Robots at Home
An emerging part of home automation includes the use of robots at home. Bilal Athar, CEO at Wifigen LLC and a home automation enthusiast, believes robots will be central to having a smart home. “A smart home should also be a clean home.”, said Athar. ECOVACS ROBOTICS is a company specializing in research and development, design, manufacture, and sales of robotic home appliances. Their mantra is “Live Smart. Enjoy Life.”] The company makes robots which add a lot of convenience for cleaning floors and even windows. One product, the DEEBOT M81, is designed to clean different kinds of messes in the home.
The M81 vacuum and mop combo can sweep, vacuum, and mop in one pass. The company says the robot can “give your home a thorough and deep clean.”] You can choose the cleaning mode to auto mode for general cleaning, edge mode for cleaning specific edges, or spot cleaning when intensive cleaning is required. Everything is controllable from your smartphone. When battery power gets low, the DEEBOT automatically returns to its charging dock. No human intervention is required. You may add some integration with voice assistants like Alexa. A use case could be a child spilled something, and you say “Alexa, ask DEEBOT to clean the kitchen floor”.
While robots clean the inside of homes and apartments, a new field of home robots is emerging. Robots at home doesn’t mean they need to be in the home. They could also be outside moving the lawn. iRobot, the company which developed and markets the Roomba vacuumbot, has been working on robotic lawn mowers for more than ten years. In January 2019, iRobot announced Terra, a flat, square, autonomous, grass-cutting lawnbot.[iv] The company faced many engineering challenges along the way. GPS technology works nicely on a tractor out in an open field. At a residential property with trees and neighboring homes, there is too much signal interference to make GPS a reliable way to safely navigate the property. Sensors had to be developed which could keep the lawnbot out of garden beds, and avoid hitting picnic tables, toys, or other obstacles which may be on the lawn.
iRobot believes it has solved the engineering problems and plans to begin beta testing in 2019 with sales to begin in 2020. Terra has a quiet electric motor and a pair of tri-blade mulchers. The idea behind the mulchers is to allow the lawnbot to operate slowly and achieve a manicured look. Rather than mowing the lawn once a week, consumers might choose to have Terra work several days per week. When the battery gets low, Terra heads for the outdoor charging station to charge up and then return to where it left off.
Robotic lawn mowers are successful in Europe. Analysts say European lawns tend to be small and square, which makes the lawnbots simpler and more affordable. The analysts also question whether there is enough demand in the U.S. to have a successful product. The price is likely going to be $1,000 or more.
Cleaning floors and windows and mowing the lawn are just the beginning of what robots will be able to do at home. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2018, I saw a robot which could fold shirts. In the future we can expect to see robots which can do the laundry, make the beds, prepare cocktails, cook and serve dinner, and then go get a recharge. For those of us who like to cook in the kitchen, a robot may be our assistant to chop the onions or shuck the oysters. As robots gain AI, they will be able to anticipate our needs and operate autonomously to give us more time to spend on the things we want to do.
Robot Attitude: Robot Attitude: How Robots and AI Will Make Our Lives Better will be published later this year. I hope during the summer. If you would like me to let you know when the book becomes available, enter your name and email below, and click the Let Me Know button.
“A Robot for Every Family,” ECOVACS ROBOTICS (2018)
“Where’s My Robot Lawn Mower? Roomba-Maker Now Has an Answer,” AP (2019),