The First Sophisticated Domestic Robot - The Dyson 360 Eye
The First Sophisticated Domestic Robot - The Dyson 360 Eye
Written by Lucy Black   
Saturday, 06 September 2014

Yes it's a vacuum cleaner! But you knew it would be. The real question is why has it taken so long to make a sophisticated robot to do the menial job of cleaning the floor.

If you have any interest in robotics, or in avoiding housework, the idea of a robot vacuum cleaner should be close to your heart. Sit back and design one. It would have some sort of sensor that stopped it bumping into things, a positional system that allowed it to work out where to clean next, and it wouldn't get tangled in lose wires. 

So what does a typical Roomba do?

It runs around at random bumping into things and getting tangled in anything it can find. It is an endearing little machine and once you have owned one the idea of not having one is unthinkable but... it is still a little dim, even for the menial job of cleaning the floor. 

The typical robot vac has bumper sensors and perhaps something to stop it falling down stairs. It isn't much more advanced than the most basic turtlebot mated with a vacuum and a brush. 

 

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Enter the Dyson 360 Eye which was launched last week. This is an upmarket cleaner. Not only does it have a radial root cyclone suction machine it also has, as it's name suggests, 360 degree vision. 

A 360 degree panoramic lens lets an infrared sensor see all around. The sensors work in conjunction with a video camera to place objects in the scene.

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As it moves around it builds a model that is accurate to 5mm. It uses SLAM - Simultaneous Localization And Mapping - which is one mark of an advanced robot. In short - this Dyson knows where it is. 

 

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And what is the advantage of this?

Simple - the robot doesn't bump into things and it can clean systematically, which is much more satisfying for a human observer at the very least. 

Take a look at the video about how it was developed.

 

Of course, it has other important features - did I mention that it sucks really well? It also has tank tracks to enable it to get over small obstacles. If you think that your room hasn't got any obstacles then you haven't seen a Roomba try to negotiate it. In practice a carpet or change in floor level tends to throw a robot vac off track. It also has apps for iOS and Android that let you schedule it and control it.  

Is this high tech vision system overkill? 

It could be. It is very temping to think that a simple ultrasonic sensor could have been used to avoid bumping things and it isn't clear that this plus simple dead reckoning with corrections provided by known positions, e.g. the docking station, and features added by SLAM, might do as good a job. 

What next?

Well if  you have ever watched a robot mower randomly try to mow a lawn you will be eager for the 360 Eye version. And home security is a natural extension. Why not a home security software upgrade to the 360 Eye - then it can clean and protect.

However, all of this isn't cheap. Given that an entry level Roomba is around $300, the Eye is expected to cost $1000 and it won't be available until some time next year. 

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 06 September 2014 )
 
 

   
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