Home robots have existed since the 1990s. An early example of this is the 2001 Electrolux robot vacuum cleaner. They are currently used for helping humans with many kinds of domestic chores.
Over the past decade, there have been several dramatic improvements in cleaning robot capabilities. In fact, a few of the premium products in this market are currently in their 6th generation. OEMs are increasingly looking to adopt AI technologies, especially for vacuum cleaning, floor cleaning, and lawn mowing chores. Below are some currently available cleaning robots.
When iRobot launched its first robotic vacuum cleaner, Roomba in 2002, the product had fairly basic AI capabilities, such as identifying walls and avoiding stairs using built-in sensors. The latest 980 model of Roomba has advanced decision making capabilities, powered by AI. The robot is capable of scanning the room size, identifying obstacles and remembering the most efficient routes and methods.
The video below briefly explains the product and its features:
Sharp Corporation’s RX-V100
RX-V100 is a cleaning robot embedded with a speech recognition AI engine to enable tasks such as reporting the current status of the robot through a combination of blinking lights and spoken messages. For example, when a user gives a voice command to the robot to “Clean,” the RX-V100 uses AI speech to reply, “All right,” and “waggles” to acknowledge the command. It then begins cleaning in Automatic Mode. In addition to this, the product comes with a set of predefined messages and responses to simulate simple conversations, such as “Good Morning” or “How’s it going?
Bosch launched its Roxxter range of robotic vacuum cleaners that leverage AI to draw interactive maps of their environment. These robots are equipped to handle voice commands through Amazon’s Alexa assistant-compliant devices. For example, a user can activate the Roxxter robot by commanding Alexa: “Alexa, move the Home Connect robot vacuum to the living room.”
This is a 2-minute video from Bosch showing the product’s features:
Other key players in this home cleaning robot segment include Dyson, Samsung and Neato.
In the 45th Tokyo Motor Show this year, Honda demonstrated a new robotic lawnmower concept, the Honda Ai-Miimo Concept. Honda claims that Ai-Miimo Concept is a self-propelled, electric robotic lawn mower capable of communicating with its user using AI. It is, however, not clear how the robot leverages AI for conversations.
A 2017 World Robotics report estimates that entertainment robots (toys or hobby robots) sold 2.5 million units in 2017, bringing in a revenue of $1.1 billion. It also projects that the market size of entertainment robots would reach $7.5 billion between 2018 and 2020, at a CAGR of 20%-25%.
Two examples of AI-embedded home entertainment robots are listed below:
San Francisco startup ANKI’s home entertainment robot Cozmo is an artificially intelligent toy. The company markets Cozmo as a “robot with a big personality and a host of emotions” in its 2016 launch report. According to the report, Cozmo’s “personality” is powered by deep AI, robotics, and computer vision. Cozmo can “recognize and remember people” using a built-in OLED camera. The robot comes with an app that is compatible with Apple, android and Kindle Fire devices. It also has built-in gameplay content, which is constantly updated. The report claims that the robot’s skill sets with new activities increase over time as he gets more “familiar” with a player.
The video below shows Cozmo and its capabilities:
Emotech’s Olly is a voice-controlled assistant robot, much like Amazon Echo or Google Home. Emotech claims that this robot has an “evolving personality,” meaning it reacts differently to different users. It can “understand” the users’ facial expressions, vocal intonations and verbal patterns via computer vision, microphone array technology and an “emotion character engine,” and proactively start conversations rather than reacting to users’ commands.
It is, however, not very clear how the emotion character engine’s technology works. The robot’s capabilities also extend to retrieving information and interacting with other connected devices.
Emotech also reportedly closed a Series A funding of more than $10 million in 2016 from two Chinese VC firms, Alliance Capital and Lightning Capital.
Home Security and Surveillance
BuddyGuard, a Berlin-based startup, has launched Flare, an AI-powered home security camera. Originally funded via a crowdsourcing campaign, the company’s product now competes against Google’s Nest Cam and similar products. However, it is offered as an AI-backed intelligent security camera. Flare uses AI to recognize faces and detect suspicious sounds so that it can alert the home owner in case of intruders.
Deep Sentinel is an American company that aims to sell AI-powered home security and surveillance solutions, which can “predict and disrupt crimes before they occur.” The company claims that it has “optimized AI technology” to trigger alert systems even before a potential crime occurs. Deep Sentinel reportedly achieves this through a combination of neural networks, computer vision and deep learning.