When imagining a robot doing your household chores, you might picture a life-sized, bionic humanoid doing the ironing. Household technology company Dyson's prototype of a "robot maid" looks very different but may soon become reality.
On Wednesday, at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in the United States, Dyson, known for its easy to use vacuum cleaners, gave the world the first glimpse of secret robot prototypes which appeared to carry out household chores.
During the conference, the company revealed information about its ambitions in advanced robotics and indicated that it is accelerating the development of an autonomous device capable of household chores and other tasks.
In a video, it showcased the latest developments of Dyson-designed robotic hands grasping objects – a move beyond robotic floor-based vacuums.
Searching for 'world's very best engineers'
The company is on the hunt for the world’s brightest robotics engineers to work on the future of household robots.
“Dyson employed its first roboticist 20 years ago and this year alone we are seeking 250 more experts for our team," Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer at Dyson, who is leading the secret R&D work at Hullavington Airfield in Wiltshire, said.
Jake Dyson at the R&D factory. Credit: Dyson
"This is a ‘big bet’ on future robotic technology that will drive research across the whole of Dyson, in areas including mechanical engineering, vision systems, machine learning and energy storage."
The company is already halfway through the largest engineering recruitment drive in its history: 2,000 people have joined the tech company this year, of which 50% are engineers, scientists, and coders.
Its end goal is to create the UK's largest, most advanced, robotics centre at Hullavington Airfield and to bring the robot maid technology into homes by the end of the decade. "We need the very best people in the world to come and join us now," Dyson concluded.
Other robot housekeepers
Last year, South Korean tech company Samsung announced its Bot Handy, a robotic housekeeper that could be available in the "not too distant future." The robot, which relies on AI to recognise items, is expected to help people with chores around the home and can even pour a beer.
One AI nonprofit OpenAI is working with Fetch Robotics, which supplies warehouse automation hardware, on a similar project. The project, backed by Tesla's Elon Musk and other key figures in Silicon Valley, is training several robots designed to help out in warehouses to do useful household chores.
Gary the robotic maid doing chores. Credit: Unlimited Robotics
There is already a waiting list for those interested in purchasing a "Gary" – a service robot the size of a young child, for the starting price of $99. He can hoover, iron, schedule activities and water plants. Of all prototypes, he most resembles the childhood image of robotic maids of the future.