This robot vacuum mop may solve the problem of dirty docks

Technology

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Hands-on with the sizeable SwitchBot S10 robot vacuum mop and its unique automatic water refill station.

The SwitchBot S10 robot vacuum and mop costs $1,199.99 and comes with an auto-empty / charging dock plus a battery-powered water refill dock.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

After previewing its latest robotic invention earlier this month, SwitchBot officially launched the S10 robot vacuum and mop at IFA 2023 in Berlin last week. The $1,199.99 bot, coming to Kickstarter in October, features an automatic water refill station that does away with the bulky water tanks housed in giant auto-empty docks that have become the hallmark of top-of-the-line floor cleaners from Roborock, Ecovacs, etc.

Unlike those models that clean and dry their dirty mops in a small “sink” in the dock, the SwitchBot S10 has an internal roller brush mop that it cleans using a squeegee method as it vacuums. This means no standing water or scuzzy mop left to get smelly.

Anyone who owns a robot vacuum will tell you they aren’t totally hands-free. You need to clean and maintain them, and these new giant multi-purpose docks that wash the robot’s mops can get really grungy. After a few months of use, you have to get down on your knees and scrub the dock with a little brush if you don’t want it to smell like a sewer. There’s no fun in that.

SwitchBot says its S10 solves this problem by effectively keeping all the water and mess out of sight (and smell).

At $1,200 MSRP, the S10 is around $400 cheaper than competitors’ similar offerings, but it’s the company’s first foray into robot vacuum cleaners. With 6,500pa suction power, lidar navigation, and AI-powered obstacle avoidance, it has the hallmarks of a top-of-the-line bot, but will it deliver?

The removable and replaceable roller mop simultaneously scrubs and washes, performing a self-clean 300 times per minute.

The removable and replaceable roller mop simultaneously scrubs and washes, performing a self-clean 300 times per minute.

I got a look at the S10 in action on the show floor in Berlin. The most familiar part is the auto-empty dock, which charges the robot and empties the bin. It’s compact and looks like most of the auto-empty bases that don’t also cram in water tanks for mopping. The main difference is two little dryer vents that sit at the dock’s base and blast hot air on the S10’s mop when charging.

SwitchBot has a separate water station instead of those big water tanks. This compact battery-powered pump delivers water from your pipes into the robot and drains dirty water into your sewer. The station only uses a small amount of battery to power the pump and is capable of being reverse-charged by the robot.

These vents on the bottom of the SwitchBot auto-empty dock blow hot air on the mop when the vacuum is docked.

These vents on the bottom of the SwitchBot auto-empty dock blow hot air on the mop when the vacuum is docked.

Sean Tan of SwitchBot showed me a demo of the S10 sucking up oatmeal and then depositing it into its auto-empty bin. It then used the separate water station to fill itself up and drain the water out after the mop was dirty.

The refill process — using a pair of water bottles standing in for the lack of plumbing on a trade show floor — was smooth and quick. After adding some colored liquid to the removable mop to simulate dirt, the robot spun its motor, cleaned the mop, and drained the dirty water into a second bottle.

The forthcoming SwitchBot Humidifier (right) next to the water station. The S10 will be able to refill the humidifier with water from the station.

The forthcoming SwitchBot Humidifier (right) next to the water station. The S10 will be able to refill the humidifier with water from the station.

The mop itself is plush and spongey, but there’s a limited amount of surface area touching the floor and no oscillating action, so I’m skeptical about how effective it will be at scrubbing the floor.

The robot itself is also huge and very heavy. It felt around twice as heavy and probably half as big again as something like the Roomba j7 Plus, so may be awkward to pick up and move around. That weight is largely due to the big battery the bot has on board, which SwitchBot plans to use to help facilitate the S10 refilling a new humidifier and, in the future, drain a dehumidifier the company is working on.

The potential for a roving robot with a big battery and water on board to help around the house is quite intriguing. But the company needs to get the S10 out the door first; it’s releasing the vacuum on Kickstarter on October 13th. I’ll test it out and have a full review in the coming months.

Photos and video by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

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