We've all heard of Roomba, the frisbee-sized vacuum robot. Until recently we thought this slightly egregious piece of technology was the end-all-be-all of home cleaning innovation. Then we met Winbot. Made by Ecovacs Robotics—a company boasting 300-500 engineers on staff at any given time—the similarly-sized window cleaning robot uses multiple motors and an array of sensors to navigate any window, inside or out, without any human assistance. Launched at CES earlier this month, we recently got the chance to see it in action at CH HQ, and after a few moments were pretty impressed by the near-autonomous little robot.
Our first question of course, was how does it stay on vertical and even overhanging surfaces? Winbot is powered by two motors, one dedicated to navigation using grippy tank-like tracks, and the other provides power to two concentric suction rings. If one ring is breached or loses suction, sensors send a signal to the "brain" to power down immediately to prevent the robot from falling. To clean, the robot scans the window, creates a map and hashes out the most efficient route. Cleaning is handled by the Winbot's removable cloth cleaning pads that you spray with solution before setting the gadget on its way. The whole process takes just a few minutes start to finish for each window.
While the little cleaning robot may seem a bit excessive for urban dwellers, consider the applications for office buildings and larger homes with vaulted ceilings. Although vendors have yet to be secured stateside, expect a widespread release this spring. Winbot will come in a range of colors, selling for between $299 and $399 depending on the model.
Images by Graham Hiemstra