The competition sucks! Dyson unveils 360 Eye, robotic rival to iRobot’s Roomba vacuum

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Dyson, iRobot’s chief competition in the deluxe robotic vacuum cleaner arena has finally—finally—taken the wraps off its star challenger: It’s called the 360 Eye, and like iRobot’s Roomba, looks like a giant disk on wheels.

It’s Dyson’s first autonomous vacuum cleaner. It’s hands-free and can find its way around your house unaided, docking at the charging station when its battery runs low. Familiar stuff, to those who own a version of the Roomba, or the Neato BotVac.

Dyson says the brand new 360 Eye wins big on two counts: Suction and navigation. A camera on the top of the robot has a panoramic view of its whereabouts. Together with infrared sensors on the lower edge, it makes sense of its surroundings, and looks for new ground to clean.

In what founder James Dyson is claiming to be a win over the competition, the robot’s powerful motor ensures that the Eye, well, just sucks more.

Colin Angle, chief executive of Bedford-based iRobot, issued a statement that claims he’s not panicking. “This announcement is another step towards realizing our vision of traditional vacuums becoming a thing of the past,” Angle said in the statement.

The Eye rolls around on two sets of tank treads, which lets it climb over obstacles.

This bot’s been a bakin’ 16 long years, and the bottleneck that held it back has been battery life to power the suction and navigation capabilities, James Dyson told the Wall Street Journal’s Wilson Rothman.

Planning ahead, the company has also made the Eye a Thing of the Internet. The bot can connect to WiFi and be programmed or controlled through a smartphone app.

Sophisticated vision systems continue to be a focal point for makers of industrial and home robots. With an eye on the competition, Dyson is investing $8 million in a robotics vision lab at Imperial College London.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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