Competition for the iRobot Scooba: Evolution Robotics Mint

Mint Robot Floor SweeperLater note: Click here for our review of the Mint Automatic Cleaner. In case you’re not sure what this site is about, it’s about robots that clean. It’s actually mostly about robot vacuum cleaners, but lumped into that I think it’s fair to include other robot cleaning devices. And it’s been a busy week for robotic cleaning. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is going in Las Vegas, and today Evolution Robotics Inc. announced their new venture into the robot floor cleaning market, Mint. Mint is designed to be an automatic cleaner for hard surface floors. It can wet mop or dust using cleaning cloths such as the Swiffer dry and wet cloths. Pledge also has such cloths. So you just pop a cloth on it, put it on the floor, press a button, and let the robot take over.

Paolo Pirjanian, the CEO of Evolution Robotics, had this to say. “Similar to how the once manual chores of washing dishes or doing laundry evolved with the invention of the dishwasher and washing machine, floor cleaning has officially been replaced by an automated appliance that achieves the same result, if not better, than previous manual methods. To do the job well, Evolution had to rewrite the book on how floor cleaning is done. Mint packs aerospace-grade technologies that were specifically tailored to deliver consumer with an appliance that cleans like they do, while still providing a hassle-free experience.”

To design the robot cleaner, Evolution brought in Yves Behar, an industrial designer. Together they worked to make a robot that would eschew a “techie” look and fit in better with home decor. They were especially looking to design a robot that would look like an appliance. As you can see, it is very geometric and black and white. Actually, it is quite sexy looking.

Like iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaners, the Mint is autonomous and designed to clean floors without human intervention. The cleaner has different actions depending on whether the cloth is wet or dry. With a wet cloth, the robot uses a “special mopping motion” (back and forth) to dissolve dirt and grime and get the floor cleaner. Mint floor cleaners are guided by Evolution Robotic’s NorthStar technology, which it uses to keep track of where it cleans. This works by projecting a beam on the ceiling that the robot can detect and follow. Like some other robot floor cleaners, it maps out the room and plans where to go next.

Evolution makes the claim that the Mint’s square body will allow it to clean surfaces better than round-bodied cleaners like the iRobot Scooba. The robot holds the cleaning pad in front of it, and has clearance on both sides of the robot behind the pad. The Mint is only 10 inches wide (and appears to be only a few inches tall) which makes it ideal to fit under furniture and between obstacles like chair legs.

Other technologies built into the robot:

  • Like Roombas, Mint has cliff detection so it won’t fall down stairs.
  • Mint will ship with reusable microfiber cloths.
  • Mint robots can detect where rugs are and will avoid driving on them.
  • The robot will adjust for different kinds of floors to ensure that it gets the best cleaning and can still get good traction on the floor.
  • The square shape of the robot enables it to clean into corners and along edges.
  • Battery life is expected to be 3 hours.
  • Since it has no bin to empty, Mint should be lower maintenance.

Mint is expected to be available for order in the third quarter of 2010, and in retail stores by the fourth quarter. Pricing is expected to be below US $250.

And it looks like a dinner mint would if it was a robot.