The Robot Hobot-268 cleans windows, glass, and tile at the click of a button.
Robotics are still just getting their start in the home use market. Although at least one product, smart vacuums, has been around for quite some time, there hasn’t been a big push to automate other cleaning tasks. One company looking to change that is HOBOT Technology Inc., through a series of relatively easy to use window and glass cleaning bots. Among the latest entries into that is the Robot Hobot-268. The Hobot-268 builds on the company’s Robot Hobot-188 and Hobot-198. While the previous devices were and are designed to take on a number of cleaning tasks that includes glass tabletops, walls, and certain types of ground materials, the new bot is much more focused. Despite its cost being set precisely between those other two glass cleaners at $399, the Hobot-268 is claimed to be the company’s fasted, quietest, and smartest cleaner, to-date. It has a square design, rather than circular cleaning pads, and is purpose-built for cleaning all types of windows, glass, and tiles, including large or frameless windows and glass.
In The Box
Unlike with many home appliances, opening up a new Robot Hobot-268 is not an overwhelming affair. That’s down to how easy maintenance is but we’ll get to that later on. Inside the box, buyers are greeted by two sealed bags containing the two different types of cleaning pads, a remote control, instruction booklet, a charger and uninterruptible power supply (UPS), and the bot itself. Of course, the robot itself requires no assembly. Although there is a rope included as a safety measure in case the bot is left unattended, that is already knotted to the bot upon arrival. In fact, the only assembly required here is for the included AAA batteries to be placed in the remote and the charging cable to be put together. The latter comes in three parts but only takes a matter of seconds to complete since each plug, in that assembly, has its own type of port.
As with other home appliances of this type, the box appears to be designed specifically to provide a convenient way to continue storing everything in between uses. It's got a handle for easy carrying and every piece of the hardware fits neatly inside without too much jostling. That also makes it easy to keep track of the instruction booklet and other pieces, which will come in handy when maintaining the bot. Although there's not much to that process, it can be useful to refer to the manual periodically.
Hardware and Design
In terms of design, the Robot Hobot-268 is easy to use and with fairly minimal aesthetics. A more expensive variation is on the way, the Robot Hobot-288, which has one or two more features and comes with a black coloration. But the Hobot-268 is gloss white. It measures at 10-inches x 10-inches x 4-inches tall and the whole package is primarily plastics, so it doesn’t weigh too much at just 2.6 pounds. That makes it pretty easy to pick up by its well-designed handle. It also feels very sturdy and shouldn’t require a whole lot by way of maintenance. However, the white coloration means that every particulate that happens to stick to it stands out. The top features a plug for operation via a battery in combination with a UPS, with an on-off switch situated just above. On the other side, towards the top, is a small speaker that will alert users to problems and when a cleaning job is done. That’s accompanied by LED indicators for the battery, alerts, and power - as well as a remote receiver. Down the center, on either side of the handle, there are vacuum outputs. The remote itself feels about as sturdy as any remote does. Finally, along the bottom is a hole for looping the anchor rope which can withstand the forces of an accidental drop, in order to keep everybody below safe. The rope has a buckle for added protection and a tensile strength of around 330-pounds.
Flipping the Hobot-268 over reveals how the bot operates. At each corner, there are sensors to detect edges, window frames, and other objects that might be in the way. It also senses when the edges bump into things for added accuracy when cleaning windows. The velcro strips for holding down the cleaning pads ensure that the cloth reaches each edge of the window or glass, while the square shape ensures that corners aren’t missed. Those also prevent the pads from slipping into the tread mechanism or wheels and clogging things up. There are two rubber caterpillar treads that drive the bot around on a given surface at an average of 4.7-inches per second. Vacuum holes at the center help keep the bot on a window or other glass surface with an algorithm used to help adjust things and keep the bot from falling. That vacuum also prevents dust from building up to form mud during subsequent wet cleaning. However, it’s worth pointing out that there is no waterproofing here at all. Since there's electricity involved, it's also not recommended that this is used with any cleaners that happen to be flammable.
Navigation and Cleaning
With regard to cleaning, there are three of each type of cleaning pad and they are machine washable for convenience. That allows for quite a lot of surface area to be cleaned, though how much will depend on how dirty the windows or tile are. The thicker blue pads are intended for dry operation and it’s important to read the manual first if this bot is going to be used on the exterior side of windows because those pads may also need to be used under other conditions. The yellow pads are intended to be used for polishing and for use with cleaners.
However, they also allow the bot to automatically apply a higher degree of friction. In some situations, it may be required to switch back to the blue pads if the bot becomes stuck due to that combination of factors. That generally happens depending on the imperfections of the glass and the overall slickness of the cloth or how wet the cloth is. Although that sounds like a real hassle, we noted that it only took a moment of experimentation on the first run of the Hobot-268 to work out which pads worked best and when. We had no further issues after that. With that said, it is worth pointing out that although the Hobot-268 is quieter than earlier models it isn't exactly soundless. The vacuum needed to keep it attached to a window is substantially more quiet than the average household vacuum cleaner but not what we'd call quiet, at an advertised 65dB.
In any case, all operations are controlled via the included remote but the bot will need to be placed on the surface to be cleaned first. Getting started is straightforward. After placing a pad, plugging it in, and ensuring that the device is anchored - which is recommended for higher-up windows or surfaces without a balcony or ledge to catch the bot if it falls - all it takes is a flip of the switch. That turns on the vacuum and holding the bot up to the window will adhere it to the surface. It’s important to get placement done correctly for the next part, so users will want to ensure that it is placed horizontally or vertically before pushing any buttons on the remote. For the former, the power button and plug should be at the bottom, with the words on the center sticker facing upright. For the latter positioning, all it takes is a clockwise turn from a horizontal placement.
From there, there are two ways to clean, either manually or automatically. The auto mode functioned differently based on which of the three buttons is pressed and which direction the bot is facing. When in horizontal or vertical mode, pressing the auto clean “up” button will tell the Hobot-268 to begin finding its position and then clean the entire surface in a zig-zagging pattern. The left auto button tells it to move left first or up first, respectively, before cleaning the rest of the surface in a zigzagging pattern. The right auto button does the same but to the right and down. The Robot Hobot-268 will stop automatically once it’s cleaned the whole surface and beep to alert its owner that it’s ready to be turned off and taken down. If the bot needs to be paused, a play-pause button allows for that, while pressing the “OK” or “STOP” buttons will bring cleaning to a halt. If a user feels like a part has been missed, the bot can be manually moved back up, down, or to the left or right with the arrow keys. That sounds like a very complex process on paper, but we found that once we trusted HOBOT’s robot to get the job done and let it run its course, it finished the job on standardized windows very quickly. The determined robotic glass-cleaner even found its way around the latch on several windows without seeming to miss a spot.
Maintenance and Battery Life
As far as maintenance is concerned, the Hobot-268 is engineered to require as little as possible. That means that owners mostly need to remember to clean the caterpillar treads every once in a while and to remember to properly clean the detachable pads. Those need to be cleaned on a cold wash cycle and to not be placed in a dryer in order to be properly maintained. Bleach shouldn’t be used, either, and owners shouldn’t iron them or dry clean them. Aside from that, wiping down the bot, periodically and possibly taking a can of air-duster to the sensors should be all that’s required. For larger repairs, HOBOT provides a decent limited warranty and offers authorized dealers for repairs or parts replacements. That could probably be described as both a positive and negative thing. It effectively means that while the Hobot-268 seems to be mostly held together by Phillips-head screws, it probably isn’t a good idea to attempt repairs. That doesn’t mean it’s not repairable but that the company expects its customers to take advantage of the convenience of not having to perform repairs themselves. At the same time, it should also mean that not very much maintenance will be required and could even be viewed as a show of confidence from the company.
In the meantime, the battery included inside the Hobot-268 is needed to drive the treads and cleaning mechanisms. That will run for around 20 minutes between charges and requires just a few hours to charge. Although that doesn’t seem like a long battery life, we saw an average of 2-5 minutes to clean a single window on both sides. That should allow for quite a lot of hands-free glass cleaning to get done even if it isn’t ideal. The UPS is designated as a safety mechanism, though it is required that it’s connected in order to operate the bot itself. Its primary purpose is to prevent the glass cleaner from falling off even if it happens to run out of battery power. While the associated able should be long enough to clean most windows, an extension for the cord may be required for some exterior windows or high-ceiling windows. The cord totals around 14-feet in length and the connector between that and the UPS is such that shouldn't be too difficult to find an aftermarket extension if that isn't long enough. That power supply, meanwhile, is rated at 72W.
The most obvious use case for this kind of cleaning helper would be at a business where there is plenty of exterior glass or glass partitions. But it actually makes quite a lot of sense in a busy household too. The bot can be placed on a window or other surface to clean while its owner accomplishes other tasks, with a change in placement in between. However, the biggest drawback to that is the power cable. Moving that is only a minor hassle but, from a subjective standpoint, could become bothersome if a home or apartment's windows aren't very large. On the positive side, it's safety features do mean that the cleaning of tall or upper-story exterior windows does become a much easier feat. So, whether or not a robotic cleaner like the Hobot-268 is really worth its price tag is going to come down to the individual consumer.
For those who don't mind the sound of a small vacuum cleaner running in the background or moving the bot between windows, the Robot Hobot-268 is likely to be a worthwhile purchase. The same can be said for businesses since it should make cleaning an establishment more efficient. For those who aren't immediately attracted to the concept and those slight caveats, it may be best to hold off until something that makes less noise and doesn't require a power cable is released.