In a world where we already have robot discs picking up our pet fur, iRobot sees a future where its popular Roombas might do more than provide us entertaining cat videos.
iRobot’s chief technology officer, Paolo Pirjanian said that the company was working on low-cost manipulation – basically making cheaper robots by using plastic to replace steel though it will mean less precision.
Pirjanian also mentioned what it called its ‘state of the art’ Northstar navigation tech as seen on iRobot’s Braava model. It works by projecting infrared spots onto the ceiling that will be used as guidance markers. In future, the company is planning to use a camera combined with inertial sensors, much like the ones on phones.
Smarter, cheaper robots
iRobot also plans to make its robots ‘smarter’ with low-cost 3-D sensors that will allow robots to understand the environment, and be able to discern individual objects. So it could possibly locate and retrieve objects and know what room to enter or clean.
This could be made possible by storing all the information the robot helper needs in the cloud, as opposed to hard-coding it into a Roomba. So robots could potentially identify surfaces and ‘learn’ from the cloud. It could perhaps use a different pressure on marble floors, as compared to vacuuming on hardwood. In future, iRobot could even see its robots move from just our living rooms to more rugged environments like the backyard.
At the top of iRobot’s to-do list is make a laundry robot as consumer research shows that laundry is the number one household task that people spend their time on. But there's no delivery date on that one yet, so being able to shove your dirty clothes onto your robot is still a long way away. Give us laundry robots before flying cars, we say.