We warned that Dyson's first robot vacuum was going to put all that cyclone technology to use on your wallet's contents and we weren't wrong. After a hefty half-year delay, the 360 Eye robot vacuum goes on sale in Japan today priced at 138,000 yen -- before tax! That's around $1,150. Cutting-edge robot house cleaners that take care of themselves apparently demand high salaries (just ask Rosie). Dyson's 360 Eye has undergone a handful of minor changes, both in the hardware and software, to prepare it for its first customers: the Japanese. My biggest takeaway? Dyson thinks the 360 Eye knows its way around cleaning a room even better than you, you big ole' irrational human.
Sir James Dyson already explained how the 360 Eye works, but earlier this week we talked to the company's Senior Robotics Engineer, Mike Aldred. He's been working with robotics at Dyson for a while (including the DC06, the robot vacuum that never made it to stores), so there's likely no-one better placed to explain what caused the robot vacuum's debut to be delayed so much.
During beta testing in Japanese homes, the company realized the 360 Eye wasn't ready for the posited Spring retail date. Feedback from users indicated some specific problems that the engineers hadn't thought of: in Japanese homes most have a tiny lowered entrance, the "genkan", which is roughly 50mm lower than the rest of the house. The 360 Eye had troubles adjusting to this feature, so the company had to reprogram how the robot saw the space. "We can't just set a height.. We still need to go up and down things [like carpets, rugs]. So we went back to the height handling systems." explains Aldred.
Does Dyson's robot chew up cables? It's designed (in a few ways) not to.
I own a Roomba robot vacuum here in Japan, and while I like the extra degree of laziness it adds to my life, there's one crime I can't forgive of it: its incessant hunger for cables. Does Dyson's robot chew up cables? It shouldn't, a it's specifically designed not to. Dyson made the base of the machine is particularly smooth, and put the cleaning bar (aside from the bristles) flush along the base to spare cable a grisly end. It's not perfect: the senior engineer adds that while the 360 Eye should easily run over cables and wires laid flat, any kink or loop could get drawn in. He added this was something they discovered in very early testing, especially stereo wires. In the retail model, the team had to adjust the guards on the caterpillar tread wheels which would sometimes catch on wires.
The company also offered a closer look at the companion app (you'll be able to schedule the machine to clean, or interrupt it while it works, if you want to). The app also shows you schematics for how the 360 cleaned last -- an almost artistic, yet methodical spiral showing that the robot is getting everywhere it needs to. You might think you clean methodically and completely, but Dyson's own research showed that humans are, well, only human: missing parts, cutting corners and repeating the same area multiple times. These maps, (stored after the vacuum cleans) tries to visually convey just that.
While making changes to software is easy, it's the hardware changes that take time. Your 360 Eye might not eat your cables, but making that happen is why we're already in October. Dyson aims to become the global leader in cleaning robots with the 360 Eye -- which Aldred calls" "a vacuum first, robot second." The machine is set to launch in other countries in 2016: depending on what hurdles beta tests elsewhere might throw up.