It was less than a century ago that people marveled at the idea of robotic servants that might someday take over the everyday household tasks we would rather not have to deal with. Now we can watch these real life marvels in action – captured in these somewhat surreal images using time lapse photography techniques.

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What is perhaps most interesting is the similarities these paths have to other natural phenomena, such as the collision of tiny particles. Some people have also reprogrammed the Roomba and iRobot devices to selectively clean (or dirty) surfaces to create patterns, forcing their siblings to clean up after them.

Gavin Heffernan created this video he calls “ROOMBACALYPSE” to show just how surprisingly cool these patterns can look when you’re able to visualize them. The time lapse photographer does, in fact, usually focus on natural scenery, like the patterns of birds or stars, but putting LED lights on a robotic vacuum ends up producing an effect that’s vaguely psychedelic and not necessarily unnatural. Here’s how he did it, if you’re interested in replicating the effect (or just curious).


“I recently purchased an awesome IRobot ‘ROOMBA’ vacuum cleaner (as part of my neverending quest to make household chores tolerable). After watching the cute little circular robot zoom across our floors with endless gusto, I decided to try and attach different lights to the top and shoot some timelapses. I then ‘stacked’ the images the same way I would create star trails, using STARSTAX. The result was a psychedelic look that I had a lot of fun with! To amplify the patterns, I used a variation of mirroring effects to create symmetrical designs. For lights, I used a camping headlamp and a flashing rescue beacon. Blue pool ball shots were created using glow in the dark golf balls provided by friend/producer Michael Darrow. Arcade screens were composited in after to avoid stacking.”