This concept for an automatic home vacuum cleaner of the near future
senses its world with a triangle of tiny video cameras on each of four
sides, thinks with a 1,000 MIPS computer, and moves omnidirectionally
on three individually steered and driven wheels. About once per
second, it stereoscopically measures the range of several thousand
points in its vicinity, and combines them in a three-dimensional
"evidence grid" map, as described in chapter 2. The grid gives the
robot a spatial intelligence comparable to a very small lizard's, but
more precise. Taken out of its box and activated in a new home, the
robot memorizes its surroundings in 3D. Then, perhaps, it asks
"when and how often should I clean this room, and what about the
one beyond the door?" Its spatial comprehension should keep it
doing its job and out of trouble for years at a stretch.
The pictures show the small robot 1) vacuuming under furniture, 2) regurgitating accumulated dust and recharging with retracted nozzle at a docking station, 3) cleaning room edges and corners, and 4) topping up its batteries at a handy socket, using the optional "field recharging arm."
Its increasingly intelligent descendents would expand the range of applications, until a truly universal robot appears. The universal robot will be to the physical world what a universal computer is to the information world.