cut up to .75 acres on a single charge, work at night and see itself back to its own charging dock. Perhaps most importantly, it’ll keep those impossible-to-wrangle corners trim.

For collecting golf balls … TrueBot Robotic Ball Collector
There are few sensations more satisfying in life than plunking an in-motion ball-retrieval cart at the driving range. But those carts often push balls into the ground, and also require someone to operate the vehicle. TrueBot is a 24/7 automated retrieval system that ferries balls to washers at a quick, subtle clip. If you’ve got the space (or own a course), contact the powers that be and see what can be arranged.

For retrieving tennis balls … Tennibot
Picking up tennis balls is, objectively, the worst part of tennis. Enter: Tennibot, the newest kid on the Roomba-inspired block. It already easily reached its $35K goal, and there’s still more time to sign up for an early-bird special. Retailing for a cool grand, Tennibot picks up 40 balls a minute using AI vision to “see” the court. It also pairs easy with your phone and packs down like a suitcase to fit in your car. Stay tuned for future projects from Tennibot’s creators, who hope to address baseballs, golf balls and more.

Bonus … Roomba Beer Pong
Here’s where Roomba’s famous cliff-detection technology really comes in handy. Find yourself a sunny weekend, a couple rolls of tape and some solo cups, and then fire up two Roombas. (And definitely do NOT splurge on the 980 here.)

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