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Automatic Vacuum Cleaner

Dyson 360 Eye, robotic vacuum cleaner, over an obstacle

Dyson, the British company that created the cyclone vacuum cleaner, Airblade hand drier, and the bladeless fan, is finally stepping out onto the bleeding edge of high-tech suction and blowing. Say hello to the Dyson 360 Eye, the first “truly intelligent” autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner that can see its entire environment and then plan a route around it, rather than just bumping algorithmically from obstacle to obstacle like a Roomba. Dyson claims that it has more suction power than other robotic vacuum cleaners, and is designed so that it can actually “clean properly” (compared to other robotic vacuums). Oh, and did I mention that it has tank tracks?

The Dyson 360 Eye, according to the company, has been under development for 16 years. Apparently it was almost launched way back in 2001, too, but the company stops short of explaining why it waited another 13 years. (Maybe it had something to do with iRobot’s Roomba, which first entered the scene in 2002.) In any case, the 360 Eye is finally here.

Dyson 360 Eye, front

There are two core technologies that power the 360 Eye: The V2 Dyson digital motor, and Dyson Digital Algebra. Dyson’s cordless vacuum cleaners all use a “digital motor, ” rather than a conventional brushed DC motor. “Digital” is somewhat overstating it, but basically it’s an alternative motor design that allows for much higher RPMs (about 100, 000 RPM vs. ~20, 000 RPM for brushed DC motors) and thus a more efficient, higher-suction vacuum cleaner. The video below does a reasonable job of explaining the difference between a Dyson digital motor and a standard DC motor.

Dyson 360 Eye, beneath

And then, of course, there’s the Dyson Digital Algebra — the software that powers the robotic vacuum cleaner’s computer vision system. Basically, on top of the machine there’s a 360-degree panoramic camera that allows it to track its position (via landmarks and obstacles) as it moves around the room, and infrared sensors to detect nearby obstacles. This allows the Eye 360 to plan an intelligent route around a room, rather than discovering a room by algorithmically bumping into things. There aren’t a whole lot of details about the Digital Algebra software at the moment — but hopefully it works well!

Rounding out the Eye 360′s other cool features, there’s a full-width carbon fiber brush bar (so it can clean the edges of rooms), it has tank tracks so that it can traverse all floor types and even “small obstacles, ” and it automatically self-docks and recharges when its battery runs low. (The lithium-ion battery is good for 20 minutes of run time.) The whole thing weighs 5.22 pounds (2.37 kg) and has a capacity of 0.4 liters of dirt and dust. Of course, there’s also a Dyson Link App that will let you control the robotic vacuum cleaner from your iOS or Android device.

The Dyson 360 Eye will launch in Japan in spring 2015, with the rest of the world to follow later in 2015. There’s no word on pricing, but I suspect it won’t be cheap (the top-end Roomba is about $500, and I’m sure the 360 Eye will be more than that).

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