The Future is Here: Cleaning Micro-Robots

mab1No one likes the idea of having to clean their homes or living spaces. Its time consuming, repetitive, and never seems to end. But thanks to some new concepts, which were featured this year at the Electrolux Design Labs competition, a day may be coming when all such maintenance can be handled by machines, and not the large, bulky kinds that are often featured in sci-fi shows and novels.

Instead, the new concept for household cleaning robots focuses on the growing field of swarm robotics. That was the concept behind Mab, a series to tiny robots that fly around the house and determine what needs cleaning. Designed by Adrian Perez Zapata, a 23-year old student from Bolivia, the Mab concept utilizes swarm programming to allow all 908 of its insect-like robots to carry out group functions.

mabEach of the tiny robots lives within a spherical core (picture above), and once they are released, they venture out and depositing tiny amounts of water and cleaning solution onto surfaces that have been identified as dirty. Then, having sucked up the dirty liquid, the swarm returns to their core where they unload and await further instructions or the next schedules cleaning cycle.

The robots fly around by means of several tiny, spinning propellers, and their energy comes from built-in solar panels and a battery unit that is recharged whenever they are in the core unit. Zapata claimed that he derived much of his inspiration for the design from the “robo-bee” research being conducted at Harvard, but initially got the idea from watching actual insects at work one day:

I was in my university gardens when I observed the controlled flight of bees pollinating a flower, and how magical it is to see swarms of bees working together. My concept Mab only requires a short initial configuration to function autonomously, so you could arrive home and see a swarm of mini-robots roaming around cleaning independently. This means you could sit back and relax, as you observe with great astonishment the little Mab fairies working their magic.

Mab2Zapata’s design won first place in the 2013 Electrolux Design Labs competition, an annual contest created to encourage designer students from all over the world to come up with ideas and solutions for future living. This year’s theme was Inspired Urban Living, featuring three focus areas to choose from: Social Cooking, Natural Air and Effortless Cleaning, and drew some rather impressive ideas!

For example, second place went to Luiza Silva of Brazil for her design concept known as Atomium, a home 3-D printer for food that uses molecular ingredients to construct food layer by layer. You simply draw the shape of the food you would like to eat and show it to the Atomium, which then scans the image and prints the specified food in the desired shape.

atomiumThird place went to Jeabyun Yeon from South Korea for the Breathing Wall, an “air cleaning concept which pulsates and changes shape as it cleans the air.” Inspired by fish gills, It can also be customized to suit individual needs as it scents the air you breathe and changes color according to your choice.

After that, the finalists included: Nutrima, a device for instantly assessing food’s nutritional value and possible toxicity; Kitchen Hub, an app to keep track of food in the fridge, encourage healthy eating, and reduce waste; OZ-1, an air purifier worn as a necklace; 3F, a shape-shifting autonomous vacuum cleaner; and Global Chef, a hologramatic device for bringing virtual guests to the dinner-table.

breathing_wallTaken together, these small bits of innovation are indicative of a much larger trend, where touchscreens, 3-D printing, scanners, swarm robots, and smart environments address our needs in ways that are intuitive, automated, efficient, and very user friendly. The only downside… they are likely to make us ever lazier than we already are!

In the meantime, check out these videos of the Mab, Atomium, Breathing Wall, and other cool inventions that were featured at the 2013 Electrolux Design Labs competition:

Mab:

Atomium:

Breathing Wall:

Nurtima:

Kitchen Hub:

OZ-1:

3F:

Global Chef:


Sources: fastcoexist.com, (2), electroluxdesignlabs.com

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