The children of tomorrow may never know the word “housemaid.” With the advances in robot technology and the big names breaking into the industry, cleaning your house will be an automated process in the near future. What is available now? What is coming down the pike? We will answer these questions and more below.
Where We Are Right Now
Robots have mastered the task of vacuuming. Building on the early success of the Roomba and learning from its flaws, today’s robot vacuums can run for an hour with a two-hour charge, return to their charging station when low on battery, have larger capacities, fit under your furniture, are controlled via an app on your phone, and much more. There are also floor mopping and scrubbing robots for hard surfaces.
Other housecleaning robots that are now available to consumers include:
Automated Shower Cleaners – These are simple, inexpensive devices that clean your shower with the press of a button: no elbow grease needed.
Gutter Cleaning Robots – For the price of hiring a gutter cleaning professional, you can buy a robot to do it for you. Gutter cleaning robots feature high-velocity augers that chew through the toughest clogs.
Robotic Kitty Litter Boxes – Robotic kitty litter boxes rotate themselves to sift out clumps and deposit them in a compartment you line with a kitchen garbage bag. It works with all types of litter and with multiple cats using it.
Where We Are Going
Currently, there are gaping holes in the cleaning tasks that robots can perform. Specifically, there are no devices that can assess a mess and determine the best way to clean it up. The user has to take the initiative to activate the robot.
Elon Musk started his OpenAI institute with the goal of solving this problem. There are a number of steps they must master. Effective robot household cleaners must figure out the type of mess, design and carry out a room-by-room cleaning plan, and deal with unexpected events.
Maya Cakmak is also working on the challenge at the University of Washington, where she was awarded a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s National Robotic Initiative. Cakmak uses a technique known as “programming by demonstration” to train robots. This can help teach robots which tool to use, how much pressure to apply, and what motions to make. The key could be to create robots that the layperson can easily program for specific tasks.