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Dyson drops $8 million into domestic robotics research

Dyson is definitely the king of the hill when it comes to vacuum cleaners. The company’s painstakingly designed suction machines are widely regarded as the best in the biz. However, to this point, the company hasn’t really embraced the rapidly growing trend toward robotic cleaners. But it appears that they’re making moves to change that.

Over the weekend, Dyson announced in a press release that it plans to invest five million pounds (roughly $8,000,000 USD) into a joint robotics lab with the Imperial College of London, focusing on research around new vision systems for domestic robots. Officially named “The Dyson Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College,” the lab will initially recruit 15 scientists; including five PhD researchers, six post-doctoral researchers, and additional space for Dyson research, software, and electronics engineers. The goal is to create a generation of robots that understand – and intelligently react to – the world around them.

This definitely isn’t Dyson’s first foray into household robotics. Back in 2001, Dyson’s prototype vacuum cleaner – the DC06 – nearly made it to production, but the product was scrapped at the last minute, with the company saying that it was too bulky and expensive.

It’s been well over a decade since then, and despite the fact that the robotic vacuum bandwagon has become relatively crowded by now, Dyson believes that there’s still plenty of room for innovation. Based on the information they’ve released, it appears that their main area of focus is developing improved navigational systems for various types of household robots.

Professor Andrew Davison, currently Professor of Robot Vision at Imperial’s Department of Computing (and soon to be the Director of the Dyson Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College) is an expert on Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) systems – so it’s not a huge leap to assume that upcoming Dyson vacuums will boast advanced autonomous navigation capabilities.

Aside from that, the company’s press release hinted that, in addition to robotic vacuum cleaners, research will also be focused on other types of domestic robots. Dyson representatives declined to elaborate on exactly what kinds of household robots are in the works, but given the company’s track record for innovation, we expect big things.