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Automation for the people


A personal homecare innovation showcased at a recent university Product Design event highlights the changing face of cleaning.


A hovering vacuum cleaner, powered by artificial intelligence, was among the cutting-edge inventions on display at the University of Brighton’s recent Product Design showcase.


VacHumme, created by student Tom Harding, is an almost fully automated ‘dusting drone’. It operates via an AI mapping function and is designed to fly around a single room, cleaning every surface it can reach.


With every new journey around a room, the VacHumme’s memory and knowledge of the space will grow stronger, meaning it is eventually able to tell whether furniture has been moved and can adapt accordingly. The only human intervention needed is an occasional emptying of the vacuum chamber, and the device has a wireless charging station for keeping itself powered.


The original brief students were given for their showcase inventions was to ‘design a product which would help someone over the age of 30 who is living alone’.


Student Tom said: “From this brief I decided to create a product which would reduce the amount of work a single person has to do to keep their house in order.


“Following this I tried to think of a situation that everyone must do but not very many people enjoy doing. It was only when I went home shortly after the brief was set that, while helping out with the cleaning at home, I stopped to consider how many jobs the four of us were accomplishing.


“The only job we all did was dusting the house. It was then a small leap of logic to assume every household was the same, and that I only needed to conduct research to see if my theory was correct.”


Tom has ambitions to secure the funding that would enable him to complete a version of the device that could be sold to


42 | WASHROOM HYGIENE


the public, adding: “That is a long-term goal and something I might have to tinker with until I have the required funding.”


The overall theme of the Product Design showcase was ‘single living’. Research from the Office for National Statistics that shows roughly 28% of households in the UK contain just one person, meaning the idea of the traditional home is changing. As a result, products used in the household are also in a state of flux.


Damon Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Architecture and Design at the University of Brighton, added: “It was very encouraging to see that the students had responded to their brief with intelligence and sensitivity.


“The prototypes they are exhibiting in this show demonstrate a depth of research and a real effort to innovate around an issue that is the mark of good design. They are also in many cases showing a real ability to engineer viable solutions to difficult problems while crafting functional and desirable products that people would really use.”


While the VacHumme could be an option for home owners in the near future, commercial opportunities and alternatives are a lot closer. Automated floor vacuums and robotic scrubber dryers are already being implemented, and the technology behind them is constantly improving with each new iteration.


It might not be too long before armies of drones are seen vacuuming, dusting and window cleaning on cleaning contracts, leaving cleaning operatives free to focus on the more specialised jobs and ensuring a higher overall level of quality.


www.brighton.ac.uk twitter.com/TomoCleaning


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