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This Little Robot Crawls Under Your Floorboards To Deliver Insulation

It’s not your imagination: there are creepy crawling robots under your feet.

Robots are useful for “dirty, dangerous and dull” jobs, any roboticist will tell you. And that’s shown once again by the Q-Bot: a robot designed for the tiniest spaces of your home–the crawl spaces where really you don’t want to crawl.

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Developed in London, the Q-Bot goes under the floorboards, where it scans the area and then delivers an insulating foam. The process is both easier and cheaper than pulling up the floorboards, and has an energy-saving benefit. The company says households are saving $300 a year in heating and cooling costs after the work is completed.

“Normally you would have to pull the floor up, removing the furniture, carpet, coverings, maybe even moving out then you cut insulation panels to shape by hand fit an airtight membrane and then fit everything back in and redecorate,” says CEO Mathew Holloway. “It’s really laborious, disruptive, and expensive.”

It’s also not necessarily safe to crawl around someone like that. “If you come across a hazard down there, you’ve got no space to get out of the way, even if there’s space enough to get a person down there. It’s not really a nice environment for a person to work in,” he says.

Q-Bot also offers a surveying service, allowing contractors to look for leaks, assess infrastructure, and the like. And it’s working on a bot able to climb up walls, inside and outside of buildings, and apply insulation. “There’s a range of opportunities in this environment and we have a few products on the market,” Holloway says.

Holloway started the company with Tom Lipinski, an architect who spotted the opportunity to do under-floor insulation more easily. Holloway was sort of lumbered with the idea by Peter Childs, head of The Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College, London.

“He basically suggested ‘why don’t we have a robot that does this all for us?’. And I was stupid enough to step into the room at the wrong time, shall we say,” Holloway says. “And I said ‘Yeah, I’ll give that a go.'”

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Robots are likely to do an increasing amount of construction in the future: from laying bricks to painting the outside of buildings.

Holloway says the use of robots can be enabling for workers (and it needn’t end their jobs either). “There’s nothing wrong with human labor but, if you look at any other industry, they’ve empowered the workers,” he says. “The robot can survey and spray an area automatically. But it can’t drive the van to the site. It can’t open the front door of the house,” he says.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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