The dust mite

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 March, 2003, 12:00am

REMEMBER THOSE old films from the 50s that predicted a 21st century with homes on the moon and robots to do our household chores? A weekend residence on the shores of the Sea of Tranquillity may still be a long way off, but you can at least have a robotic vacuum cleaner to lighten your workload.

The Electrolux Trilobite is the first such machine available in Hong Kong.

The Trilobite is a little round beast about 30 centimetres across and 15cm high. Touch the start button and it trundles out of its charging station, feeling its way along the walls. One lap of the room completed, it crosses and re-crosses the floor until the job is finished. If the batteries run low before all the dirt is gone, the machine finds its way back to the charging station, replenishes its power supply and finishes the job.

I was impressed by the creature's ability to circumvent almost any obstacle, although being round it has problems manoeuvring into corners. It surmounted doorway sills, untangled itself from carpet fringes and navigated furniture. The rooms of my flat have supporting pillars that create lots of impediments and some of the furniture is turned at odd angles, but having watched the Trilobite negotiate all obstacles I am confident it could make its way round almost any apartment. That negotiation took time, however, and the Trilobite needed more than an hour to do what I could have done in 20 minutes with a standard vacuum cleaner.

If you run the machine for a couple of hours two or three times a week ... holy electricity bills, Batman! Better to spare your bank balance and the environment and use a little old-fashioned elbow grease instead. On the other hand, if your flat has straight walls and a dearth of furniture it could mean you'll always have clean floors without ever having to haul out a vacuum cleaner again.

The Trilobite is an amazing piece of technology, to which I give an enthusiastic but qualified thumbs-up. It is available directly from Electrolux Hong Kong (tel:2489-6123) and costs $12,800.