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Dublin: 3 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019

Robots that clean the floor (and walk the dog): Are you ready for the smart home of the future?

We’re heading toward an automated future for household chores, but how on board are you?

Image: Shutterstock/Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz

FROM GETTING TO work via flying car to 3D-printing your dinner, there are a lot of ways that tech could change your life in the future. But how likely would you be to adopt these tech advances, and to make them a part of your daily routines?

In a new series, Future Real, we’re partnering with Volkswagen to spotlight technologies of the future, with a different theme each time. As you read, we’ll ask you to rate how likely you’d really be to give each piece of tech a try. 

This week: what’s in store for the future of household chores? 

We all remember the maid in the television carton The Jetsons, who would wheel around hoovering and whipping up dinner for the whole Jetson family. Just like their flying cars, household robots that do all your chores are taking a little longer than our childhood selves anticipated to make it into everyday households. 

Robotic vacuum cleaners and mops that zoom around your house are becoming more common, but more comprehensive and complicated robots have yet to hit the mainstream. 

That Jetsons-style household maid might yet be in our foreseeable future – but in the meantime, there are a few more advanced technological developments that might help take a bit of the household load off – although some will still require you to pay some hefty prices. 

Whether you’re sick of folding laundry for your family or want to skip changing your cat’s litter box, the future of housework might look a little less time-consuming. 

1. Take a break from picking up household clutter – permanently

Picking up clutter takes a tonne of time every day -whether it’s your own shoes and socks strewn around the house, or your kids toys, clothes and books littering the floor in every room. 

Aeolus Robotics might just have the answer to that time-consuming problem. They have developed the Aeolus Bot, a wheeled robot with pinching hands, that can help you with a myriad of household tasks. 

While not yet available for consumer purchase, the price of the Aeolus Bot has not been confirmed, but reportedly will retail for “less than $20,000 [€18,000],” according to The Verge

The robot will be able to remember where up to 1,000 household items last were, and return them to their rightful positions. They can be synced with Google Home or Alexa, and can recognise text or voice commands. 

HOME OF THE FUTURE

How likely would you be to try an household robot? (10 being a definite yes)

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 2. Say goodbye to folding laundry

Some people find folding laundry soothing, but others aren’t so keen. If folding laundry is always last on your list – or if the amount of laundry you need to fold seems to multiply by the minute – you might need a household gadget’s help. 

The FoldiMate can fold an entire load of laundry, about 25 items, in just five minutes. You pop your dress shirt or pair of pants into the square machine, which is a little bigger than a trash can, and it folds the piece and drops it into a stack at the bottom. When the FoldiMate is finished, you can remove the whole stack of laundry. 

The drawbacks are twofold. First, you still have to load every item into the FoldiMate. What might take you less time would be to dump the whole load in the top of the machine and have it magically folded and stacked at the bottom, but for now, that’s above the FoldiMate’s capabilities.

Second, the machine is likely to retail at between €1350-€1800 to start, eventually coming down to €900 when production increases. 

HOME OF THE FUTURE

How likely would you be to buy a laundry-folding machine? (10 being a definite yes)

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 3. Stop changing the cat litter box – and let a machine do it for you

Ford’s Dog Nanny was announced in 2017 but has not yet come to fruition. If released, it would take care of cleaning up after your canine friend, and even taking it out for a walk and letting you interact with your dog through a video camera while you’re away. 

Cat owners don’t have to worry about the daily walks, but there are very few household chores as unappealing as changing a cat’s litter box. There’s no avoiding the stinky job, no matter how hard you try. 

Until now. For €360, The Litter Robot 3 will detect when your cat uses the pod-like litter box, and automatically sift out the refuse every time. You simply remove the waste bag and put it in the bin – no scooping or scrubbing. 

If you have multiple cats, you can use one Litter Robot 3 for up to four cats, which is a plus, because the litter box is larger than a traditional litter box. While it might be too big to 

HOME OF THE FUTURE

How likely would you be to pay for a self-cleaning litter box? (10 being a definite yes)

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4. Quit carrying groceries and heavy items 

A robot that’s able to fully take care of children, like the Jetson robot maid, isn’t likely to come about in our lifetimes, but there is a child-size robot that can assume quite a chunk of child-entertaining work. Popular in some Asian countries, the iPalrobot retails for just over €3000 and can interact with your child, even helping to cheer him up if he’s sad. 

While you’re waiting for that not-yet-invented robot that can feed your kid lunch and walk them to school, there is a robot already available to help with some heavy lifting. 

For people with mobility issues, going to the grocery store can be a monumental task. Whether you have trouble carrying items, or regularly need to carry a bunch of heavy things, Budgee the Friendly Robot might make your life a little easier and less taxing. 

Budgee is a wheeled robot attached to a cart, that can traverse streets and sidewalks, and move indoors and outdoors, while carrying up to 50 pounds. Budgee gets his friendly moniker because he greets you and follows you, playing music for you if you like. If you need Budgee to, it can carry items from one place to another without you – while you simply drive him with your smart phone. 

The good news is that the Budgee is marked down to €180, making it one of the more affordable household robot options out there. 

HOME OF THE FUTURE

How likely would you be to let a robot carry your shopping? (10 being a definite yes)

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The future is nearer than you think. Pre-book the all-electric Volkswagen ID.3 1st online at Volkswagen.ie/ID.

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