Dyson wants to make robotic arms for the home

Although not a name that immediately comes to mind when people talk about friendly robots, in a video posted today, Dyson revealed the company actually puts a considerable amount of resources into developing robots that can do more around the house than just suck up dirt.

Robots have long thrived in industrial settings, where they perform tasks that may be too repetitive, too dangerous, or require more precision than humans are capable of. But to this day, robots are struggling to find their place in the house. It’s not that consumers don’t want bots running around their homes as science fiction has long promised, it’s just that technology has yet to catch up and deliver robots like The Jetsons Rosie, or even Star Wars’ R2-D2.

Industrial robots tend to be purpose-built for a single, very specific task, resulting in countless different shapes and sizes of robots making up a complete assembly line. But no one wants an even more cluttered kitchen with five or six different robots each doing a specific task. Ideally, we just want one that does anything and everything we ask of it.

The one area where home robots have thrived is in floor cleaning. Robot vacuums are now very good at sucking up dust and debris and even cleaning, and their relatively compact and simple puck-like designs mean they can hide out of sight when the job is done and they have need a filler. But other attempts to build compact food processors that can move from room to room have failed to convince consumers that the investment is worth it. Outraged privacy breach and data collectionnobody knows what Amazon Astro is really good for. Security? Sensors and cameras are a much more efficient, affordable and less intrusive solution. Beverage delivery? Astro can’t open the fridge. A smart speaker on wheels that can follow you around like a puppy? Nobody asked for that.

Dyson, a company well known for radically improving mundane home appliances like vacuum cleaners, fans and hair dryers, is optimistic it can do the same for food processors and is looking to seriously staff up to meet the challenge. .

Image for article titled Will Dyson Uncover the Secret to Making Household Robots That Don't Suck (Up Dirt)?

The company is actually no stranger to robots. Twenty years ago, he developed the Dyson DC06, his first stand-alone vacuum cleaner, and although it picked up dirt well, its limited battery life was coupled with a high price tag, leading Dyson to eventually scrap the produced before it sees the light of day. daytime. It wasn’t revealed to the world until 12 years later, when the company announced its follow-up, the Dyson Eye 360 ​​robot vacuumwhich is still part of its line of floor cleaning products.

Today Dyson revealed its robotic aspirations aren’t just limited to cleaning floors. With the aim of attracting some 700 new robotics engineers to the societyDyson posted a videoscheduled to coincide with the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Philadelphia, revealing its robotics research labs in the UK and Singapore. The video also highlighted that, for the past decade, Dyson sponsored doctoral work in robotics at Imperial College London.

In the videoJake Dyson gives a tour and small insights into the robotics research the company is carrying out at its previously secret facility at Hullavington Airfield, including everything from robotic vision work to deft robotic hands capable of picking up objects delicate and oddly shaped.

One of the most compelling demos involves a robotic arm with a vacuum cleaner on the end that uses 3D mapping to visualize a chair and then clean it; relieve a sore spot in the current crop of robot vacuum cleaners, which are only capable of tidying up soils. The demo also highlights one of the most useful applications of having more capable robots in the home: helping people with mobility issues or others who may not be able to perform certain routine household tasks as easily.

The video also features robots handling delicate dishes and picking up toys, and this is likely where we’ll see household robots gain traction: as assistive devices that can help with household chores, before becoming robots capable of doing much more. Will Dyson be the first to offer plug-and-play robots that do more than clean floors? The company firmly believes that bots are a big part of its future (with clothes) and seems willing to spend a lot of money on R&D to get there, but even he admits we’re probably looking at another decade before robots for the home can do more than just suck up dirt.

Martin E. Berry