ECOVACS ROBOTICS – the future of robots for domestic duties (cleaning)

ECOVACS ROBOTICS sees a huge future for home robots performing domestic duties. Within a decade, they will relieve us of around half of what we perhaps reluctantly do today.

CyberShack chatted with ECOVACS ROBOTICS CEO David Qian and ANZ Regional Director Karen Powell. Our takeaway – there will soon be a lot more robots in our lives.

According to David, the technology underpinning home robots is immensely more powerful than its first ‘bump and go’ robot in 2008.

 “Our ECOVACS DEEBOT X2 OMNI has so much intelligence on board. AI (based on the last 15 years of learning covering millions of homes) can avoid obstacles, identify pet poo, create a fast map, distinguish between carpet and hard floors, and automatically apply the right levels of suction and water for mopping. It enabled us to make our first square Deebot to conquer issues like edge and corner cleaning and auto mop lift for carpets. Our new AIVI 3D 2.0 and TrueMapping 3.0 enabled us to reimagine the height and remove the LiDAR turret.”

The challenge for leading home robot designer ECOVACS ROBOTICS is to make its range of DEEBOT robot vacuums and mops, WINBOT window cleaners, AIRBOT air purifiers, GOAT mowers, or commercial cleaning robots even more useful.

ECOVACS ROBOTICS says there is room for home robots in cooking, dishwashing, laundry (washing, ironing, and folding) and many more. One thing is for sure – these robots won’t look human and won’t take your job. Their only purpose is to free you from drudgery to have more leisure time.

Q: What is AI?

AI is a machine’s ability to perform human cognitive functions such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with an environment, problem-solving, and even creativity. AI, as we know it, is primarily based on machine learning. You train a computer to recognise a cat by showing it millions of photos. AI in the home means training a device to recognise things like rooms, furniture, and obstacles by mapping millions of homes and how best to react to these things.

Q: What are the challenges with home robots and AI?

AI has immense potential because it is based on machine learning. As computer chips become more powerful, we see reasoning as the next step – the robot’s ability to decide how best to perform its task.

For example, future DEEBOTs might determine what and how often areas need cleaning. It may design a schedule based on when it least disrupts you. If you can imagine extra uses, we can harness AI to make it work.

Q: Can AI know too much?

Yes. ECOVACS ROBOTICS first priority is to respect users’ privacy. But there is more to AI than you think. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft Corporation, has published some guiding principles of AI principles, which we think is a very good start.

  1. Be designed to assist humanity – yet human autonomy needs to be respected.
  2. Be transparent – humans should know and be able to understand how AI works.
  3. Maximise efficiencies without destroying the dignity of people.
  4. Be designed for intelligent privacy – earning trust through guarding their information.
  5. Have algorithmic accountability so that humans can undo unintended harm.
  6. Guard against bias so that AI cannot discriminate against people.

ECOVACS ROBOTICS, as a leader in home robotics, constantly strives to meet these objectives. For example, our Yiko voice does way more than voice assistants and ensures that we can cater to people with disabilities, different accents, and different ways to express themselves.

Q: Will we ever see a Rosie, a.k.a. The Jetson’s maid robot

Probably not in our lifetime. Making a human-robot replica is not on our immediate horizon. We feel that it is best to develop specific-purpose robots that perform tasks we do – only more efficiently. For example, there is no point in making a human-like all-in-one robot to vacuum, clean windows, or mow the lawn. Dedicated devices are easier, cheaper, and more efficient. We want to intelligently automate labour-intensive, repetitive tasks.

We will see more integration of these robots into the smart homes. These will communicate with each other for more autonomous operations. For example, a motion sensor could tell the ECOVACS DEEBOT when no one is home so it can clean. The GOAT mower already acts as a guard dog but could also be part of the home security system.

CyberShack spoke to Karen Powell, ANZ Regional Director of ECOVACS.

Q: What are the differences between the Australian/New Zealand markets and others?

There are a lot of differences. Aussies are quick adopters of new technology. ECOVACS is number 1 here, and we find that Aussies expect a genuinely hands-off, no-worries experience. They start with low-cost Gen 1 or 2 robot vacs, which do a decent maintenance job. But these do not have Gen 5 sophisticated LiDAR mapping, object detection, edge cleaning or, importantly one-pass vacuum and mop. Our challenge is educating them about how to get the best experience for their budget.

Aussies typically live in larger single or multi-story homes or townhouses. These present different issues due to multiple floor types – timber, engineered laminate, tiles, polished cement, linoleum, and short/medium/long pile carpet. Each floor type needs a different suction power, rotating brush, finer mop water control, multistorey mapping, and larger batteries to cover bigger homes. These homes need much higher levels of AI.

Other markets tend to live in smaller apartments with a single hard floor type. Their needs are simpler, yet their need for intelligent object detection is even greater. I guess we are all lazy and don’t want to do much home prep before vacuuming.

And Aussies love pets. Pet hair is the bane of small robot vacuums, clogging brushes, and quickly filling dirt bins. Our ECOVACS DEEBOT OMNI self-empty cleaning stations look after that very well. But a lot of technology goes into the design to handle pet hair.

Q: Australia is one of the first markets for the GOAT mower. Why?

Aussies love their backyards. The ECOVACS GOAT G1 solves the issue of laying inefficient, unreliable, and inflexible electric boundary wires. This is the first to use Ultra-wideband (UWB) beacons (two in an average yard) and sets up in minutes. It then uses UWB, GPS, and sophisticated navigation technology from our vacuums to navigate and avoid obstacles. ECOVACS GOAT G1 is best for lawn maintenance – later versions may tackle wild and messy backyards.

CyberShack review Ecovacs GOAT G1 – a robot lawn mower that is a cut above the rest

Q: Any last words – David or Karen?

David – I am excited to be working in home robotics. It has taken 15 years from our first robot vacuum to get to the ECOVACS DEEBOT X2 OMNI. With advances in processing power and AI, expect quantum leaps over the next five years. Look out for more robots in the home – window cleaning and mowers are just the first step.

Karen – You get what you pay for. That is not an excuse to suggest everyone buy our ECOVACS DEEBOT T20 OMNI or X2 OMNI but to look at your needs and decide on what features and generation you need. It is not about price but functionality. CyberShack’s Five Tips for Choosing a Robovac/mop is an excellent guide for understanding robot cleaners.

The new $2499 ECOVACS DEEBOT X2 OMNI is the first major departure from typical round robot vacuums. It is square and achieves 99+% edge cleaning and is lower to get under more furniture.

CyberShack review: Ecovacs Deebot X2 OMNI – can a robot vacuum/mop get any better?

The $1649 ECOVACS DEEBOT T20 OMNI has rotating and auto lift mopping pads and our OMNI self-empty and hot water mop clean station.

CyberShack review: Ecovacs Deebot T20 OMNI – faster, cheaper, and better

Our $799 ECOVACS DEEBOT N10 is perfect for small apartments with hard floors. The $999 ECOVACS DEEBOT N10 Plus is loaded with navigation features, a self-empty station, and an OZMO mopping pad.

CyberShack review: Ecovacs Deebot N10 Plus robot vacuum, mop and auto-empty station

The ECOVACS WINBOT W1 Pro takes the back-breaking work out of cleaning internal and external glass. Its unique cross spray and intelligent path cleaning make this perfect for large glass areas.

CyberShack review: Ecovacs Winbot W1 Pro – clever little robot window cleaner

ECOVACS ROBOTICS (website) supports CyberShack, and this is presented for reader interest.