APPLIED SCIENCE & ENGINEERING LABORATORIES
duPont Hospital for Children and the University of Delaware
Vol. 2, No. 1 -- Fall 1996
By Bob Piech
The first Auto-Vac challenge came at my front door. The threshold of my door had a lip high enough to snag the vacuum. It took me 30 minutes to get the Auto-Vac through the doorway. At one point, I had the appliance wedged half in and half out, which had me wondering where I would be sleeping that night (since I was still outside at the time). Finally, though, it broke free. Since one of the tests of a home trial was to see whether a consumer could get the device home and set up, I should note that I needed someone to carry in and set up the charger/docking station.
My next hurdle was parking the apparatus. I parked the unit, shut off the transmitter and placed it near the Auto-Vac, and then shut off the receiver. The fact that I turned off the receiver after the transmitter caused the vacuum to lurch and block my access to the receiver. It was necessary to manually move the Auto-Vac out of the way, which, for someone who needs the convenience of a self-propelled machine, was all but impossible. Forty-five minutes of pushing and pulling yielded enough room to reach the receiver.
The actual vacuuming session was completed without major mishap. Vacuuming via remote control was certainly effortless and mildly pleasant, though maneuvering often took more time and forethought than with a conventional vacuum cleaner. Some narrow and low clearance areas were just not reachable no matter how much positioning was attempted. I also became tentative about using the Auto-Vac, thinking that it might fail to respond remotely and I would have to move it manually.
My final vacuuming effort failed because of dead batteries. Leaving the Auto-Vac connected to the charger can result in battery discharge if the charger is not in an active charging mode. I had turned off power to the charger with a separate switch to serve as a safety precaution while asleep or out. I understand that it took a week to recharge the batteries.
The overall home test received a mixed review from me. I experienced several significant difficulties, but we have learned from these. I would suggest better orientation for future field testers. I suggest that we consider ways of addressing the ground clearance issue and add a quick-release clutch for easier manual movement. Perhaps a simple instruction sheet on operation and charging could be written for future testers.
For more information, check out the Auto-Vac Design Team Home Page.