I Live In Brooklyn's Messiest Apartment. Could A Smart Vacuum Be The Answer I've Been Searching For?

By Mike Sheffield

In 2014, I moved into a house with my girlfriend and three other friends. Collectively, the five of us had been living at various DIY (Do It Yourself) spaces across New York City, and we were looking for a change of pace as we all ventured into our thirties. Over the course of a month, we found a place that we all loved in the Bed Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, kitty-cornered by South Williamsburg and Bushwick. The space had everything we could want in an apartment: luxurious bedrooms, a warm kitchen and common area, and a large basement where we could each cultivate studio spaces for our art practices. As of writing this, I have been at this apartment for close to five years, and it has been everything I could ever want out of a home, with one key exception.

While some of the tenants have changed (my girlfriend and I are the only original “cast members”), the problem of cleaning has been a constant issue. Dishes frequently litter the kitchen sink, trash bags fill to the brim before being taken out to a dumpster, and — perhaps the most common issue — is the presence of dirt, grime, foodstuffs, and random matter that winds up on the floor, especially in the kitchen area. While we all put in effort every now and then to try to keep a tidier household, it has always seemed like an uphill battle as visitors and busy roommates alike would create small messes without cleaning, leading to a quickly growing filth army. After years of trying against all odds to keep the house clean, I began accepting a filthy floor as my baseline of living.

That was, until recently.

Last week, I was offered to write a piece on a very coveted home tech device, the Roborock S4. In brief, the Roborock S4 is a robot vacuum designed to navigate the furniture found in one's home. While we’ve had our share of non-smart vacuums, the idea of having a piece of smart home technology that literally cleans your house for you seemed extremely appealing to me, even if I was somewhat skeptical. How does the Roborock S4 work? Could I — a technology noob — even attempt to set up the device? If I could, how effective would the device be? And would the robot fall apart upon the slightest accident? This last point seemed especially pressing to me this November, as a mercury in retrograde-plagued month had been ravaging the technological lives of many of my friends. I thought there was only one way to find out: I would try the Roborock S4.

Meeting Roborock

The Roborock S4 arrives at the author's apartment.

While I was given the Roborock on a Wednesday, I wouldn't end up taking it out of its box until the following Friday. I was nervous: What would it require to set up the device? Would it work?

After a long week at work, I went home on a Friday night, popped a few bottles of natural wine, and decided to mess with the Roborock. This way, I would have all weekend to figure it out, even if my technologically challenged brain faltered upon my initial attempts. With some smooth drum and bass as our background, my roommate Monae and I took the device out of its box. The large cardboard container held the Roborock, a manual, a charging port, and a power cord. After some failed attempts at opening the device, we managed to lift its lid. We could see the air filter trap, a floating main brush, as well as a side brush. Leafing through the manual, we eventually managed to put the power cord into the charging dock and connect the Roborock. After about a minute, the Roborock first spoke:

“Roborock charging.”

The voice was a woman’s voice with a navigation device flare. After studying the manual a little closer, we came to the conclusion that once its power light stopped flickering, the Roborock would be ready to go. We watched some music videos and continued to drink wine as the charging port did its job. After about half an hour, the Roborock spoke once again.

“Charging complete.”

Now was the moment of truth. But also the pressure was on: How do you get this thing on? After downloading the Roborock app, I became a little dismayed. It was getting pretty late and the thought of configuring the app seemed like a daunting task. I told Monae we could finish robo-rocking out tomorrow. She got off the couch and pressed the power button. Suddenly, it was Roborock time.

When Roborock Comes To Life

The device turned in circles for a minute, gently vacuuming the middle of our kitchen before scanning the perimeter. It would go up to our furniture, vacuum along the sides, and gradually make its way into another direction. It went underneath our couches, underneath our kitchen island. I became ecstatic.

“That's my robot!” “Roborock for president.” “Roborock is my new best friend.” We soft-pedaled superlatives left and right. We were both amazed, in shock, truly grateful for this new addition to our living situation. We knocked on our roommate Nat’s room, and urged him to watch the robot. He chimed in with a resounding “wow,” and took a seat on the couch to watch the Roborock S4 strut its stuff.

Noodles, Meet Roborock

One of my favorite qualities of Roborock is its thoroughness. As a cat owner and proud cat dad of an amazing feline named Noodles, our apartment generally has a smattering of cat hair anywhere close to the ground. With its persistence, Roborock removed virtually all of the cat hair from our floor. Noodles would peek out to watch Roborock from time to time, but it’s quiet setting did not seem to scare my otherwise squeamish cat. I was surprised, but glad that Noodles and the Roborock could get along.

Noodles anxiously watches the Roborock S4's every move.

We eventually began referring to the Roborock S4 as Roxy. We liked the alliteration and, after all, my roommates vetoed my initial suggestion of Rachel. Forgotten flecks of food vanished in front of our eyes. Dust was toast. And then, Roxy started to make her way into each of our bedrooms.

Room To Room

First up was Nat, and his cowhide rug. Roxy managed to climb on top of this designer piece of home furnishing with ease, collecting dust off of each bit of hide. As Roxy made her way across his room, Nat looked like a kid in a candy shop. It eventually made its way into Monae’s room and then mine. I moved my storage unit from behind my bed as it vacuumed areas which probably hadn’t been touched in years. I could have wept with joy. That night, we let the Roborock rock out for a full three hours. Once it had run through its super long charge, the Roborock spoke out again that it needed to return to its charging dock. It did so by itself. We were in awe.

The following day, as I was making coffee I ran into my other roommate Lena eating breakfast. I asked her if she had seen the robot. She gave me a puzzled expression, and I pointed down to Roborock S4. We gave Roxy another whirl, and I watched her as she watched the robot clean her room. As a clean person herself, I could tell Lena was a little more than skeptical of the robot vacuum. But as Roxy cleaned the surface area of her room, I could see her skepticism melt, a flicker of hope emerging in its place.

A Welcome Sous-chef

The following evening, I made stew in our apartment. It was a Vietnamese beef stew I had read about online. While I cut scallions, ginger, cilantro, and shallots, I turned the Roborock on once again. Not only would it clean stray herbs, garlic, and vegetables that made their way off of our kitchen island, it would clean our floor while I attended to cooking. It was like having two people in the room. I thought about how helpful this device would be for a busy single parent, a new couple taking their relationship to the next level, or a lonely compulsive gamer.

In The End

Did this Roborock change our world, did it make my apartment a more inhabitable and agreeable place to live? Only time will tell. But I did immediately see its benefits. I will be making a map through the device's Mi Home App later this week to create no-go zones in the apartment and if Roxy lets me, I might even give her a spin in the basement. I’d recommend Roborock to anyone who is struggling with a busy lifestyle or who doesn’t feel like they have enough hours in their day. Why not spend more time doing what you want to be doing and less time doing the chores that you hate? If you are like me, maybe Roborock is right for you.

This post is sponsored by Roborock.