The science magazines of the 50s were fond of portraying the future as populated with ‘droids designed to ease life in every way imaginable. Sadly, it is the future, and that’s not quite the way things turned out. But at least there are a bunch of simple robots that could do some of your day-to-day chores for you.
Panasonic just unveiled a new cleaning robot called Fukitorimushia, that’s wrapped in dirt-grabbing nanocloth. It’s designed to inchworm its way around your floors, rather than rolling on wheels–a robot equivalent of the shuffle maneuver you do when you stand on a towel to mop up the bathroom floor. And it’s got a bunch of sensors so it actively looks for mess to clean up, instead of just randomly giving your floors a once over.
The king of domestic robots is, of course, the Roomba, designed to randomly dart around vacuuming-up dust and dirt. It’s small and cute, comes in a variety of versions, and it’s got much smarter over the years. The code each vacuum-cleaner ‘bot runs on is even open source, so you can hack them and make them do your bidding in even more controlled ways.
If you’re lucky enough to own a pool, but not lucky enough to employ a pool-guy, you’ll know pools are a pain to keep clean. But Eco Pool Technologies has got you partly covered with the Solar Breeze: It’s a solar-powered pool skimmer robot. Basically it swims around in the daytime, gathering up debris that’s landed on the pool before it sinks–apparently that makes it easier to clean the pool base, and equates to power savings with reduced need to run your pool pumps. And you won’t have to maneuver one of those awkward pool-skimming nets about like a badly-trained Jedi either.
Osman Kahn’s Moe is more likely to raise a grin on your face than worries about an upcoming android uprising. It took part in last year’s Robots 250 festival, and was designed to amble around using GPS to locate grassy fields, which it then mowed by munching. Not amazingly effective: Your lawn would probably be better served by a Husqvarna Automower…though it’s simply not as cute.
Lastly there’s the cat Litter Robot–the simplest of the lot, and you might be tempted to call it an automatic cat poop-scraper. But since I’ve got one, and it saves me the bother of fishing out clumped-up balls of cat poo, I say call it whatever. It senses when a cat’s visited, and then spins around, scoops the poop, and dumps it in a tray for easy binning–it’s even smart enough to know to stop the process when a curious moggy revisits to figure out what the darn thing is doing to its carefully-buried poop.
None of these will have a conversation with you, none will bring you the paper or a freshly robo-mixed cocktail on your way through the door from work. But running all of these in your home would certainly add many chore-free minutes to each day, and that’s fab.