If you want to see what an autonomous system can be don’t look any further than the new Roomba. Its model S9+ has all the defining characteristics of an autonomous, smart, system.
I have been impressed by Roomba from its very first “edition” back in 2002. I should say I never owned one, what impressed me was the amazing set of technologies squeezed in that little vacuum cleaner at such an affordable price. I remember reading (it was long time ago so I cannot put a reference here but you can a feeling by reading the company history) that the technology embedded in that first Roomba would have cost 100,000$ just 10 years before. iRobot, the company producing Roomba, started as a producer of military robots, so it should not be that surprising their technologies were pretty expensive.
The new Roomba, the S9+, does all what its predecessors did but better. It has a new 3D sensor able to scan the environment 25 times per second capturing 230,400 data points. and a software vSLAMn(visual Simultaneous Location and Mapping) that is derived from military application of robots for mines search. It uses those data points make sure the robot doesn’t get entangled in obstacles (including threads and wires). It also have several other sensors, including an optical one.
Through the PerfectEdge technology (another software) the S9+ is able to detect any kind of edge and get close to them for a perfect vacuum cleaning.
Of course, as the previous versions, it can be controlled through your smart phones but in addition to showing you the map of your home, the areas it already cleaned, it is also learning -and showing you- what are the areas that get dirtier and when they do! It builds your home map as it cleans it. After just two cleaning the map is already 90% accurate. Unlike the earlier version where you would have to place physical (radio beacon) barriers to identify no-go zones with the S9+ you can do that, and change them, through your smartphone application so that today you may decide you don’t want hear the buzz of the vacuum cleaning in your study as you are engaged in a conf call, then freeing up the area once you are done.
It also has a self-emptying feature so that it can unload the dirt in a special (and relatively expensive) bag (3 for 20$, you may need to replace the bag once every two weeks).
So, the S9+ has a “mind” of its own, learn from the environment and indirectly learn your behaviour and adapts to it. It goes back to the charging station when it fells hungry, unload the dirt to be ready for the next swipe and can program itself to keep your house sparkly clean. What could you ask more (may be a cheaper price tag?). For some 1,500$ you can become the proud owner of a really autonomous system.