Domestic robots

The robots are coming! I am not talking about the killing robots from the movie I-robot, but about simple machines doing simple household tasks. Currently available robots for domestic use are specific made for one task. For example to clean the pool, do vacuum cleaning or mowing the gras. The dream to have a personal butler stays a dream, but we are getting closer and closer. We still have to wait years before we have a t-shirt folding robot in our houses (and they are going to be very expensive), but developers are making progress step by step. Developers from Willow Garage have made PR2 do some laundry and baking pancakes. In this article I will show some machines or robots if you like available today.

Floor cleaners
The vacuum cleaner was the first robot to be seen in homes doing household tasks. The robots are widely available, are mass produced by a lot different producers for houses or small offices. Most machines will clean wooden floors as well as the carpet. Modern robots will automatically adept to the surface they have to clean and will overcome small obstakels like doorsteps. Because of the small height the robots it can clean under your sofa and cabinets. Examples of these robots are the Roomba, Dirtdog, RC3000, Navibot and now Philips has there version called HomeRun. And there are a lot more.
Vacuum cleaners will only clean the floor by sweeping and sucking. Robots like the Scooba and Mint can also do wet cleaning. The Scooba has a clean water and a dirty water tank. Mint only uses wet towels to clean the floor. Mainly they do exactly the same as a vacuum cleaning robot.

Lawn mowers
The Husqvarna Automower and LawnBott Robot Mowers keep your grass in perfect condition. Because of frequent cutting the grass stays short and the clippings can stays on the lawn. There is no need to remove it as the clippings serve as a breeding ground for worms and other soil life as insects. The robots have a docking station to recharge after work.

Swimming pool cleaner
If you have a swimming pool you should clean it quite often. A robot can drive across the bottom of the pool and clean it for you. Examples of Swimming pool cleaners are Aquabot, Nitro Wall Climber, Polaris and Verro from iRobot.

Gutter cleaning
It was a surprise to find out that there is a gutter cleaning robot from iRobot. The robot is called Looj and is about 125 dollar so it’s not very expensive. But.. this task is probably done once a year so why buy a robot to do this. I have seen this robot a while ago and the first thing what came in my mind was, this should give a mess below. Does it come with a wall, window and floor cleaner? The iRobot Looj is not available in the Netherlands at the official iRobot web store. Not the succes they expected maybe? As far as I know only iRobot has made this type of robot.

New in the domestic field is the telepresence application. See what is happing at home and have a conversation as if you are there. You have more control than with a fixed webcam because you can move around the house. Anybot is shipping from the begin of this year (2011) there 2 wheeled telepresence robot. They call it ‘your personal avatar’ and is controlled by a webbrowser.


What to expect in the near future?
Telepresence robots are getting more and more sophisticated and will get arms and hands. Probably the next step in domestic robots is sweeping the garden and cleaning windows cleaning. It may be expensive for a family to buy a robot for doing the windows now an then so companies who providing automated window cleaning will provide these services

Robots in the near future need a somewhat controlled environment. The use of RFID will help the robot find stuff around the houses. Houses are getting more intelligent and al kind of devices are connected to the home intranet. The use of wireless connections should provide the robot information about it’s surroundings. I am asking myself: is the house getting smarter then the robot moving in it. In other words: is the robot a actuator from the house or will the robot control the house.