Other than washing the dishes, vacuuming the house is probably the most boring activity in the world, and probably only a very few sane humans would enjoy the activity.
But household chores need to be done, and it is this human right to avoid boring tasks which the robots are exploiting to find their way into homes all over the world.
In the future, when we look back at how the robots took over everything, it’s probably not industrial robots which will be blamed – because they’re mostly caged off and controlled inside factories: it’s the vacuuming and other cleaning robots we should be scared of.
They might look innocent – with their rounded edges and small, apparently unintimidating size, maybe even reminiscent of a slow-moving pet cat, only better behaved – but vacuuming robots could be seen as the artificially intelligent machine army’s frontline infantry in the battle for the future of humanity, and they are gaining more and more floorspace every day.
Scary exhibit number one
According to TheRobotReport.com, more than 180,000 robotic cleaners were sold on a single day in China.
The figure does include air purifiers, and this article is about vacuum cleaning robots, but it’s not the only report confirming the advancement of the domestic cleaning robot mob, which on the surface is pretending to be helpfully cleaning our homes, gardens and swimming pools.
In other evidence, AdWeek.com reports that iRobot sold 23,000 of Zoomba robotic vacuum cleaners in one day – on Amazon Prime Day.
And if you want a broader view of the invading hordes, research company Tractica predicts that almost 100 million consumer robots will be sold in the next five years.
One of the key drivers of the growth, according to Technavio, will be the declining prices of robotic vacuum cleaners.
And as if that wasn’t enough to sap the human spirit, perhaps you’ll be convinced by the closing argument supplied by Tractica in a separate report, in which it claims that there are now more non-industrial robots in the world than there are industrial robots in factories and other places, where they belong and should probably stay.
iRobot, you vacuum
Apart from owning what is probably the most evocative name in the market, iRobot is also perceived to own the robotic vacuum cleaner market – or at least have the largest share of any single company.
Maybe it’s just a perception, but it’s what the company itself claims, and there’s not many statistics available to refute its boast.
In all three major economic regions iRobot surveyed – North America, EMEA, and APAC – it claims to have around 15 per cent of the overall market, which includes traditional vacuum cleaners, implying that no other robot manufacturer has such a large share.
But the manufacturers of the traditional, non-robotic vacuum cleaner – first sold in large numbers in the early 1900s – still constitute around 80 per cent of the overall vacuum cleaning market, according to iRobot’s statistics, which are shown below as a pie chart.
Competing to clean up
iRobot may claim to be the market leader, but there are many other companies which manufacture robotic vacuum cleaners.
Some of them are big names in the household products and general electronics sectors.
These are some examples of companies which manufacture robotic vacuum cleaners:
The list above is presented in no particular order, and we are not endorsing any of the products the companies offer – even though some of those companies’ products are in our shop. But if you want some evaluation of the robotic vacuums some of the companies offer, RobotShop.com might be a good place to start.
However, some of the companies are of interest to Robotics and Automation News because, well, they’re interesting.
Xiaomi the money
Xiaomi, for example, has just launched its first robotic vacuum cleaner, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
Xiaomi is a Chinese tech giant with $20 billion in annual revenues and approximately 8,000 employees worldwide.
Its main products include mobile phones, smartphones, and tablet computers. But it also produces a line of smart home products, such as sensors for windows and doors designed for security applications.
And robotic vacuum cleaners are seen as a smart home product, so it probably isn’t too much of a departure from Xiaomi’s core product range.
Neato, which specialises in robotic vacuum cleaners, has just launched its new Botvac models, which are being offered at lower prices than previous models.
Robotic vacuum cleaners generally cost between a couple of hundred dollars to around a thousand.
LG, the Korean company probably best known for its television sets, is claimed by KoreaJoongangDaily to be the first company in the world to have launched a robotic vacuum cleaner.
However, Dyson is said to have built a robotic vacuum cleaner in 2001, although it was not released to market because of the unit cost. iRobot also is claimed to have launched its Roomba in 2002, which would be a year before LG’s product.
Nonetheless, LG has now launched a new product, the Hom-Bot, which is claimed to be able to clean right into the corners, despite its round-ish shape.
And iRobot has made a new addition to its line-up, with the launch of the Roomba 961 in the European area, which the company says is one of its fastest-growing markets.