How a robot vacuum works
Self-learning and GPS chip
A robot vacuum with a self-learning navigation method has a memory function. That way, it can save the route through the house and basically 'remembers' where the obstacles are. It's possible that the robot vacuum has to drive around the house the first couple of times to learn the route. As a result, there is a change the robot skips parts the first times.
A GPS chip is in the robot and uses location services to keep track of the whereabouts of the robot and which route it's taking. To use this navigation method, the robot vacuum needs a good WiFi connection.
Ceiling recognition and laser
The robot vacuum maps the room by scanning the ceiling with a camera. The robot vacuum works systematically and maps obstacles. Most robot vacuums with ceiling recognition store the data. In this way, the robot basically 'remembers' the obstacles in the room so it can drive around them.
The robot vacuum uses an invisible laser beam to map the room. Robot vacuums with this navigation method also use the laser to select the most efficient route. For example, if the battery runs out and the robot vacuum is capable of returning to the charging dock itself, it uses the lasers to determine the shortest route.
When the robot vacuum has mapped the room, it drives around the house to vacuum the floor. The robot vacuum can follow different cleaning routes: random and systematic.
Random vs systematic
The robot vacuum doesn't have a specific cleaning route and drives around the house at random. In general, you can get robot vacuums with random cleaning routes at a lower price. The disadvantage is that the robot vacuum cleaner may miss or skip spots.
A robot vacuum cleaner works systematically if it zigzags through the house, so it can get everywhere. If you want to be extra sure that the robot vacuum cleaner doesn't skip any parts, you need a robot with a systematic cleaning route.
The more, the better
The more advanced the robot vacuum is, the more systematic the cleaning route and the better the navigation method. Most basic robot vacuums only have a random cleaning route. Better robot vacuums work more systematically. You can find which cleaning route and navigation method the robots have in the manuals on the product page.
By suction method, I mean the way in which the robot vacuum cleaner picks up dust from the ground before it ends up in the dust cup. In some cases, side brushes bring the dirt to the suction brush, while some robot vacuums have a brush inside the suction brush as well. Want to know more about the brushes, how they assist the robot vacuum, or how to maintain them? Read the article about the brush attachments of robot vacuums.