At CES 2019, Trifo Aims to Shake Up Robot Vacuum Market With AI

Source: Trifo

January 07, 2019      

While many robotics companies at this week’s CES event in Las Vegas are focusing on new markets and applications, Trifo is looking to disrupt a more mature space – the robot vacuum market. The company today launched Ironpie, a $299 smart home robot vacuum that it says “outperforms competitive models and is available at a lower price point.”

Using a combination of sensors, computer vision, and artificial intelligence software algorithms, Trifo said Ironpie can clean 10% more efficiently than other robot vacuums, by identifying areas that haven’t been cleaned, or by avoiding redundancy – areas that get re-cleaned.

In addition, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said its multiple sensors provide effectiveness in brighter or low-lit environments, and obstacle avoidance features help the robot protect a user’s furniture.

Zhe Zhang Trifo 2019 predictions article

Zhe Zhang, Trifo CEO

“Ironpie represents a new generation of home robots, a smart robot vacuum that cleans faster, protects furniture better, is controllable from anywhere, and with a host of features that improve on the original home vacuum concept,” said Zhe Zhang, Trifo’s CEO.

Zhang said Ironpie is the initial product for the startup, which was founded in 2016. For its first two years, Trifo was developing on integrating the hardware and software system with sensing, perception, and decision-making capabilities.

Late in 2018, the company raised $11 million in new funding to further develop its systems for the robotic vacuum market.

Robot vacuum goes beyond cleaning

Ironpie is the first step in a company vision that sees the robot vacuum market as the starting point for a next-generation home robot, Zhang said. Some of those applications can be seen on Ironpie, in which users can monitor their homes remotely by utilizing the robot’s cameras instead of installing in-home, static surveillance cameras.

Zhang added that Trifo plans to integrate Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice assistant features in the first half of 2019.

“It should still be able to do the vacuuming and cleaning, but in the long term, it should perform more like a human’s pattern – navigation, exploration, and interacting with people,” Zhang said. “All of this will enable a new level of user experience. For example, you’ll be able to talk to your Echo or robot to say, ‘Go to the sofa in the living room, and clean that area.’ Currently, the voice recognition is almost there, position and location tracking is almost there, but to bring it to another new level is something that we’re dedicated to push the limit.”

Ironpie Trifo white model robot vacuum market article

Ironpie includes SLAM and sensors to improve navigation efficiency Source: Trifo

Trifo said several differentiating features of Ironpie help drive this innovation, including:

  • The “world’s smallest, lowest power and most efficient” ARMv8i-A quad-core processor, which is paired with the company’s proprietary Trifo Intelligent Robotics Vision System.
  • Real-time position tracking, enabled by a suite of sensors designed and calibrated for estimating its position and orientation, which lets the robot know where it is and where it has been.
  • AI-enabled self-tracking, which lets the robot learn a home and improve efficiency by building and updating a reliable 3D map, all done locally on the robot.
  • A smart visual navigation system, which uses simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) to optimize navigation and shorten cleaning time.

With all of its sensing, perception and navigation innovations, Zhang said the company has thought about exploring beyond the vacuum market, such as the mobile robotics space for warehouse environments.

However, the company felt the home robot vacuum market was more mature, with a more educated user base that still had potential for strong growth. Even with global yearly shipments of robot vacuums between 10 million and 15 million, Zhang said he believes the potential market can be up to 10 times that amount.

“Our target is to ship 400,000 units in 2019,” Zhang said. “This is something other areas of robotics where we don’t see such scale in one year.”

He noted that the company will initially focus on selling Ironpie in the U.S., Europe, and China, with expansion to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan later, as well as global vacuum market sales.