When robot vacuum cleaners first hit the scene about a decade ago, they appeared to signal the end of lugging around traditional upright models.  However, with a pretty hefty price tag and comparatively limited cleaning ability, they haven’t exactly caught the world on fire.

Seeing this, Sharp has developed a robot vacuum cleaner destined to light a fire under consumers: ladies and gentlemen, meet COCOROBO (also affectionately known as, RX-V100W). So what makes COCOROBO so great? Well, for starters, it’s remote-controlled and able to talk with people.

■ You Got to Think Outside the Box to Appreciate COCOROBO

You might be thinking to yourself “I don’t need a talking robot vacuum cleaner. Why are you writing about this you strange, sad little man,” and normally I’d agree with you. However, to really get what COCOROBO is about you have to abandon all preconceptions of what a vacuum is and should be.

Also, think about this: whether you’re a person or a machine, it’s the ones that stand out from the rest that are the most fun.

■ Talking, Live Video, and Photos, Oh My!

COCOROBO is designed to respond to your voice. For example, if you come home from work and yell out “I’m home!” expect a warm welcome from your vacuum. You can also command it to clean whenever your wish just by telling it to.  In fact, even if you’re having a bad day, feel free to take it all out on COCOROBO saying, “Clean my m****f**** room you overpriced piece of s**t!” and it will politely reply and start cleaning. It’s kind of like Jesus in that sense.

Also the machine is kitted with a camera and Wi-Fi support.  Using these you can use an iPhone or Android phone to control it, watch videos, and take photos. So your little Jesus vacuum can also moonlight as a security guard.

■ Room Mode

COCOROBO has two modes depending on where you are. In “Room Mode” you are connected to the vacuum via your home’s Wi-Fi network. Using this fast connection you can control COCOROBO remotely with your smart phone.  You can see where you’re going using the mounted camera which streams a live video feed to your phone.  Essentially the main purpose of this mode is to screw around like you were playing with an RC toy, but if you really want to clean your whole house like this you can download a manual to your phone to give you expert handling.

■ Outside Mode

For outside mode, your smartphone connects through the 3G network which, due to speed restrictions, means that you can’t remote control drive it with live video (although it would be awesome to do your vacuuming from another country).  You can, however, keep an eye on your abode using COCOROBO’s still photos.

Your security vacuum will be able to take a 4-way photo of the room it’s in, so you can get a quick check that everything’s okay.  This would be perfect for pet owners or anal-retentives.

■ But How Does It Clean?

Okay, if you still insist on clinging to the fact that this is a vacuum cleaner, we should discuss how well it performs as one. A lot of the media hype surrounding COCOROBO maintains that it doesn’t live up to its competition in terms of sucking. However, having bought and played… I mean cleaned with one, I wasn’t disappointed.  Initially, I thought I’d just have it do occasional tidying while I did the bulk of the work myself, but it turned out that COCOROBO did a fine job by itself.

Overall, COCOROBO is a hell of a talking/verbal punching bag, remote control, surveillance, vacuuming robot.  Some of you may still think it’s an extravagant abomination of a vacuum cleaner, and at the end of the day you’re probably right.

But I tip my hat to the people at Sharp for trying to bring some fun into vacuums.  I envy the development team who created COCOROBO for working for a company as daring and supportive of creativity as Sharp appears to be.  Next time, I’d like a microwave that streams YouTube clips that of the same length it takes to finish heating my hotdogs.

Thanks to the person who lent us the room. You know who you are.

You can follow the further adventures of Kuzo on Twitter in Japanese

▼ You can take pictures of your house in Outside Mode

▼ You can enlarge each photo.

▼ In Home Mode you can control it like an RC car.

[ Read in Japanese ]