We got a new robot. It washes windows.
It is very hard for me to believe that this is a readily available consumer appliance that is cheaper than many a vacuum cleaner.
I remember reading a “visionary tech” type article just a few years ago, saying that one of these was in development. Obviously as soon as I knew there was a robot that could climb vertical surfaces, I had to have one - but at the time, it only existed as a prototype.
Oh well, I thought, I’ll just file this away with all the other incredible prototypes that never come to market, like the laundry-folding robot. By “never” I mean we’ll have to wait anywhere from 10-25 years.
This time, though, I was caught wrong-footed. I went to check on this supposed window-washing robot, as part of a discussion about the innovation curve - and discovered that there are actually several different styles put out by multiple robotics companies. They sell in the $200-500 range.
The one I bought, based on reading a bunch of reviews, turns out to be the least expensive one on the market.
I’m going to pause for a moment here and say that the main reason we can afford to buy robots like this is that we have chosen not to own a car for the past four years. What I spent on this robot is significantly less than our car payment used to be, and not much more than what we paid for car insurance per month. A lot of families could drop a vehicle without too much inconvenience and suddenly discover a distinct lessening of pressure in the finance area.
Okay, so what does it do?
I decided to find out. It can clean glass windows. Can it clean other stuff, too?
There are other types, one based on magnets, but the style we got works on vacuum suction. You hold it in place and turn it on, it revs up and makes a whirring sound like a vacuum cleaner (which technically it is), and then you can let go of it. It stays sucked onto the glass and then it can drive around.
I didn’t figure out until the second time I used it that if you push the button twice, it will scoot around by itself, find the edges of the frame, and clean the whole window itself.
It also comes with a remote control. If you are very careful, you can use it on glass without an edge, like a shower door. If you are not careful, it will start to go off the edge, lose suction, and fall off.
The window-washing robot has two tethers. One, the power cord must be attached for it to work. At this stage of development I don’t think there’s a way to make them rechargeable and also lightweight enough to do the job. Two, there is a cord with a carabiner on one end. It can be knotted through an aperture on either end of the robot.
What did I do when I found that I was supposed to belay the bot to keep it from crashing to the floor?
Why, I asked my Eagle Scout husband, of course!
He worked out a complicated rigging system on the curtain rod. It took a bit of finagling to make sure that the cord was short enough for it not to hit the floor - but then this made it impossible for the bot to reach the bottom of the window.
I did the exteriors on the balcony the next day. There was no curtain rod outside, of course, and in fact I couldn’t figure out where else I would tie the safety cord. I decided to wing it and just watch carefully.
It was fine.
Then I did the same thing on the bathroom mirror, and when it reached the bottom right corner, it managed to hit the frame, unsuck itself, and fall off. Fortunately it was only about a one-foot drop to the counter, and it survived intact.
The test with the glass shower doors was tricky. I did have to watch carefully while I used the remote. It is not advised to use the window-washing robot on any glass with no edge. I always read the instructions carefully, but that doesn’t mean I always wind up following them!
Our robots have names, because now we have three of them and there are reasons to disambiguate. This one is now Squeeg-Bot, since I also have several squeegees and don’t want to confuse things.
Unlike the other robots, Sucky and Swiffy, Squeeg-Bot can’t be trusted to work alone. On the other hand, he works quickly. The sliding glass doors only took about 15 minutes, which is, believe it or not, faster than I do it with a squeegee and a bottle of glass cleaner.
I have lived in apartments and houses where I doubt I washed the windows once the entire time I lived there, or at least not until the day I moved out. I am a bit obsessive about always getting my cleaning deposit back.
In this apartment, though, we only have two windows, one in the bedroom and then the slider in the living room. That slider is essentially our only source of natural daylight. In addition to this window we have a small gray parrot who loves to pulp fruit and throw it everywhere.
This is why I feel the need to clean the window so often - because my beloved, spoiled little parrot is a filth machine and because this window is visible on-camera all day while I’m at work.
I still have some games to play with this new device. I haven’t tried it out on the inside of the shower yet, because it needs a dry surface and that means a bit of prep work. I haven’t tried it on the fridge, although I will because it gets smudgy. I also haven’t tried it on a plain old painted wall, and again, I will eventually because it is fun to play with robots.
I told my husband, This is like driving an RC car! When I was a kid, I never got to play with remote-controlled cars because they were evidently not for girls. So I went out and bought my own remote-controlled robot, and now I can play with it as much as I like.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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