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::HOME & GADGETS

Robot cleaner comes to Ireland
Thursday, November 14 2002
by Andrew McLindon

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Vacuuming the house no longer has to be a back-breaking exercise with the launch of a robotic vacuum cleaner that cleans floors by itself.

The Robo Cleaner, which goes on sale in Ireland from December, uses sensors to guide itself around a room. Developed over the last four years at a cost of several million euro, its makers, Karcher, claim it is the only robotic device of its kind on the market.

Starting from a base station, it can work its way around the area to be cleaned and can also climb onto mats and rugs. During its cleaning routine, it returns occasionally to its base station to either off-load dirt or re-charge its batteries. According to the commercial cleaning equipment company, it won't fall down stairs and it is also capable of spotting areas that are particularly dirty and will reverse over and back across such soiled patches until cleaned.

The circular machine works by using four sensors in each "corner" to guide its way around a room and under tables. It cleans with a combination of vacuum and sweeper and is much more energy efficient, said Karcher, than a conventional vacuum cleaner.

However, the luxury of being able to put your feet up while the Robo Cleaner does all the work does not come cheap. Costing EUR1,995, it is unlikely to be common place in homes around Ireland any time soon. "It isn't cheap," admitted Karcher Ireland's managing director, Gerry Cash, "but world first products usually aren't."

Cash told ElectricNews.Net that reaction to the Robo Cleaner in Ireland had been good so far and that he expected purchasers to be technophiles, those that hated vacuuming with a passion, and security conscious companies such as law firms that do not allow cleaners into their offices.

Several vacuum cleaner companies have spent the last few years trying to introduce a household robot cleaner. Electrolux and Japanese electronics giant Matsushita have both demonstrated robotic vacuum cleaners in recent times. Matsushita's prototype, for instance, was fitted with 50 sonic and infra-red sensors, could work for an hour on a single battery charge and, like the Robo Cleaner, could avoid falling down stairs.

Similar machines are also available for use in commercial facilities with large floor spaces such as airports. For example, a UK hospital last year introduced a STG35,000 robot to clean its halls. The size of a shopping trolley, the machine needs only to be brought around a route once to remember it. It then uses laser scanners and ultrasonic detectors to guide its way around. The machine, which travels at around 3mph, also emits a warning that it is cleaning if it senses somebody being on its route.

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