All of our wild speculation about Dyson's mystery video (well, maybe not all) has just been confirmed with the announcement this morning of the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner. If it looks familiar, it's because we got some of our guesses exactly right: the new robot looks just like the patent image we posted, and it's got a vision-based localization system that relies on a panoramic camera. Even those tank treads that we thought were a joke? Totally not a joke.
Here's what more than 200 Dyson engineers spent $47 million over the last 16 years creating:
The 360 Eye is one of the most advanced robot vacuums that we've ever seen, especially when compared with the myriad of Asian knockoff Roombas with gimmicky features that don't actually improve cleaning. Here's what Dyson says is new and amazing in the new vac, hot off the press release:
Vision and Sensing
The Dyson 360 Eye vacuum sees its environment using a unique 360° vision system [which is sensitive into the infrared], and then builds a detailed floor plan [based on high contrast visual features] to intelligently and systematically navigate around a room and tracks its position [SLAM, in other words].Infrared sensors work in conjunction with a lens on the top of the machine that houses a 360° panoramic camera. The camera can see all the room at once so the machine can accurately triangulate its position. It then uses landmarks within the images to establish how it has moved between each frame and update its model of the environment accordingly.The camera in the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum takes up to 30 frames per second—enabling the machine to effectively interpret its surroundings. Because the shutter speed of the camera matches the machine’s speed of travel, its position is always accurate to within mm, so it knows exactly where it is in the room, where it is yet to clean and uses infrared sensors to detect where obstacles lie.Algebra, probability theory, geometry and trigonometry combine to create the Dyson 360 Eye robot’s vision of the world. It took over 100,000 hours from a team of 31 robotic software engineers to create the navigation system.
Like an all-terrain vehicle, continuous tank tracks enable the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum to maintain speed and direction across all floor types, and over small obstacles [like socks].
Tracks were tested against a rolling road with steps to climb over. This tested the suspension for more than 342,000 bump strips over the span of 1,000 hours. The machine travelled more than 670 miles during rolling road testing.
Powered by the energy efficient V2 Dyson digital motor [which spins at up to 78,000 RPM], the Dyson 360 Eye vacuum uses Radial Root Cyclone technology to effectively separate dust and dirt, capturing particles down to 0.5 microns—600 times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. Dyson 360 Eye vacuum cleans better than any other robot vacuum cleaner first time around.
The brush bar on the Dyson 360 Eye vacuum cleaner extends to the full width of the machine, meaning that it doesn’t rely on side sweepers to reach the edges of the room. It uses patented carbon fiber brush bar technology to remove fine dust on hard floors, and stiff nylon bristles to agitate and clean carpets.
A new Dyson-developed app for iOS and Android will let Dyson owners keep on top of the cleaning—even if they are out of the house. They can even schedule the machine if out of the country—returning from vacation to a clean home. Set up a single clean or a recurrent cleaning schedule at the flick of a button.
Other relevant facts: the dust bin, which you have to empty yourself, holds up to 0.4 liter of ick. The robot runs on a lithium battery which gives it a meager 20-30 minutes of run time, but it'll return to its dock to recharge, and then resume its cleaning pattern where it left off.
Dyson, like every other company that manufactures a robot vacuum with localization capability, says that the 360 Eye cleans efficiently by mapping the room and then planning a systematic route that avoids making multiple passes. iRobot, on the other hand, argues that you clean significantly better by making multiple passes from different directions. I tend to believe iRobot on this one (based on reviews I've conducted of various robot vacuums), but Dyson vacuums are famous for their ludicrously powerful motors, which may offset that.
There are, however, other issues to consider when it comes to robotic vacuums. With its Roomba 800 series, iRobot completely reengineered the cleaning system, creating a brushless design that "is virtually maintenance free and provides superior vacuuming performance on all areas of the floor, including under and around couches, beds, and other furniture," iRobot CEO Colin Angle said in a statement provided to IEEE Spectrum. In contrast, the Dyson robot uses a brush bar with bristles (which users will find maddening to clean), and it's too tall to go under furniture.
We'll have to wait until we can test one out to know for sure. It's also worth mentioning that some 360 Eye press materials suggest that the vacuum can identify what kind of surface it's on, and will prioritize cleaning "easier" surfaces first.
We don't have information from Dyson as to how much the 360 Eye will cost, but according to some rumors, it might be US $1,650. This, obviously, is a lot, but if it really can take over as a vacuum replacement robot (as opposed to a vacuum reduction robot, like a Roomba), it could conceivably be worth it.
The Dyson 360 Eye launches in Japan next spring (that's 2015), with the rest of the world to get it later next year.
[ Dyson 360 Eye ]