THE FUTURE TOOK one step closer for robotic vacuum cleaner manufacturer Maidbot. Bissell Inc. has partnered with the company to raise investments for producing the automaton designed for use in hotels and other commercial buildings.
Maidbot, founded by 20-year-old Thiel Fellowship recipient Micah Green, received new investments from companies such as 1517 Fund, Comet Labs and Rough Draft Ventures during an investment round led by Bissell in June. The company is not divulging the amount of investments it received. The investment will help the company expand its sales and marketing and engineering capabilities to accelerate its transition to mass production.
The company’s “Rosie” robot, named after the robotic maid from “The Jetsons,” the 1960s animated TV show, is involved in pilot programs that will continue through mid-2018. The company expects to deliver its first production models by late 2018.
“We have seen the adoption and impact of robotic vacuums in households, and we believe that we are going to see similar trends in commercial cleaning for spaces like hospitality and office,” said Bissell Senior Vice President Ryan McLean.
Rosie is more than just a vacuum cleaner, Green said. “A big part of it is the data feed,” he said, referring to the information Rosie gathers about each room she vacuums.
That data includes information that can improve the operational efficiency of the property, Green said, from testing the Wi-Fi signal in each room to more obscure patterns. “It includes looking at how dirty parts of the room are to see where people are spending most of their time,” Green said.
Rosie travels on the cart with housekeeping staff, who set them to vacuuming and data gathering while they clean the bathrooms. The robot stores a map of each room the first time it vacuums, so the next time it knows what to do once the housekeeping staff member inputs the room number. “Even if Rosie does not have the map saved, she’ll move around and explore,” Green said. He compared the robot to a self-driving car. It deploys some of the same technology, such as LIDAR. Rosie completes each room in generally seven minutes, he said.
In larger spaces, staff can attach a magnetic handle to Rosie that adds three to four feet to her height, making the robot more visible to guests for safety reasons. It even takes into account social norms in different countries when making navigational choices. For example, Rosie yields to the right in public spaces in the U.S., but yields to the left in the UK.
The pilot programs have shown positive feedback from the housekeeping staff at the hotels where Rosie has been used. “Although room attendants were unsure of Rosie at first, they love her now: They reported feeling a lot less back, shoulder and wrist pain after just a few days and the operators appreciate happier team members,” Green said. “They have also told us that the data we can collect is just as valuable as the efficiency itself.”