Tuesday, September 6, 2011

More intelligent, but not necessarily better?

Selecting sensors and designing algorithms that make autonomous robots perform their tasks is an interesting field of study. One could easily jump into the conclusion that better results can be obtained by adding more advanced sensors and programming intelligent control software that is able to use all the information collected.

The iRobot Roomba was the first domestic robot to achieve commercial success. It only uses simple sensors (I suspect it has IR proximity sensors, bumper switches, etc.) and a a cleaning pattern with a significant component of randomness. Lately competitors have emerged that attempt to differentiate their products by claiming that the addition of computer vision and mapping capabilities coupled with systematic cleaning patterns makes them produce better results.

The video below (from an independent source) clearly shows that the chaotic strategy of the Roomba is better. While the competitors' robots slowly ponder their paths, the Roomba has already cleaned the entire space, and covered most areas more than once, probably leading to a better cleaning result.

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