Monday, March 26, 2007

Domestic Service Robots - iRobot Roomba vaccuming robot

Worldwide robotics market growth

Domestic service robots have long been a staple of science fiction and commercial visions of the future. The robot V.I.C.I in the mid -80’s TV show Small Wonder and Issac Isimov’s book I,Robot which was consequently made into a movie bear testimony to the same. Commercially too, this area has evoked a lot of interest with most big universities and research organizations devoting huge resources to the development of their own robot for different applications. But the question is how soon will robots become part of our day-to-day lives. According to the International Federation of Robotics, about two million personal robots were in use around the world in 2004, and another seven million will be installed by 2008. In South Korea the Ministry of Information and Communication hopes to put a robot in every home there by 2013. The Japanese Robot Association predicts that by 2025, the personal robot industry will be worth more than $50 billion a year worldwide, compared with about $5 billion today.

Roomba Vaccuum cleaning robot

Most commonly these imaginaries take the form of humanoid assistants capable of performing multiple tasks and engaging in fairly sophisticated communication and interaction with people. But more recently, an entire new range of robots are being developed which do not take the humanoid form and focus on specific applications such as the iRobiq and Robomovers discussed in this blog.

One such popular robot is the iRobot Roomba vacuuming robot. The Roomba is a “robotic floor vac” capable of moving about the home and sweeping up dirt as it goes along. The Roomba is a logical merging of vacuum technology and intelligent technology. The Roomba undertakes three types of cleaning, using two rotating brushes that sweep the floor, a vacuum that sucks dust and particles off the floor, and side sweeping brushes to clean baseboards and walls. Infrared signals are used to determine the Roomba’s current location in a room, and to ensure that it does not fall down stairs or off of raised floors. A set of sensors is also used to determine dirty places on the carpet that need more attention. The Roomba returns to a self charging home base after the floor is clean or when it needs to recharge. Typically, it can clean about three 14 x 16 foot rooms before doing so. Inexpensive contact sensors or infrared sensors are most frequently used, along with simple heuristics to follow random motion patterns. The Roomba navigates a space based upon a predetermined pattern. However, this pattern is altered whenever the Roomba bumps into an obstacle and it changes its course. This introduces important variability in the Roomba’s movement and helps to achieve greater coverage. But one major disadvantage or drawback with this robot is that unlike most conventional robots it is not capable of planning or learning and at times needs human intervention to help clean inaccessible areas.

Author: Vignesh Ramachandran

Matric Number: U037024R


1.Service Robots in the Domestic Environment: A Study of the Roomba Vacuum in the Home - Jodi Forlizzi et al

2. iRobot - Home robots

3.Sizing and seizing the robotics opportunity


dars.edutainment said...

"But one major disadvantage or drawback with this robot is that unlike most conventional robots it is not capable of planning or learning and at times needs human intervention to help clean inaccessible areas. "

My mum would definately attest to this statement..haha. Given the shape of the Roomba,it's most probably unable to clean up the corners in a house or the areas nearer to the edges of the walls where dust tends to collects. Even if it has the learning ability, i think some modifications must still be made to the shape and structure for it to be able to reach out to more inaccessible places. Nonetheless it's a useful invention..Should be expecting more variants of this kind of bots in future. =)

Alvin Ong

Chen Song Yi said...

Another thing about using robots to do the housework is that sometimes the time taken to teach it how to do something is much longer than the time taken for the person teaching to do it themselves. This is true for humans and perhaps even more so for robots.

There is a need to balance between the complexity of the robot and its functionality. Right now many of these robots are good to look at but not so good to use and many people buy them because of the novelty.

Then we have to ask ourselves, do we really need a robot to do our housework for us or perhaps that's bringing automation a step too far.

Assistive said...

I agree with alvin... when comes to cleaning the edge, Roomba still needs mama to come and clean the dirt away. On top of this, the other cons are the long charging hours and small dustbin size.

Hence, if roomba can go and charge by itself when its low batt and empty its dustbin if its full, it will be quite a bewilderment!

Tan Xie Xing (U046240M)

Anonymous said...

Well, as the others have noted, the corners are a problem. I would also know if this has already entered the market and what is the response like. Perhaps such a system could be extended to clean ceilings as well. Also, how much does thing cost? If too expensive, then households might not be able to afford it.

Still, if further developed to clean all those corners and inaccessible places, it could be a success. By the way, the spelling of the title is wrong. Its "vacuum", not "vaccum".

Varun Agarwala