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Robotics Toys Hardware

IRobot Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot Review 168

justechn writes "Many of us have seen robots in the movies and wondered how long it would take for them to become a reality. Some of my favorites when I was a kid were Short Circut and Runaway. iRobot is a company that is striving to bring some of that technology home today. Their most popular and well known product is the Roomba vacuuming robot. The Roomba is great, after I finished my review of it and sent it back I went out and bought one. It does its best work picking up pet hair. They just came out with another robot called the Looj. The Looj is used to clean the rain gutters that go around your roof. If you have ever had to do this by hand you know how much of a pain it is. This robot uses a 3 stage auger to break up clogs and sweep all the debris out of your gutter. It is also water proof so you don't have to worry if you have water in your gutter, just don't stand below it when it is cleaning or you will get sprayed." Read on for the rest of justechn's review.
"The Looj does not move on it own like the Roomba does, instead there is a remote control that controls the direction that the auger spins and the direction that the Looj moves (forward and backward). Because it requires constant human interaction I am not even sure I would classify it as a robot, rather it is more like a remote controlled car.

I recently got my hands on one and put it through my gutters. It did a fairly good job. I did have to go over some spots more than once to get all the leaves and dirt out, but in the end my gutters were a lot cleaner after it was done.

The price is also very good. At $99 for the base model it is cheap enough that you can pick one up just to play around with. The more expensive models only give you extra batteries and augers, so you are not missing anything if you go with the base model.

I only found two things about the Looj that I did not like. First, it will not turn corners, it is way too long and not flexible. Second, if you want it to move you have to constantly hold down the forward or backward button. As soon as you let go, it stops. If you could lock in the movement then you could do other things like move your ladder to the next corner while it was cleaning."
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IRobot Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot Review

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  • by MiKM ( 752717 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @05:49PM (#23985217)

    The price is also very good. At $99 for the base model it is cheap enough that you can pick one up just to play around with.

    For most of the world, $100 is not something you can just spend on a whim. Then again, it might be for the people who buy iRobot products in the first place.

  • by I confirm I'm not a ( 720413 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @05:58PM (#23985291) Journal

    To be fair, I suspect the target market for this is "people who own their own house". For this demographic, $100 is probably reasonable.

    Then again, there's a product advertised in New Zealand called "Gutter Witch/Gutter Wand" - the idea is you use the "wand" to reach the gutters (it's basically a long stick, nozzle and hose), and the "witch" to open up the drain pipe without making a mess to pull out the leaves flushed away by the wand. This seems much more sensible, but I still want a Looj ;-)

  • by Shawn Parr ( 712602 ) <parr AT shawnparr DOT com> on Saturday June 28, 2008 @07:23PM (#23985829) Homepage Journal

    Then again, it might be for the people who buy iRobot products in the first place.

    My wife and I purchased a Roomba two years ago. While on the surface it may seem like an extreme and silly purchase, the reality is that we were sick of buying cheap vacuums that tended to break down a lot and/or where a pain to use*. The Roomba was the second cheapest option we considered, and from the first time we started it we knew it was exactly the right decision.

    *This specificlly refers to a Dirt Devil vacuum that had a fancy swivel feature with little casters that turned out to be worthless. After running about three times they didn't properly swivel anymore.

  • Re:Link (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mrroot ( 543673 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @07:35PM (#23985897)
    I watched the video and it only shows it cleaning dry debris out of a gutter. But most gutters (or at least mine) tend to have soggy, caked-up gunk in them, not just dry leaves. How often do you have to use this thing? I mean I clean out my gutters about 3 times a year right now, only when they get really full. But if I had this thing I probably would have to do it MORE OFTEN because it probably won't work as well on a gutter that is packed full of leaves. I would rather do a big job a few times a year, than do a smaller job say 10 to 15 times a year.

    A better idea would be to create a new kind of gutter. Maybe one that could be manually (or automatically) tilted over to dump out all of the debris, instead of trying to clean it in the upright position.
  • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @07:52PM (#23986007)

    The USA needs reliable and cheap robots. Reliable because they are complicated, expensive, and difficult to fix because there aren't many people who are expert with robotics technology.

        Cheap because the USA is shares a border with a country that millions of people who are ready, willing, and able to come here and work for about $40-$50 a 8-10 hour day. Any robot that we buy has to be able to do productive work for eight hours a day and cost less than $50 a day for energy, maintainence, and pro-rated purchase cost. Americans will continue to use Mexicans for robot work as long as it's cheaper to use Mexicans than it is to use robots.

        Some things robots must do because it is unethical to induce humans to do them, such as mine-field clearing. Sure you can force some poor black kid with three 'po-session' convictions to go out and dig up mines with a spoon. But it is unethical and quite possibly immoral to do so. Historically, ethics and morality have never stopped people from doing evil things (they contract it out to people who are further down on the social-class ladder). But those days are passing as more people realise that the evil ways of the past can not continue, regardless of how convienent it was.

        Oh, you are just such a racist! I hear you saying. Well flip the switch on your politically-correct-conditioning circuitry for a while. Let's drop the labels and talk straight for a few minutes.

        Yes, there are millions of poor Mexican peasants in the USA working at a half or third of standard American pay. This is because NAFTA allowed American agri-business like Cargil with huge US government subsidies to flood the Mexican agricultural economy with corn so cheap that the Mexicans couldn't afford to live by growing it. And because NAFTA allowed American bio-industries like Monsanto to replace traditional Mexican corn with patented bio-engineered varieties that the Mexican farmers couldn't afford to buy. People aren't coming here from Mexico because they want to. They come because they have to, or starve. So stop modding me down and calling me a racist. It's a complex subject and the best thing that you could do to help solve it is not stand on the border with a gun, but study and master conversational Spanish (and even one of the pre-Columbian Central Mexican Indian languages (that are spoken by thousands of immigrants who don't speak Spanish very well), that is -if you're up to a serious intellectual challenge, C++ is nothing compared to it) so you can just talk to people and find out what the situation is really like without having it filtered first by the creeps in the news media. Whew! So stop modding me down!

        Yeah, back to robots. We can grow a lot of food but a lot rots on the vine or ground. Especially fruit crops here in the Cascadian Republic of the former United States. We need cheap, dependable, solar-powered, and very advanced agricultural robots. Japanese ones are too expensive. Detroit robots are meaningless to us, we have no use for stationary automobile frame welding machines that cost a half-million dollars. We need a machine that can roll along the ground in the field, find the strawberries, pick the strawberries without destroying the mother plant, place the strawberry in a container with others, and move this container to a pre-set centralized location. We need thousands of these machines all working at the harvest. Then when the strawberry harvest is over, we need people who can reprogram them for the next crop.

        What it would be ethical for us to do is to retrain all the millions of Mexicans that have been impoverished by misguided government and corporate policies to be our cadre of advanced agricultural robotics technicians and programmers. They know the crops and the harvests and would be willing to learn the software and electronics involved. What? Just turn a million Mexican peasants into robotics engineers? You laugh? Now who a racist?

  • They Break Too Easy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Saturday June 28, 2008 @08:28PM (#23986237) Homepage Journal

    Every 6-12 months I check in on the "Roomba" lines, whether just vacuums, or wet mops, or other kinds like this new "gutter cleaner". They all look pretty cool, and the idea is good. But every time I check with people who actually have them, I confirm that they break really easy. They wear out, or they can't take the kind of hard bump that most moving appliances have to take.

    At $99, replacing them once or twice every couple-few years is a little expensive, compared to a $250 vacuum that lasts 5+ years. And when they break, there's the whole hassle of getting a new one.

    Why isn't there a version of these clever little slaves that cost twice as much, but last twice or three times as long without breaking?

  • by plantman-the-womb-st ( 776722 ) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:21AM (#23987999)
    The answer would be gutters made of a memory metal, normally gutter-shaped, but apply a current and they go flat and tilt allowing you to hose them from the ground until the next jolt is applied when they go back to being gutters.
  • by cooley ( 261024 ) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:53AM (#23989917) Homepage

    I agree completely that it's relatively safe (or at least, enough fun that I don't care how safe it is), but those shingles aren't meant to be walked on. A new roof is pretty damn expensive, let alone if you don't notice the damage right away and water gets inside (and causes other destruction) before you have the roof replaced.

  • Re:Link (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cojsl ( 694820 ) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @11:46AM (#23990879) Homepage
    "But most gutters (or at least mine) tend to have soggy, caked-up gunk in them"

    I recall a home improvement show (This Old House?) testing the Looj. They placed a section of gutter on the ground and filled it with various debris, then ran the Looj through it. The Looj didn't deal with the heavy caked gunk very well, losing one of its tracks at one point. It did not come across as very impressive. I recall the host didn't recommend it. Can't find a video unfortunately

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