How do you envisage daily home life in the future? It is more than likely that in answer to this question your mind has conjured up a Jetson-esque scene: you relax in your hover chair while a humanoid robot takes care of sweeping the floor of your luxury space-age apartment. Tapping the interactive touchscreen embedded in the arm of your hover chair causes a panel to open and a steaming cup of tea appears. Another swipe of the interactive pad and a screen emerges on an arm, unfolding a comfortable distance from your face and displaying your favourite TV show. Whatever your vision of the future, it is almost guaranteed that it does not involve getting down on your hands and knees to clean hard to reach corners, or putting in a lot of elbow grease to remove tough stains. The good news is – your fantasy of a chore free future may be closer than you think! Here's a look at some of the most cutting edge developments in the world of domestic appliances:
Technology moves forward faster than the speed of light in this modern age, and the area of robotics and artificial intelligence is at the forefront of its development. Robots are being designed and created to perform every sort of function imaginable, and cleaning is no exception. Two cleaning robots already available on the market are Roomba and Winbot. Roomba is a small automatic vacuum cleaner, introduced in 2002 by iRobot. Just leave it charging when its not in use, then whenever the floor needs vacuuming switch it on and let it do its thing. Roomba has a strong suction system to pick up dirt and sensors than mean it can move freely around the room without crashing into objects of furniture. Its small size means it can get into hard to reach places with ease. Winbot is a similar concept designed for windows. It has suction pads that hold it to the glass, and a simple three step cleaning system that allows it to get windows and mirrors sparkling with the minimum of hassle. You just attach it to the window, turn it on, and relax while it does its work.
Moving away from the world of robotics, but still bent on making life easier for all of us, are developers of self-cleaning materials. Top amongst these is Pilkington Activ glass which has a special coating that reacts with UV light to break down particles of organic matter. The loosened particles are then easily washed away by the rain leaving glass clean and streak free with no effort required. Dirt repellent fibres are also being developed and used in all things material: from clothing to bed sheets. These special fibres spot dirt and grime building up in fabric, reducing the regularity with which they need washing. VMAT is a 'sefl-cleaning' matress. Under the surface of the matress special technology is used to create a 'wind tunnel' effect. Any particles of skin or dust are kept elevated in the 'wind-tunnel' tubes and simply attaching a vacuum cleaner to a special valve on the side of the matress once a week allows you to suck any grime away in an instant.
These fantastic devices are already in their first iterations on the market, but what does the future hold? A glimpse of the answer to this is given by winners of the Design Lab 2013 conference: Mab. Design Lab is a competition open to students all over the world, in which they submit designs for life-changing appliances and concepts. Mab, 2013’s winning entry, consists of a compact spherical unit that contains 908 tiny flying mini-robots. The mini-robots use swarm technology to navigate around the home cleaning dirty surfaces as needed. The surfaces in need of cleaning are identified in a scan carried out by the central unit. It may seem like the stuff of sci-fi, but it may be just around the corner. To see Mab in action - check out their YouTube video.
This is just a glimpse of what the future of housework might hold, but it provides more than enough promise to fuel daydreams that one day we’ll all be able to lay down the scrubbing brushes once and for all!