Dyson makes futuristic hand dryers, room fans, and vacuum cleaners. Except its vacuum cleaners haven’t been that futuristic for a while, neon styling and thoughtful design aside — the British company has so far avoided releasing a Roomba-style robot vacuum, saying that the technology just isn’t there to make a good product. All that changes today with the announcement of the Dyson 360 Eye, a robot vacuum that the company says took 16 years and close to $47 million to research and develop.
“Most robotic vacuum cleaners don’t see their environment, have little suction, and don’t clean properly,” says James Dyson, the inventor that founded the company. “They are gimmicks. Vision, combined with our high-speed digital motor and cyclone technology, is the key to achieving a high-performing robot vacuum — a genuine labor-saving device.”
The 360 Eye name refers to the vacuum’s unique vision system. A 360-degree panoramic camera on top of the machine sees the whole room at once, working with infrared sensors to map out the room and plot its navigation. The camera can take up to 30 frames a second, matching its shutter speed to the vacuum’s movement in order to ensure accuracy to the millimeter.
Dyson claims the 360 Eye will work better as a vacuum cleaner than any other robot on the market, too, with its V2 digital motor powering what the company calls "Radial Root Cyclone" technology to separate dust and dirt. There’s a brush bar that stretches along the machine’s full width — this uses strong carbon fiber and nylon bristles designed to remove fine dust and clean carpets, rather than the often ineffective rotating sweepers on traditional robot cleaners. And Dyson says the 360 Eye’s tank tracks make it better at handling various types of floor and obstacles than competing models.
The 360 Eye can hold up to 0.4 liters of dirt and dust, lasts 20 to 30 minutes on a charge before returning to its dock, and weighs 5.22 pounds. Dyson has also developed an iOS and Android app so that the 360 Eye can be assigned a cleaning schedule when its owners are away.
Pricing for the 360 Eye hasn’t been announced, but you’ll have to wait quite some time even if you can afford it. The vacuum will be released in Japan before anywhere else, hitting retail there in spring 2015 with other countries to follow later in the year. James Dyson is in Tokyo right now for the launch event, and we’ll have more coverage soon.