Go on any social media feed and it won’t be long before you stumble across some prophet of doom loudly proclaiming; ‘Artificial Intelligence is here! The world is over! Cue the Terminators to march in over piles of our disembodied skulls!’
The prevailing sentiment with these people seems to be that; as AI becomes more capable of performing tasks traditionally done by humans, it will automatically replace us!
Automation was awesome!
Hey, this is the same kind of alarmist talk we heard back in the ’70s and ’80s when automated machinery took away mindless repetitive blue-collar factory production line work. Back then we thought we were doomed too but, as the tech played out, we learned that it was just the start of a beautiful thing. As this mechanical revolution didn’t destroy life as we knew it – it made it better – much, much better! Automation of processes took boring time-consuming tasks like queuing in banks and made them obsolete – as machines called ATMs could give us our money on the street instead of from human tellers inside a bank. This also meant that now we had control of our savings instead of having to beg some bank manager/overseer boss for it. Then pretty soon after that Eft-POS got invented and we had even more new freedoms to buy stuff in stores or even online with e-commerce.
AI is the next step to freedom
So as you can see, automation wasn’t about being enslaved by machines – it was about being freed by them! And the next wave of automation that’s breaking across us now; i.e.; in intelligence rather than mechanics, will be the same. That was the point that several of the expert speakers at the recent M2 Summit AI Conference went to great pains to point out; Artificial Intelligence is largely here not to steal our white-collar jobs but to take away the boring dumb chores we don’t want to do. Because that is what AI is really, really, good at.
Perhaps the company who have understood this principle best of all is the global leader in home robotics, ECOVACS ROBOTICS. Formed 25 years ago they immediately took on a philosophy of ‘Robotics for all’ and focused purely on doing exactly that – bringing robots to the people. Not expensive follies like dancing automatons or self-sailing superyachts, just clever, pragmatic domestic bots that would unlock the brilliant advantages of AI for all of us. Since 1998 ECOVACS has developed a series of robots that are all about subbing in for some of the most mundane tasks we have around our homes, namely; vacuuming, floor-mopping, lawnmowing, window washing and air purifying.
ECOVACS’ pioneering vacuuming and mopping robot the DEEBOT X1 OMNI proved so successful it immediately started to own the category, largely through its attractive design, hands-off operation and a plethora of user-friendly AI and machine-learning capabilities. But, unlike some tech companies who just rehash their same products over and over and call them new, ECOVACS wasn’t content to sit still. They noted that user feedback had suggested a few tweaks could make it even better so headed back into the labs. ECOVACS takes R&D very seriously spending NZ$170m on research last year alone, and these funds have seen them establish their own Artificial Intelligence Engineering Institute, focus more on intelligent sensor research and concentrate on creating a more holistic ecosystem for both us and our domestic chore bots. The latest result of their efforts is here now:
The all-new ECOVACS DEEBOT X2 OMNI
Visually the ECOVACS DEEBOT X2 OMNI is quite different from its predecessor – and with good reasons. Firstly, the X2 is square rather than round. The rationale behind this is purely practical; square vacuum cleaners – and more importantly, their sweeping brushes – can get in tighter into corners, to the tune of 99.7% coverage. That’s getting to the level of a toothbrush people!
The next difference to notice is the Lidar, or light detection radar system – how the robot ‘sees’ where it’s going. On the previous model, the Lidar unit was right on top, like a periscope, which ultimately made the unit taller. On the X2 the semi-solid-state Lidar has been built to the body itself so the DEEBOT can get under more furniture units like couches, beds or dressers to clean those dark corners we don’t notice so much. So, if there’s a 9.5cm clearance, the X2 is in under there.
There are more changes inside the unit too with the suction being boosted 60% to 8,000pa which gives it the oomph to get into the most awkward crevices and tackle even the most challenging carpet stains and patches. The X2 also features enhanced proprietary motion control algorithms to find a ‘way out’ when navigating narrow areas and Object Avoidance technology to ensure the unit won’t collide with stationary objects in its way – even if they suddenly appear out of nowhere! Rather than backtrack defeated by something unexpected, the DEEBOT is now able to ‘work out’ how much space the object is taking up on the floor or carpet and clean around it.
This machine learning comes from a new AINA algorithm that can adapt to all of the possible scenarios that can happen in your home – whether it’s fishing gear dumped on the floor or kids running through chasing the dog – the unit deals with it. And the more you use it the more experienced it gets with how stuff happens around your place; refining its autonomous decisions to best suit its cleaning solutions over time.
The DEEBOT X2 OMNI also has an upgraded 3D map which helps it to identify and clean specific areas, be it a stain under your living room table or a dirt patch in the hallway. You can swipe your finger over the target area on the app, and the DEEBOT X2 OMNI will take care of it. Or you can use your verbal commands via the YIKO 2.0 voice assistant, to order it, schedule cleaning or adjust its tasks.
Then of course is the all-in-one OMNI station that houses the DEEBOT. A little smaller and more discreet than before, it automatically empties the dust container and washes the bot’s mopping pads with 55°C hot water and dries them with hot air. All quietly and unobtrusively.
Back in the 1950s we wistfully dreamed of a future when there would be fleets of domestic robots flitting about our houses doing chores for us. Why? Back then we hated vacuuming, mopping, lawnmowing and window washing even more than we do now. The very concept of robots came from this desire to have machines do all the dull housework for us.
ECOVACS is making this dream come true with its growing fleet of bots that do exactly that. Plus, their bots are not here to entertain with dancing, playing music or flashing lights while they work, ECOVACS’ new tech is all about making their bots more efficient and do a better job. Their only concession to non-logic is to make the bots look hot – so there’s no shame in any visitors seeing our domestic chore robots in action!
Nix the AI naysayers – if this is the future of AI then bring it on! These are the robots we’ve all been dreaming of for decades and they’re finally here to free us from the shackles of having to do boring chores ourselves.