Allowing yourself to sleep late on the weekends after a hard week at work is no longer a crime. For the average person working 40 hours per week, Saturdays and Sundays are days for cleaning and lawn maintenance. All of that has changed. As you doze off for an extra hour or two on a Sunday morning, your lawn can be cutting itself. Lawn and garden equipment, lawnmowers included, have evolved over the years. Welcome to the future.
It sounds like science fiction, but take a look at the clever machines that have infiltrated your homes already. It was once a fantastical notion that your dishes could wash themselves, but the home dishwasher is now a commonplace appliance. Along with washing machines and driers for clothes, these smart devices are so convenient and so automated that, in truth, we don't fully appreciate what they do. They are the precursors to devices that can take away your chores for good.
However, there's a missing link. Whilst a dishwasher is automated in a fashion, the next step towards devices like automated garden equipment is the ability for movement. While the washing machine can sit in one place, many chores around the home require motion through your living space, a more complex design issue which must strongly consider safety as the device makes decisions for itself. This rapidly emerging branch of new appliances is known as Home Robotics – and all around the world, electronics experts are working hard to make our science fiction fantasies a day-to-day reality.
Leading the way in automating our chores around the home, products like Robomow are proof that the key technology for home robotics is already in place. Their intelligent lawnmower sets out at a pre-programmed time, evenly mows the lawn with more accuracy than most humans could produce and even returns to its base station to charge itself for next time. The same core set of features – particularly laser sensors to analyse proximity – could be implemented across a number of devices, giving them all the gift of movement.
Imagine never having to do laundry again, or never having to blow leaves from your drive. Imagine the comfort of knowing that the many tasks around your home can be completed in your absence. It seems almost too good to be true but, in fact, a number of consumers worldwide are already living alongside domestic robots and enjoying the many benefits.
Take Japan – a forward-thinking country in terms of technology, they've naturally been at the forefront of home robotics. With the Japanese government hopeful that most homes will have at least one robot by 2015, there's an outstanding financial commitment to developing appropriate devices. The same can be said of South Korea with Europe following closely behind. That's the truth of home robotics – not only is the technology available, it's already being used to great effect by millions of people around the world.
The power of home robotics, though, can be harnessed for far more than a convenient mower. Whilst it's a wonderful idea that menial chores can be carried out by our automated friends, the possibilities as technology advances are truly awe-inspiring. Japan in particular is acutely aware of an ageing population – in a matter of years; an entire quarter of Japan's population will be over the age of 65. To that end, Japan's goal is a range of domestic robots to not only carry out chores but also to help people bathe and even, eventually, to provide companionship. The trend of home robotics isn't about laziness around the home – it's about improving the quality of life for every single person in the world.
What's more, robotics are already used in an array of trusted positions, including surgical robots who can act with more precision than their human counterparts. Under the guidance of surgical doctors, machines are actively saving lives – if we can trust them to perform surgery, surely it's not far-fetched that the technology is in place to clean our homes?
We're in the early days of home robotics, but Bill Gates himself compares the market to the development of PCs in the 1970s. First, the experts work on the technology and, ultimately, consumers begin to take an interest later on down the line. The far-fetched ideas of science fiction are already transformed to fact and, now, consumers are starting to embrace the many possibilities of this emerging new market.