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Sunday, November 30, 1997 Published at 01:20 GMT



UK

A lot less bother...
image: [ The robot vacuum: prepare to put your feet up ]
The robot vacuum: prepare to put your feet up

The world's first robot vacuum cleaner that finds its own way around a carpet heralds the beginning of the end for housework as we know it.

A prototype of this obedient domestic automaton, designed by Electrolux, will be unveiled by Carol Vorderman on Monday at the Imagination Gallery in London.

Left to its own devices, the compact, rechargeable appliance vacuums the perimeter of the room, and then cleans the remaining floorspace in random zig-zag movements.

The robot navigates around corners and large objects using an acoustic radar system similar to that of a bat and is fitted with a sensitive bumper to stop it damaging the furniture.

It can get into tight spaces, slip under beds, and, most importantly, will not get stuck in the process. Electrolux say that the robot will vacuum about 95% of an average room's floor space.

The invention extends robotic technology that the company developed for a solar-powered lawn mower and the motion design owes much to a tiny prehistoric bug called the Trilobite which trawled the ocean bed.

So far, this vacuum has not been made available to consumers because it is still undergoing rigorous tests but the manufacturers say that it is just a taste of household maintenance devices to come.

From the bulky contraptions of the 1920s, and the '50s and '70s retro uprights to today's increasingly slimline and efficient vacuuming equipment, a future enhanced by ultimate cleaning machines seems assured.






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