It’s been a week since the last update. I guess that’s what happens to most blogs. On the other hand, I haven’t had anything to write about, but now I do: I bought a robot vacuum cleaner!

Fmart FM-006

The F-mart FM-006 is probably an iRobot Roomba clone, but at 140 euro, it’s half the price. It’s UFO shaped, about 40cm across and 9cm in height. It has a docking station for scheduling and recharging, which it finds on its own, by the way. There’s also a light-house that can be used to prevent the robot from entering a certain area.

Like the official site, the manual is completely in Chinese, so it took me a couple of hours before I had worked out what all the buttons do and more importantly, how to turn it on. I basically scanned a few pages that I thought were important, and then used free OCR software to translate the characters in the bitmap to actual Chinese characters, one by one. Then, copy-paste the Chinese text into and presto, I ended up with a nice piece of nonsensical Chinglish and a few hours of wasted time.

At first, I was quite disappointed and thought about returning it. The thing is quite inefficient: it’ll move a few meters, then starts going in circles of growing radius, until it hits something, in which case it tries to follow the object’s edges. When it’s bored (I have not been able to quantify its behavior in more detail), it’ll try to move another meter or so in a random direction and again with the circles. It’s funny to see it work like that, but you’ll soon realize that it’s not meant to be watched. It’s meant to do all that when you’re away from home. The way it goes about things, it’ll probably take a few hours before the entire floor of an average apartment is covered and vacuumed. Of course, when I walk home from work I’m always fantasizing about the things that could go wrong. I was expecting to find it upside down under the couch, bleeping helplessly, its wheels spinning with a waning sound because of the dying battery.

This is not what happens, of course, although it did manage to get stuck under the couch every single time. I’ll have to scan another few pages of the manual to see what that light-house does, and how it might prevent the poor thing from getting stuck again. Expect a movie soon.