The bagless vacuum cleaner inventor, 66, said rapid innovations could be secured if robots could see what was happening around them – making “our lives easier”. The lab, at one of the world’s leading research universities, will focus on vision systems which it is hoped will lead to new robotic capabilities to create a generation of robots that will intelligently react to changes because they understand the world around them. Sir James said: “My generation believed the world would be overrun by robots by the year 2014. We now have the mechanical and electronic capabilities, but robots still lack understanding -seeing and thinking in the way we do. “Mastering this will make our lives easier and lead to previously unthinkable technologies.” Dyson has been researching robotics for the past 15 years, and since 2005 it has been working with Imperial College and Professor Andrew Davison to develop machines that use vision to logically navigate their surroundings. Robotic vacuum cleaners are one area of study, alongside research into other types of domestic robots.
Sir James claims his firm currently competing with Japanese rivals to become the first to create an advanced generation of household robots. Twendy-One, a humanoid robot that can help with housework and nursing care, has already been unveiled by Waseda University in Tokyo and will be on sale within a few years. ‘Domestic use will be the initial focus of the research. What robots need to function in the home is vision and the ability to interact intelligently.’ Last year, Dyson launched a $245M facility full of robots – but Sir James admits they are inefficient: ‘They perform precise, highly controlled movements in an environment that doesn?t change. ‘In a complex environment ? the home or garden ? a machine must understand and perceive its environment. Such technology would have wide ranging application. This is a starting point, and we will have to see where it leads – and that is what’s exciting.
Prof Davison said: “A truly intelligent domestic robot needs to complete complex everyday tasks while adapting to a constantly changing environment. “We will research and develop systems that allow machines to both understand and perceive their surroundings – using vision to achieve it.”