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Should we let robots clean our homes?


In most areas of our lives technology has changed the way we do things over the years but when it comes to cleaning it has remained a fairly manual process. Yet the last 12 months has seen the release of several updated and more versatile vacuum cleaners we will call robot cleaners, these devices use on board cameras to photograph and map your home, they even contain sensors to stop them falling down the stairs or accidentally engaging in a head to head battle with your poodle.

They have a choice of cleaning options with some allowing you to select the areas that need cleaning, and you can pre-set different modes and path ways. Its all very well that these devices look more futuristic than your average cleaning equipment, but the question is how well do they actually do the job?

So for this we devised a little experiment it may not be the most scientific but it will give us a good indication of whether these bots are up to the challenge of the type of mess a modern house hold can produce. So what we did was cover some of our lovely office flooring at future homes with some talcum powder.

First up to the task was a moderately priced conventional vacuum cleaner which had no issues cleaning up the spillage. The first of the new gen cleaners we test was the irobot roomba one of the first of its kind it works similarly to many other robots also supporting a timer function, the roomba is circular in design as opposed to the more square Samsung hom-bot model we tested which aims to dissolve the issue of getting into hard to reach corners.. unfortunately where both of these devices had good success with cleaning crumbs off the floor the talcum power proved a little bit trickier. Enter the next gen robot, the irobot braava, it sweeps AND mops and well it certainly did a better job then the other devices we tested, with perhaps still a little bit of room left for improvement. So that’s the floor done then but what about for instance the windows? Well there is a robot for that as well named the win bot which although due to having a cable attached to it the whole time doesn’t seem all that futuristic it’s still quite a sci-fi moment to behold.

So what do we like? Well being able to program the robots to clean up whilst you are out the house is certainly ideal in optimising the amount of time we don’t have to commit to chores each day and well that’s the whole idea of home automation isn’t it? To make you life more convenient. However with the less expensive models we found that having to set the robots to clean to only have to then clean up what they have missed isn’t exactly ideal at all. We imagine any discerning smart home owner will certainly want to keep watch as the technology is getting more exciting then you would ever imagine for just boring old cleaning equipment.

Porter is the more about the biographer dean of the university of pennsylvania graduate school of education.

Robert Gill - Co-Founder of Future Homes, avid sailor and all round tech geek.

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