For those who don't remember, Petster was a big round animal robot thing (my understanding is there were non-cat ones available as well) that rolled around on the floor, meowed once in awhile, and changed direction based on obstructions and sound. I have memories of using a Petster during a thunderstorm while my grandmother was vacuuming (which might have, in fact, caused its little robot brain demise. I don't remember).
So why am I talking about Petster? Well, Roomba really reminds me of it, actually. They're disc shaped, they have directional capabilities. Roomba, however, is considerably smaller than Petster was (the above linked article said it's seventeen inches long and nine inches tall, compared to Roomba's 13 inches long and 3 1/2 inches tall). Where. Uh. Where does the vacuumed up stuff go? Does it have an internal combustion engine which uses vacuumed debris to power its cleaning primary directive?
No, it docks in a wall charger.
Okay, and it's wireless, so there isn't a little vacuum tube that runs along the ceiling and directs the stuff to some internal house waste bin.
Teleportation? No, I don't think the science on that is quite up to par.
How Stuff Works has an article on Roomba how they work (which you should look at at least the first page of, because it shows a neat picture of the Roomba's cleaning algorithm, which determines the path it takes. Said article also says:
You typically need to empty the dirt bin at least once for each room the Roomba vacuums, and possibly two or three times depending on how dirty your floors are. Roomba doesn't know when the bin is full -- it just keeps going. There's a filter you'll need to replace when it gets too clogged, but there's no vacuum bag -- you just dump the bin and put it back in the unit.So, not as World of Tomorrow™as one might perhaps desire. It isn't intended for thick carpeting and it doesn't know when its internal dust bin is full. So, I guess we're still a ways away from a self cleaning house, so far as tiny robot vacuums are concerned. Of course, the Roomba is just the brand name one everybody knows about; somebody could be working on a Jetsons-style Rosie and we don't know yet, though God, is Rosie named that because of Rosie the Riveter? That's just as bad as the recent Swiffer commercials (and I already dislike Swiffer and will not buy them because of their Cesar Millan endorsements).