iRobot has given us the popular Roomba vacuum robot, which has surely changed the way we think about vacuum cleaners. But there are other far more useful chores that are yet to be achieved by any robot on the market. Engineers at iRobot’s R&D labs are working on a technology to make robots understand and interact with their environment.
“They are most valuable for what you might call chores—things that we have to do over and over again. Consumer research tells us that laundry is the number one household task that people spend their time on, so a laundry robot would be on top of the list,” iRobot CTO Paolo Pirjanian shared in an interview with MIT Technology Review.
“But that is a ways off. Before that we might look at moving from the Roomba to other surfaces and things we have to clean—windows, for example, or the bath and the shower,” he added.
Engineers at iRobot are also working on navigation as it enables robots to move around intelligently. The company is said to be working on the next-gen robots that use a camera combined with inertial sensors like in a mobile phone.
“It uses photos as landmarks for navigation, and that can extend to larger areas, even outdoors. We’re also being helped by the availability of low-cost 3-D sensors. If you combine photos with a 3-D map of a room you get something like a CAD model or a video game environment. That can enable more autonomy for a robot because it can understand things like where a door or chair leg is; it could allow robots to understand the environment all the way down to the level of individual objects,” Pirjanian added.