Panasonic Corp has developed a new model of its Rulo robot cleaner.
The new product, MC-RS800, comes with camera and laser sensors in addition to ultrasonic and infrared sensors, which are also used for the previous model. It can clean a room while detecting its own location and obstacles as if it is an ultra-small autonomous car.
The MC-RS800 is scheduled to be released Oct 30. There is no manufacturer's suggested retail price, but it is expected to be sold at a price of about ¥150,000.
The previous model detects obstacles with its ultrasonic and infrared sensors. This time, Panasonic added camera and laser sensors to them.
The camera sensor is used to realize the visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (vSLAM) function for the Rulo for the first time. It recognizes conditions in the direction of the ceiling with a wide angle, and, based on them, calculates the room layout and the location of the cleaner. It can create the room's map while cleaning the room
The map can be checked with a smartphone, etc after finishing the cleaning. According to Panasonic, the vSLAM halved the time it takes to clean a room.
Moreover, the new Rulo can utilize the created map in various ways. Specifically, it can detect the amount of dust with a higher accuracy and display it, determine areas where dust is easily accumulated based on cumulative data and clean them intensively and select areas to be cleaned (or not to be cleaned) on the map.
The first function was realized by detecting dust that cannot be seen with the naked eye. The second function drastically reduces the time it takes to clean a room. The third function not only saves time, as in the case of the second function, by limiting the number of areas to be cleaned but also eliminates the need to use additional devices to prevent the robot cleaner from entering some areas such as the "virtual wall" of the Roomba.
However, the third function cannot be used at the time of creating the first map. Also, when the location of the charger, etc are changed, the existing map can no longer be used.
There have already been some robot cleaners equipped with the vSLAM such as iRobot Corp's Roomba 980 and Dyson Ltd's Dyson 360 Eye. However, maps created by them can be used only for finding cleaned areas and areas where there is a large amount of dust.
The newly-employed laser sensor is embedded in the lowest part of the front side of the Rulo and detects obstacles located at a height up to several centimeters above the floor surface. In a demonstration performed by Panasonic, an infrared camera was used to show that a thin-band-like laser light was directed at a low part of a wall.
"We employed the laser sensor to detect small obstacles that cannot be detected by the previous product, which has only an ultrasonic sensor and so forth," the company said.
As a result, it becomes possible to detect obstacles with a width of 2 cm.
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