The Roomba is an autonomous vacuum cleaner sold by iRobot. It was designed to navigate a living space and avoid common obstacles such as furniture while vacuuming the floor. The Roomba was introduced in 2002 thus to the present day it has evolved over three generations into a robust dust eating machine.
iRobot also sells the Create, a cousin of the Roomba stripped down of the vacuuming apparatus, created to suit the purpose of a cheap mobile robotics research platform.
So why use the Roomba for research? First of all the Create is not available outside of the USA. Furthermore the Roomba is an attractive platform for millions of robotics hobbyist around the world who already own one. Finally when you’re not doing research the Roomba can actually do something useful, clean the floor!