How Does A Robot Vacuum Map Its Surroundings?

robot vacuum mapping

When the very first robot vacuum models were developed in the nineties, they wouldn’t do much without human intervention. The machines were controlled by remote control not just for the start and stop function, but also for directions. It was almost like playing with a little car at the fair! Although some modern-day robovacs still work with remote controls for the basic functions, they no longer need to be steered by a human being. Instead, they can do what they do best independently. So how do these little dust-sucking machines find their way around the house without crashing into every object and causing catastrophic damage? And how does the robot know where to go first and when to return to its base?

Visual navigation

Most robovacs rely on visual navigation to find their way around. Integrated cameras take images of the walls, ceilings, furniture, passageways and other important features of the room in order to avoid bumping into them. Even though this type of robotic vacuum cleaners works really well, they tend to have more difficulties to clean in low light circumstances and don’t guarantee a 100% efficient clean.

Laser navigation

The newest generation autonomous robot vacuums use laser navigation called LiDar or Light Detection and Ranging. These bots are equipped with a myriad of different sensors that measure the distance to each obstacle to develop a detailed map of the room layout. It must be said that dark walls and floor-length mirrors can interfere with this LiDar technology. 


Some robovacs will have to make a couple of strolls around your house to finish a precise map before being able to clean, while others start vacuuming from the start and scan as they go. The sensors complete a number of 360° scans per second and store this information, which becomes accessible in the companion app. This allows the user to visualize the spaces on screen and create a more personalized cleaning experience. 

Advantages of room mapping

Room mapping definitely has many advantages. Your robot will work a lot faster and more efficiently with a customized floor map. It also allows the robovac to find itself on this map and stay permanently informed of its progress. The mapping function also allows for the creation of so-called “no-go zones”, which permits cleaning of more cluttered spaces, like computer offices for instance. This function also gives you the possibility to mark certain rooms as off-limits. Furthermore, advanced mapping technology ensures that your robovac steers clear of furniture and obstacles and most importantly, avoids stairs. This must be one of the last big problems to tackle. Robot vacuum manufacturers have been scratching their heads over this for a long time now, they’re bound to find a solution in the future!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to clean a robot vacuum?

You not only need to empty your robot vacuum cleaner, but you also need to make sure that its brushes stay clean. You also need to remove the roller and take away the pet hairs that wrap themselves around the bristles. The better you take care of your robot, the longer it will be able to perform its duties.

How does a robot vacuum find the charger?

The docking stations of self-charging robot vacuums emit an infrared signal. When the battery is about to die, the vacuum starts looking for this signal. When the robot finds it, it follows the signal back to its station to charge.

Do robot vacuums work without wifi?

Not all robot vacuums can be scheduled with a companion app, some lower end models work perfectly well with a remote control, although their cleaning routine might seem a bit erratic. A mobile app makes it possible to set personalised cleaning preferences.

How do pets react to robot vacuum cleaners?

Dogs and cats tend to learn quickly that a robovac is not the enemy. Robotic vacuum cleaners are a lot more silent than regular ones. Plus, they stroll around the house in a leisurely fashion without any abrupt movements, which might have a calming effect on your pet. We've all seen videos of cats sleeping on top of zooming robovacs!