Automated home help is cheaper than ever
The advancement of technology has made it easy for us humans to have a wealth of smart devices, especially when it comes to our homes.
The domestic robots that we as a species have craved since they first started appearing in popular culture back in the forties are finally becoming reality.
In this post, I shall be looking at how robots are becoming a common sight in many homes, the kind of robots you can use help with day to day chores as well as some tips about what to look for before you commit to a purchase.
Domestic, or home, robots are basically machines with programmable software combined with an electrical power-driven technology to execute domestic responsibilities.
These home devices are not only giving more freedom but also allowing us to carry out their other daily activities. You can now buy household robots to perform many chores for you including vacuuming, yard work, cleaning windows, feeding pets, cleaning pools and more. So let’s take a closer look:
Robot vacuums were one of the first of the robots to breakthrough into the mainstream and have become almost symbolic of the home robot movement.
But more importantly, these friendly little floor cleaners are great at the floor unsupervised when you are away, whether at work or play. As well as a pet for cats. But should you get one?
Roomba is probably the most famous of all of the brands, although there are many great Roomba alternatives, and has found themselves in that enviable positions where their brand name represents an entire market, such as Jacuzzi became synonymous with hot tubs.
However, there are many other brands available to fit all types of budgets.
When looking for the ideal robot vacuum, obviously budget is important, but remember that as with most things, you get what you pay for. If the deal is too good to be true, it often is. Be sure to spend some time reading reviews.
Some essential features to look for are things such as auto docking, so when the battery gets low it knows to recharge itself, to ensure endless cleaning. Also look for ease of dirt tray emptying and sensors, so it doesn’t just bump into everything.
Of course the more you spend, the more you get including things such as wifi operation, virtual walls and route programming, but these days you should be able to get a decent robot vacuum in the $200 price range.
As with anything though, there is always the opportunity for something to go wrong. This story that I found on Facebook has always stuck in my mind as a cautionary tale of when robots and pets mix and the result is none too pleasant.
In a similar vein to robotic vacuums, you can also get robot mops. Although they have many things in common with their sucking cousins, they do perform different tasks.
Research shows that there are not actually too many choices to best fit your swabbing desires. This is mainly down to many devices trying to be a vacuum mop combo robot (with mixed results). Other factors could be a lower demand for a pure mop and additional challenges that come with creating such a robot, such as carrying a tank or water.
With regard to the crossover units that are both a robot vacuum and mop, my advise would be to temper your expectations, while they will do a solid job, buying a specialist robot mop for your hardwood or tiled floors will have a much better performance.
When thinking about which robotic mop to buy, the list of things to look for a similar to that of a vacuum, like battery life and size.
Robotic window cleaners
Magic little gravity-defying robots that shuffle around your windows leaving them gleaming. Sound a little too good to be true? Nope!
Robot window cleaners allow us to simply clean windows inside and out, perfect for people who hard to clean their hard to reach windows or just want an easier life. The best window cleaning robots clean entire windows from edge to edge, alerting you once it’s finished.
So how do robot window cleaners work?
Robotic Window Cleaners use high-speed fans to create suction as the cleaning bot moves around the window pane.
Once stuck, they’ll mechanically clean the window from edge to edge, permitting you to wash high, out-of-reach windows with ease.
Things to look out for when buying a robotic window cleaner are back up power and protective cable. In the case that the bot loses power, it is a good idea to have a cable tied to it to stop it falling too far, especially if cleaning high up!
Automatic pool cleaners
Who doesn’t love the idea of a pool waiting for them in their back yard, just waiting for you to cool off in the crystal clear water?
Of course we do. Sadly it’s not as simple as just owning a pool.
As any pool owner will tell you, as lovely as they are, pool maintenance can be a real pain in the backside.
Luckily, there’s a bot for that!
Pool water collects many contaminants, from organic materials like hair and skin to chemicals like detergents and cleanup chemicals, larger detritus like leaves, sticks, and insects. Keeping a swimming pool clean is vitally necessary to take care of not just its beauty but also health.
A pool cleaning robot can be just dropped in the pool and over the course of a couple of hours will programmatically suck up and clean the crud from your pool.
When looking for the ideal pool cleaning robot be sure to consider the size of the filters as well as how long it takes to run a program.
While we’re talking about yard robots, how about one that can cut the grass for you leaving you free to lie back and sip on that mojito?
The market for robotic lawnmowers is really growing which means the price is coming down.
The level of autonomy depends on how much you are willing to spend. The cheaper ones may require the setting up of a wire perimeter whereas top end models you can just set them up and let them go.
Aside from budget, something else to look out for is charging time. Most of the mowers will return to their docking station once they are running low on battery but some can take up to 16 hours to recharge. Be sure to pay attention to that when deciding on which robot lawnmower it the best for you.
Foldimate cloth folding robot
Now I’m just including this one as it’s more of a personal dream!
If the thought of ironing piles of laundry gives you a little shiver, we have just the thing for you, the Foldimate.
Just feed the clothes in and watch as they come out wrinkle free and folded! Sounds too good to be true right, well here’s the evidence.
Companion and Telepresence Robots
Companion robots possess speakers and cameras that can be controlled remotely and can monitor homes for security and relate with people.
They are great to have around an office to enable a virtual presence in an office meeting, and while kind of quirky to look at, they are very effective.
Companion robots are slightly newer and exciting developing technology to help the fight against social isolation and loneliness. Rather than relying on a screen, these robots can perform real-life interactions and movement either harnessing the power of AI or by being controled over distance by a loved one.
This is Lynx and is a great example of the way this kind of technology is heading.
Combining the latest AI technology with telepresence features and more, Lynx is one of the most advance humaniod robots that are currently available for purchase. However, it is still very much a first generation pice of kit, hence the mixed reviews.
Unless you pride yourself on being an early adopter of all things shiny and new, or have $800 to throw around for fun, it may be wise to wait for future updated versions.
Companion robots for pets
Have you ever been at work and just wondered what your little kitty or pup is up to at home? moping around missing you or tearing around, enjoying an empty house and ripping up cushions.
Well, now you no longer have to wonder.
Pet companion robots allow you to see what they are up to, talk to them and some even let you play fetch and dish out treats. Of course, only if they haven’t ripped up any cushions.
More than that, they can even help you keep poop under control!
Robotic security systems
Ensuring the safety of homes and other premises has long been a challenge, especially when away for a long period of time.
But worry no more. Security robots are now hitting the market that is designed to keep an eye on any premises from small homes to large offices.
On a domestic level, robotic security systems tend to be tracked vehicles that can be operated by an app on your phone. They have a camera attached and let you remotely patrol a property from anywhere with a wifi connection.
However, things are slightly more exciting for larger premises. Take the K5 for example. These dalek-esque robots come with the latest facial recognition technology and AI to determine what is a threat vs a puppy. And if you are looking at them thinking stealing a security robot sounds like an ironic challenge, at 6-foot and 400lbs, you’ll have a challenge.
Unless you happen to live in the Met-life stadium, the K5 may be a little bit of overkill for your home, but when this kind of product comes available commercially, it usually isn’t long for the technology to become miniaturized and affordable.
In the meantime, if you’re ready to buy some small robot security help, be sure to look for features such as motion activation and wifi camera so you can log in from anywhere with a connection.
So there you go, a quick overview of robots that are currently available to help you with your home life and maybe buy a few spare minutes to unwind in this crazy world we live in..
While we are not quite at the level of automation that the dreamers of the ’40s and ’50s imagined, there is no doubt that we are closer than ever.
Technology improvements are moving at a fast pace and as AI develops, the opportunities will be endless.
What do you think? Would you welcome robots into your home and if you could automate just one task, what would it be?
About the author
Matt is the founder of the Little Robot Shop, who has spent much of the last decade hacking home cleaning with various robots and devices to make keeping his home clean as easy as possible. Not an easy task with two young children.
When not working on the Little Robot Shop website or YouTube channel, he works as technical support and product specialist for a fast-growing digital company. He does his best to get his younglings to code, which will be an essential skill in the future.