Most current robot vacuum cleaners are stupid. Not as in “worthless,” but as in “ignorant.” They don’t know anything about what your room looks like, so they pretty much clean it by bumping around in the dark until they’ve cleaned up your crumbs through sheer persistence.
Not surprisingly, Dyson’s 360 Eye robot vacuum, introduced on Thursday after more than a decade in the English company’s R&D labs, does things a bit differently. It packs the same high-power motors and filtration systems as Dyson’s traditional vacuums, crawls over obstacles with tank treads, and navigates your house with sight, just like you do.
It can clean anywhere it can roll without the use of the rotating “side sweepers.”
Of the slew of innovations Dyson brings to the table, that namesake eye might be the most impressive. A panoramic camera atop the vacuum gives it a full 360-degree view of your room at all times, so rolling under a pesky coffee table or getting harassed by the family golden retriever won’t be enough for the ’bot to lose its bearings. It locks onto a number of high-contrast spots around your room – like the corner of a bookshelf – and uses them to triangulate its location in the room based on sight lines. With these landmarks, it navigates your room like a 15th century explorer using the stars, mapping both where it is and where it has been. Think of it like a robot Magellan.
Dyson backs this navigational prowess with a pair of tank treads instead of wheels. They make it easier for the Eye to roll between uneven surfaces, like the bump between hardwood floors in the living room and tile in the kitchen, or the edge of a throw rug.
The 360 Eye uses the same digital motor found in Dyson’s cordless vacuums, like the DC59 Motorhead, which Dyson claims gives it the most suction of any robot vacuum. It also has a brush bar that extends the full width of the vacuum, so it can clean anywhere it can roll without the use of the rotating “side sweepers” a Roomba uses. Rows of soft carbon-fiber bristles on the bar whip fine dust off hard floors, while stiffer nylon bristles agitate dirt out of carpets.
Naturally, the 360 Eye self-docks when it needs a charge and should run for between 20 and 30 minutes on its lithium-ion battery between charges. It also includes an iOS and Android app called Dyson Link, so you can schedule cleanings from afar or just set them up on a recurring schedule.
How much will this miracle of automation cost? Dyson won’t say yet, and it’s currently only slated for sale in Japan in 2015. In the meantime, the rest of the world can look to Samsung’s VR9000H, which is set to hit stores in September and includes similar features like a digital motor, cyclonic filtration, and a “Full View Sensor” to identify obstacles.