Meet your new robot helpers. Words Geoff Quattromani
For decades, robots were confined to movies and TV series like “The Jetsons”, in which they look after mundane tasks and help humans manage their day. Recently, however, we’ve witnessed an explosion in technology that brings such visions to life, and in 2022 there’s a strong supply of robots ready to assist us – albeit usually without the metal humanoid body on wheels.
The ecosystem of these robots is centred on the “internet of things”: devices, sensors and controllers that make artificial intelligence work in our homes. This could be a temperature sensor that automatically triggers the air-conditioner when the room gets too hot, a moisture sensor in the garden that initiates the watering system when necessary or pollution sensors that awaken an air purifier. These are now relatively inexpensive products that help us delegate decisions to our devices.
A combination of sensors and devices allows us to orchestrate moments. Arriving home can trigger outdoor lights to guide us to the front door, which is automatically unlocked. Smart technology can then turn on the lamp so we can see when we step inside. If we’re planning to cook, it can preheat the oven. Walking into the bathroom, we can ask our voice assistant to start the shower, which will then be set to the temperature we like. Receiving an overview of our schedule from the mirror will help us to prepare our next steps, while at the same time we can get updates on our skincare needs, stress levels and other health metrics. These actions are all carried out seamlessly because the individual appliances are working in harmony. This is the foundation of the smart home.
Advanced sensors applied to everyday products have truly changed the game. Robotic vacuums, which had a tough start in the market, can now “think” for themselves. While once they trundled aimlessly around the place, they can now see and identify objects in their path. From anywhere in the world we can command our robot to clean the whole home, or just certain rooms, and it will navigate around socks left on the floor, mop hard floors and increase suction on carpets. What’s more, it can remember where obstacles were in previous sessions and target those areas next time, hoping we’ve since tidied up. Thanks to the onboard camera, we can use these robots for checking on our home or pet when we aren’t around.
In the garden, artificial intelligence, sensors and robots continue to work together. Using the weather forecast as a guide, the watering system will know when to operate and for how long. Sensors in the soil will tell us when to fertilise and which plants need it most. Our robot mower, which knows the type of lawn we have, will operate on a schedule to ensure our grass is well maintained and healthy year-round. All of these systems are designed to give us more time to enjoy the backyard rather than slave over it.
Outside of the typical products and services we could all be using today, specialised robots are beginning to take flight. Autonomous drones have undergone major advances recently. Today they can deliver groceries, plant trees and monitor farming yields. The intelligence in these drones enables a hands-off process using sensors and computer vision to make decisions and provide insight. On the ground, we’re seeing progress in autonomous vehicles and how quickly that technology is leading us to a hands-off drive to our next destination. While autonomous vehicles will bring convenience to our future commute, perhaps the biggest benefits will be seen in logistics, moving freight across the country or simply delivering our pizza order.
We can already see exciting prototypes in action. Recently, developers demonstrated a robot that can empty the dishwasher and pour a glass of wine. An air-purifying robot that moves from room to room improving air quality is imminent, and Tesla has revealed a glimpse of its future humanoid bot that will help us with everyday and dangerous tasks.
Robotics will continue to remove barriers to doing what we’d rather be doing, giving us back more time as the technology develops. Sensors, services and products that work together promise rewards and convenience when we need it most. All of this works best when it appears to be invisible and is completely hands-free.
Robots we’re watching
The Saturday morning chorus of lawnmowers is set to fall silent as robot versions grow in popularity. These electric mowers work on your lawn day or night in complete quiet. Focused on maintaining a consistent grass height, they can travel around your lawn multiple times a week and will steer clear of garden beds.
SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB
If the fridge is the centre of the kitchen, then it is now also the smartest appliance in it. The Family Hub features a large touchscreen display for managing a busy household and cameras inside so you can remotely view its contents while you’re at the shops. It can tag use-by dates and provide recipe recommendations, while reordering supplies is just a touch away.
ECOVACS DEEBOT X1 OMNI
Vacuuming and mopping are chores you can now avoid. This latest model from Ecovacs will do both at the same time using floor detection technology to determine suction level and spot any spills that need extra attention. The robot can safely navigate the home and empty itself when it returns to its charging station, even replacing its mop water, ready to go again.
Combining a washer and dryer in one tall unit is just the start of what this new-generation laundry appliance can do. Using artificial intelligence, the WashTower looks after the different fabrics inside the washer to treat delicates with care without you having to tell it to. The washer and dryer communicate with each other for optimum efficiency based on a range of sensors.
AMAZON ECHO SHOW 15
A smart display can be the hub of the home with a shared calendar, shopping lists, recipes and control of all of your connected appliances. The Show 15 can hang on the wall, listen and speak to you and play your favourite shows, audiobooks and music on demand. Using voice or touch, you can manage your entire smart home with ease.
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our fifth edition, Page 88 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Get smart”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.