The availability of affordable electronics components, powerful embedded microprocessors, and ubiquitous internet access and WiFi in the household has enabled a new generation of connected consumer robots. In 2015, iRobot launched the Roomba 980, introducing intelligent visual navigation to its successful line of vacuum cleaning robots. In 2018, iRobot launched the Roomba i7, equipped with the latest mapping and navigation technology that provides spatial information to the broader ecosystem of connected devices in the home. In this talk, I will describe the challenges and the potential of introducing consumer robots capable of developing spatial context by exploring the physical space of the home, and I will elaborate on the impact of AI in the future of robotics applications. Moreover, I will describe our vision of the Smart Home, an AI-powered home that maintains itself and magically just does the right thing in anticipation of occupant needs. This home will be built on an ecosystem of connected and coordinated robots, sensors, and devices that provides the occupants with a high quality of life by seamlessly responding to the needs of daily living – from comfort to convenience to security to efficiency.
As the future unfolds, we all anxiously await and expect the smart home of the future to provide us with a high quality of life by seamlessly responding to our needs of daily living – from comfort to convenience to security to efficiency – all while maintaining our privacy while in the intimacy of our own home.
Let’s walk through a vision of what a day in the life of living in a smart home could be.
(Good Morning) As you are waking up, <click> soft light from a bedside lamp slowly fades on, keeping a pleasant balance with the natural summer sunlight shining in through the window. <click> The temperature has been tailored around the house based on your usual morning routine, with airflow to individual vents adjusted to optimize comfort while keeping an eye on efficiency. Sitting on the edge of the bed still waking up, you are about to call for Jeeves to ask him if your daughter Jill is up, but then you hear her down the hall asking Terra if he’s seen her bear with the red pants. Terra is, only half-jokingly, referred to by the family as your “head of household” robot. Unfortunately, Terra replies that he hasn’t seen it lately, but he’ll keep an eye out for it. As you hear Terra moving down the hallway, you appreciate the convenience he provides by being available at a moments notice, while also keeping control over your privacy and not having devices watching and listening throughout the house 24/7. More awake now, you turn on the news radio station on the bedside radio. <click> As you make your way to the shower, the news seamlessly follows you into the bathroom via the wireless speaker you moved in there just yesterday.
(Morning Routine) A bit later, and ready for breakfast, you head towards the kitchen. The bedroom lights and radio automatically fade off as you leave the room. In the kitchen, the news station and the lights seamlessly fade on as you walk in. You make yourself a cup of coffee and sit down to listen to the news and collect your thoughts for the day. You’re reminded that you haven’t seen Jill’s school backpack this morning. This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon situation as it’s somewhere different seemingly every morning. <click> Seeing Terra in the living room, you walk to the doorway and ask him if he’s seen Jill’s backpack. Terra replies he saw it by the front door a few minutes ago. Terra continues by letting you know that today is supposed to be hot and asks if you are OK with letting the house get a few degrees warmer than usual to save energy. <click> Liking the suggestion, you agree. Terra reminds you to shut the open window in the study <click> and adds that the pollen count is going up in your area. As such, Jeeves reminds you it’s a good time to replace the air conditioner filter and its been a year since you last ordered a new one. He suggests upgrading to a HEPA filter this year to deal with the dust and pollen and asks if he should go ahead and order one. Yes, you reply. You are thankful for all that Terra does for you and the family – even the simple things have come to mean a lot.
(Home Alone) You corral Jill and grab her backpack by the front door, just where Terra had said it was, as you head out the door. After you pull out of the driveway, the lights throughout the house fade off, temperature settings are adjusted, and, as if on queue, multiple robots come to life to carry out their daily activities. Chore robots get to work maintaining your home inside and out, from cleaning your floors to caring for your lawn. Roomba gives special attention to commonly dirty areas, like under the kitchen table and around the dryer, and in areas where you recently spent time, like on the living room floor last night where Jill was working on her art project. Meanwhile, Terra begins the first of many of his daily patrols of the home, providing you with the peace of mind that your whole home is being monitored while you are a way. It is during one of these patrols that Terra recognizes that there is an especially warm area in the living room for this time of day, which you had requested be kept at the usual temperature. He calls for the blinds nearby to close and adjusts the airflow of the nearby AC vents accordingly. During another patrol later in the day, Jeeves hears a loud noise, which he recognizes as your dog Bella barking. He moves through the house to find Bella, and when he does he sends you a notification on the phone with a picture of the Bella barking at the front window. Concerned about what is getting Bella riled up, you pull up the app for Terra to check live video. You nudge Terra a bit to the right to get a good shot out the window, which is when you see it’s just the mailman on the porch that was getting Bella’s attention. Mystery solved.
(Welcome Back) As you turn down the street returning home in the evening, the driveway and entrance lights turn on, blinds are closed for privacy, and the last chore robots still out quietly return to their charging stations for the evening. Some of them will come back out after you’re asleep to continue their chores of maintaining your home. Terra greets you as you enter the door, as does Bella. With dinner on your mind, you ask Terra if he could start the oven preheating to 350. Curious what Bella was up to during the day besides barking at the mailman, you ask Terra if he could send you pictures and video of Bella from around the house today. You’ll take a look at them later and smirk as you see the variety of places Bella napped throughout the day. Later, as you’re finishing dinner with the family, Jill asks Terra anew if he’s seen her bear with the red pants. Making Jill smile, Jeeves responds that he saw it this afternoon on the floor in the playroom.
This was a vision of a smart home that effectively balances comfort and convenience with privacy, security and efficiency for the whole family. This home is not a distant 20 year dream, rather something that could be available soon. The technologies behind the scenes enabling this vision largely exist today. From connected lights and thermostats to chore robots. Still, smart homes like this have been talked about for decades but have yet to be realized. We’ll talk about why this is so in a minute, but a central and enabling figure in our vision that can change this is Terra , the smart home robot. Behind the scenes, Terra provides a unique understanding of the home and its operations that is key to realizing the smart home experience we’ve all been looking for.
(Home Sweet Home) Importantly, Terra enables a seamless smart home experience effectively balancing comfort, security, and efficiency while prioritizing usability and privacy. Terra and this smart home get you off the treadmill of attending to the minutia of managing your home and empowers you with the time, energy, and peace of mind to attend to the more valuable matters of life. So, as an industry, how are we doing and what needs to happen to realize this vision?
There is a lot of excitement around the internet of things and the promise of a smart home delivering a high quality of life by seamlessly responding to the activities of daily living – from comfort to convenience to security to efficiency.
We all imagine the compelling features and value of this smart home. Lighting that seamlessly follows you as you move through the house, providing convenience as well as safety for our older relatives living independently. Efficient and tailored room-to-room climate control based on occupancy and usage patterns. And home monitoring sensors that provide detailed and actionable insights into the state of your home to give you peace of mind when you are away.
This has been the promise, but it is has yet to be fulfilled and made available to the average consumer. In this presentation, we identify usability as a key limiting factor holding back the adoption of smart home solutions. To address this, we discuss how introducing spatial context into smart home solutions will provide a key missing ingredient necessary to fulfilling the promise and how robots in the home are perfectly suited to building and maintaining this important spatial context in the form of maps of the home.
Let’s start by considering the state of the Internet of Things market. It is expected that the smart home in the years ahead will contain 100s of connected devices. From connected light switches to thermostats to robots. With the proliferation of devices comes the opportunity and expectation of an expanding range of valuable capabilities.
The Internet of Things market is sizable and seeing rapid growth, with more than 30 Billion connected devices forecast by 2020.
A 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report estimate put the annual Home IoT market north of $200 billion a year, with chore automation, energy management, and security a large part of that.
But we have to ask ourselves, does just adding a bunch of connected devices make a home smart?
I say it is necessary, but not sufficient. Something is missing. There is a gap between what we have today and what we need to truly realize a smart home.
Looking into this gap, it is important to recognize that usability is proving to be a significant barrier to adoption, especially as the number of connected devices in the home increases.
To begin with, the status quo of unconnected devices is actually pretty good. They are generally easy to use and effective at doing their job, even if it is somewhat limited. The bar is high. Think of the wall switch. It’s easy to use and does its job reliably and instantly.
We now have connected lights, but is that really better? Think about the hassle and the time it takes to turn on a smartphone-controlled light. It can take 30 seconds to go from waking and unlocking the phone, opening and navigating a lighting app, to actually turning the light on. It is appropriate to question the value of that solution as compared to the status quo option of just getting up off the couch and flipping a switch.
Limited capability and usability challenges like this are limiting the value to the consumer as well as overall smart home market growth.
Let’s take a step back and talk about the path industry is taking to realize the smart home.
Mario Munich at AI Frontiers : Consumer robotics: embedding affordable AI in everyday life
Consumer robotics: embedding
affordable AI in everyday life
Mario E. Munich, PhD
November 10, 2018
The Consumer Robot Company
iRobot is the global home robot
leader. We bring over 25 years of
advanced robotics experience into
helping people find smarter ways to
clean and accomplish more in their
More than 20M robots sold.
• Cameras provide a large amount of information at an efficient cost
• Vision can be used for
• Localization and mapping
• Object recognition
• Semantic understanding
• User interaction
• Pet detection
• Obstacle avoidance
• (large datasets for AI)
• Alternative technologies based on lasers (LRFs, LIDARs) are either less rich in terms of
information or unaffordable
Vision vs. alternative technologiesPowered by Computer Vision
Rule of thumbs in consumer electronics/toys:
Production Cost : 20% – 30% retail price
Retail Price: $300
Production Cost: $60-$90
Vacuum, motors, wheels, buttons, boards, CPU,
memory, brushes, bins, plastic, sensors, batteries...
How much HW can you get for $60!!??
The Smart Connected Home
is forecast to be a $200+ billion
market by 2025.*
Providing for increased
comfort, security, &
efficiency, leveraging 100s of
connected devices & sensors
installed in the smart home.
*Unlocking the Potential of the Internet of Things,
McKinsey Global Institute, 2015
Internet of Things and the Smart Home Market
Source: Unlocking the Potential of the Internet of Things, McKinsey Global Institute, 2015
Connected Devices → Smart Home?
Necessary but not Sufficient.
Usability is a Barrier to Adoption and Market Growth.
Unconnected Status Quo Connected Devices
is this better?
Source: Engaging the Digital
Consumers In The New Connected
World, Accenture, 2015
Capability & Experience
smartphone as universal remote
individual device control
individual connected devices