"Vac Hack" gets robotic vacuums to test indoor air quality

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 by Michael Hebert
At my house we have a pretty weak vacuum. You have to roll over the same carpet spot, with little to no speed, several times to make sure you've picked up half the dirt in the carpet. Because of this weakness, nobody likes to use the vacuum, and for some reason that means nobody uses the vacuum until it is desperately needed. It's annoying, but we shrug it off as a college norm.

I remember seeing the first commercials for a robotic vacuum cleaner that would roll around your rooms on its own. I remember thinking the idea was fun when it first came out, I must have been in middle school then. There have been a few advances in technology since, and I'm sure the machines have gotten much better at their jobs, but now students from the Rhode Island University of Design have just made those little robotic vacuums even more functional.

The students have equipped the Roomba robotic vacuum with an air quality sensor so while it's cleaning up the mess in your carpet, it can let you know about the mess in your air. They already roll around full rooms at a time, so they're an ideal machine to test your air quality as well. The tricked out roomba will test for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as it sucks up dirt, pretty slick.

See the project page here.

The project was funded by Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) which funds projects that are environmentally or socially progressive. The Roomba is now looking pretty legit! Now if I could only convince my roommates it's a necessity...

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