Robot floor cleaner Mint gets those tight spots

Mint is a robot mop/duster for hard floors that can detect walls and fit into tight corners. It's a cheaper, smaller alternative to Scooba, but offers a lighter scrub.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Evolution Robotics

Evolution Robotics is introducing an automatic floor cleaner for hard surfaces that can get those tricky spots like corners, edges, and places under furniture.

The Mint robot mop and duster being introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show uses disposable or reusable cleaning cloths to get the job done. You put a Swiffer or Pledge cloth on the bottom, push a button, and off it goes.

The dry cloths trap dirt and dust. When set to mop mode and given a wet cloth, Mint does a back-and-forth movement to scrub floors.

Watch this: Floor-cleaning robot gets those tight spots

The sexy, compact machine uses Evolution Robotics' NorthStar navigation technology. A small, separate projector unit beams infrared light spots on the ceiling that the robot detects. Instead of pursuing a random pattern, Mint tracks where it has cleaned already.

Evolution Robotics CEO Paolo Pirjanian says Mint can clean a floor three to five times faster than a robot following a random pattern.

He adds that because it spends less time cleaning, Mint will have a longer service life before wear and tear cause problems.

Mint is slated to ship in fall 2010 with a retail price of less than $250. That's less than the cheapest iRobot Scooba, the Scooba 330.

Scoobas wash all floor areas up to five times, and offer a more intense scrub than Mint.

But they also have to be refilled with special Clorox solution, which cost $25 for a pack of five bottles (you can get dozens of Swiffer pads for less than $20). For the environmentally conscious, Mint will ship with reusable microfiber pads.

Mint's advantage may be its angular shape, which allows it to get right up to edges and corners. It's only 10 inches wide, good for getting between and underneath furniture. Like the larger Scooba, it automatically detects and avoids drop-offs and area rugs. A single charge gives it at least three hours of cleaning time.

The best way to popularize home robots is to make them light, compact, and cheap. Mint looks poised to win plenty of converts.