New Batteries for my Neato XV Signature

I own a Neato XV Signature, vacuuming robot, which I bought almost a year ago. During my first attempt to let it run, its batteries lasted long enough to be able to vacuum the assigned area at least once, which took about 40 minutes (as it does today). I had also gauged the size of the area it should vacuum, in hopes that the robot would not need to return to its base station to recharge, in the middle of its job, even though that is a task which it can also accomplish – in most cases.

Neato XV _1

But then, after having let this robot vacuum my floor 3x per week, the battery life became shorter. Eventually it would need to break off at least once, to recharge, after which it would complete the job. By that time 1 battery charge was only lasting for 30 minutes. And finally, the robot needed to make three stabs at completing the same assigned area, thus recharging twice automatically before it was done.

So it seems logical that the robot simply needed a new set of batteries, which I just installed today. But, those were Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries, which I think are usually supposed to last longer than just a year. For example, my electric toothbrush still has the same Ni-MH batteries it was originally equipped with, and continues to work after 20 years, with proper battery maintenance.

I always had the suspicion that the robot was over-charging the batteries consistently.

(Edit 11/10/2016 : ) This suspicion arose, because when I left the robot connected to its docking stand continuously, in spite of only working briefly, three times per week, its indicator-LED would switch back and forth between the solid-green-I-am-full and the blinking-green-I-am-almost-full within short intervals – more often than once per day. Considering that the unit had not been working, this was an incorrect sign, which it no longer shows, with the new batteries calibrated.

After I installed the new batteries today, I followed instructions on the Web, according to which we are also supposed to perform a battery calibration, and then the idea struck me, that the early demise of the first set of batteries may have been partially my own doing.

When I first received this robot, I did not perform any initial calibration – of its first set of batteries. Now that I have allowed the robot to do so, it is capable of vacuuming my entire floor space twice in one shot, which takes it 1 hour and 15 minutes of continuous running.

If everything worked as planned, This Defined the Voltage-End-Points, of One Charge-Cycle. However, it is a disappointing drawback of this model, that it gives no feedback, of whether the calibration was in fact a success or not.

Mind you, it was never written in the instructions that came with the Neato XV Signature, the way I received it, that we should do an initial calibration, but doing so might in hindsight have prevented incorrect charging behavior the first time around.

I know one person myself, who bought the same robot, who was not actually much of a Technology Person, but who was systematic enough in her ways, actually to do a calibration, before setting her robot on its first chore.

And it is also commented on the Web today, that sometimes a recalibration will be helpful – for a while – in spite of keeping the first set of batteries.

Continue reading New Batteries for my Neato XV Signature

Possible Mode Of Failure, of a Neato XV

I own a “Neato XV Signature” Vacuuming Robot.

Neato XV _1

This little thing has been vacuuming my floor 3 times per week. But this does not mean, that it never has any problems or malfunctions. I just discovered a possible malfunction, which caused it to stay stranded in my living room, close to the end of its assigned chore, but waiting for my intervention, before it would have been able to continue. And because I needed to focus and take my time to figure out what went wrong with it this Friday, my response was also to tell it, that its job was done for now, not to continue for one day.

This little machine frequently rides at relatively brazen speeds, over bumps in my floor, caused by such things as wooden strips in my floor, that separate regions of differing floor-type. So the little bot is wearing itself out as it is doing its job, and may not be with us forever, just for that reason. And yet, there is something more specific which can go wrong.

This vacuuming robot has a dust container made of plastic, which is transparent in some places, and which needs to be lifted out of its cavity in the robot, in order to be emptied, preferably after every use. The robot has a small mechanical switch inside this cavity, in order to detect, whether the dust container is fully inserted or not, and if the dust container is not fully inserted, will stop working and ask the user to remedy the specific problem.

The problem is the fact that there is no gap – no tolerance – between the outside surface which the dust container has, and the inside surface of this cavity within the robot, into which the dust container expects to be inserted flush. There is some mechanical action of the plastic, that causes the container to snap into place, so that the user can recognize he has done so.

After numerous months of repeated use, it commonly happens that dust – or even larger debris – can fall into the cavity, but land outside the container, so that effectively, particles and pebbles can get wedged between the dust container and the space inside the robot, where this is to be inserted.

The result of this is, that the user needs to push down a bit harder on the container, before he gets the tactile feedback, which usually lets him know that the container is fully seated. But in reality, the plastic of this device is arched, with some elastic force against remaining inserted – internal force trapped in the elasticity of the plastic.

Hence this past Friday, the robot passed over several bumps in its terrain uneventfully. But then, when it just passed over another bump, this internal force, together with the elasticity of the plastic, actually caused the dust container to pop out slightly, and for the internal switch to report to the computer of the machine, that the container was no longer inserted properly. This was also good, because as soon as the dust container does not form a proper seal inside the robot, the fan or turbine of the robot is also inhaling debris.

And so this little robot waited and waited for me to come home, and to rescue it from this dilemma. By then its battery charge level had also decreased considerably.

The only way to solve this problem, is once in a while, to take out the dust container, and then with it removed, to wipe and clean the inside surfaces of this cavity – where I found lots of dust and pebbles – to wipe and clean the entire outside surface of the dust container, and then to reinsert it.

I guess that the little machine might be good to go a few more times from now on, until it waits to be rescued from some other problem, that its robotic mind cannot solve.



My Neato Vacuuming Robot

I own a Neato XV Signature vacuuming robot.

Neato XV _1

One problem with this robot, is the fact that sometimes it does not find its way back to its charging station correctly, after completing its job of vacuuming a large part of my floor.

My main, real worry about this in the past has been, that once the Neato has recognized it is lost in some way, even though it turns off its turbine and carpet brush, it could stay powered up, with its LED blinking in the amber color, and asking for a human to help it. In theory, the robot could do this until there was no charge left in its battery, especially if the human was not at home. And because this robot runs on Linux, this would mean a crash of its O/S.

What I have recently discovered though, is that once the unit recognizes that it needs human intervention to proceed, it does not merely shut down its motors and blink its LED. In addition, this robot will go into a low-power mode, in which a human who just came home might not even notice it. And then every few minutes, it will briefly power up again, to be able to play its notification sound, and to blink its LED, to get my attention.

And in this mode, the unit has been lost for hours while I was not at home, this past Wednesday, and it did not even deplete its battery level due to this reason. All I needed to do, was reposition it slightly in front of its charging station, and tell it to proceed as normal…

This observation has increased my level of confidence in the vacuuming robot, for use when I am not home.



My Neato XV Vacuuming Robot

I own a “Neato XV Signature” vacuuming robot.

Neato XV _1

And I have written about it before, in

This Posting and

This Posting and

This Posting

This robot vacuums the greater proportion of my floors, three times per week. As it does so, I frequently observe it, although in some cases I trust it to do so while I am not at home.

There is an aspect to how this robot is programmed to map out the space it has been assigned to vacuum, that defies human common sense, but that seems to serve its purpose. The robot starts out on the assumption that it will vacuum a large, unknown space, which is too large to process in one attempt. And so it subdivides the space into sub-regions, as it is mapping the perimeter of each sub-region. After having mapped the perimeter of each sub-region slowly, the robot performs linear parallel passes through the area inside each region at a faster speed, that eventually cover this entire inner space. And, if the robot encounters additional obstacles in each space, it deals with those, using logic that already worked on the perimeter.

Once each sub-region is complete, the robot ventures to the boundary of the current sub-region, and starts to map a new one.

It seems inconsistent with this scheme, that as the robot starts to map a new sub-region, it actually seems to make a diagonal foray of random distance into the interior of the as-yet unexplored sub-region. However, this is what the robot has been programmed to do, and then to proceed outward from this new position, until it encounters the perimeter…

By making certain moves which seem to have this pseudo-random character, I suppose the robot reduces the risk of leaving spaces consistently uncleaned. It does not actually map its entire space exactly the same way every time. But, I also find that the robot does not miss any spaces within the larger space it has been assigned to vacuum.

At the same time, the amount of time needed to complete the entire assigned space also varies greatly from one day to the next. And this can cause me some anxiety, if I happen to be watching the job in progress.

However, the overall track record of this robot is very good in my experience, so that I eventually do trust it to keep doing its job.