Anyone who has watched Parks and Recreation knows Roomba. (Shout out to DJ Roomba!) But have you heard of the Braava Jet?
Of course you haven't, because that's exactly what house-cleaning robot maker iRobot launched today. Smaller and simpler than previous Braava models, the Jet is essentially a smart Swiffer, a mopping robot for way less than any Roomba we've seen before.
Available now on iRobot's website for just $199 (about £139, AU$265) and in major retailers come April 1, the Braava Jet isn't nearly as smart or tech-stuffed as its larger, crumb-sucking cousins.
But, no matter, because the Braava Jet, frankly, doesn't need to be.
Kiss your Swiffer goodbye
Whereas the current Braava models have to communicate with a base station called the Northstar Navigation Cube, the Braava Jet simply houses those necessary sensors inside to cover its ground. That in part allowed iRobot to bring the price down – fewer parts means fewer things to manufacture – but there's one even more important distinction.
Living up to its name, the Braava Jet sprays water in front of itself to clean, and its cleaning system is much like that of a Swiffer Wet Jet. Rather than fill a reservoir with water that you then attach a microfiber cloth to (like the Braava 380t), the Braava Jet employs three types of one-use cleaning pads.
Two of these pads – Wet Mopping and Damp Sweeping – support Braava's existing cleaning modes with water-activated detergent inside, whereas the third allows for a Dry Sweeping mode. Applying a pad is a simple slide and lock procedure, and you can release the pads without even touching them through a Pad Eject button.
The Braava Jet knows which of the three pads that is currently attached to it and will automatically change its cleaning method to match. Here's how those three methods work:
- Wet Mopping: Braava makes triple-passes, vining throughout this mode to bring up deep dirt and stains on well-sealed floors
- Damp Sweeping: the Jet makes double-passes while cleaning for normal dirt and dust on sealed wood floors, tile and stone
- Dry Sweeping: Braava makes a single-pass throughout for picking up dirt, dust and pet hair on hard floors
During a demonstration, iRobot guided me through the painfully simple process. First, you fill the sealed reservoir inside the Jet with tap water (not necessary for Dry Sweeping Mode). Then, you attached the desired cleaning pad.
Finally, you simply press the round "Clean" button on the top of the square robot and let the Jet, well, jet. Using a series of sensors built inside and a vibrating cleaning head, the Braava Jet will hug walls and avoid obstacles for a thorough clean – I've seen it in action.
iRobot also sells two-pack boxes of washable pads for $19.99 a piece, but they use water only.
While it wouldn't say exactly how big of a battery the Braava Jet is working with, iRobot says that it can clean up to 200 square feet (18.5 square meters) in its damp and dry sweeping modes, and up to 150 square feet (13.9 square meters) in its wet mopping mode per charge. (If you have a bathroom larger than 200 square feet, then you probably already pay someone to clean.)
Plus, if you have a hardwood room without a door (or like to keep your bathroom door open while mopping), the Braava Jet's Virtual Wall feature tells it not to pass the area immediately behind it before the robot starts cleaning.
As for the question of overall longevity, I'm told that the Braava Jet's water nozzle is the same used in the headlight wipers of BMWs. So, yes, this thing will last you a long time.
Rocketing you into the world of iRobot
That the Braava Jet price, while a result of its smaller size and simpler parts (no wireless commands here), is less than most halfway decent budget tablets is deliberate. The Jet is designed to be iRobot's approachable, unassuming introduction to its world of floor-buffing, pool-cleaning robots.
You can bet that the Braava Jet is going to be a hot item this holiday, and – before you know it – people are hooked on little robots doing their chores for them. Even the 10-count boxes of cleaning pads are competitively priced against those for the Swiffer Wet Jet at $7.99 (about £5.60, AU$10.67).
So, when millions (iRobots hopes) have the ancestors of Rosie the Robot scurrying around their floors and carpets, where does the takeover – err, revolution – go from there?
iRobot tells me that it could certainly drive ease of use through connectivity even further, namely in the combination of connectivity and maps. The company is also thinking of what it can do beyond cleaning, though its wary of the risk of feature bloat in its products going forward.
After all, designing with limitations, like ease of use and affordability, is what got us this cute little guy, right?
iRobot Braava Jet is now available in the US and Canada on irobot.com for $199, and will hit store shelves (Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond and more) April 1. There's no word yet on availability in the UK and Australia, but stay tuned for further coverage.
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