Not satisfied with Pepper or NAO, SoftBank Robotics has come up with what they believe is a more practical solution to cleaning – Whiz.
The latest vacuum from the robotics company has just been introduced to the North American market at the Issa trade show for the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association in Las Vegas and it comes with an interesting business model.
Rather than selling as a vacuum cleaner for the masses, Whiz will be a subscription service costing $499 per month. Head of Commercial Automation at SBRA, Brady Watkins, had this to say:
“When we start to look at the model in the ecosystem of what it costs to clean an entire building, this really starts to get interesting and we can create immense value.”
Kass Dawson, head of SoftBank Robotics strategy, admits that it might seem like a huge leap from selling home vacuum cleaners to going into the industrial cleaning industry but the vision they are working towards is to define exactly what place automation has in the marketplace and what it can do.
Pepper was a huge success for the company and Whiz is their next step in the automation of repetitive tasks in the workplace. Commercial-grade, the robotic vacuum made its appearance in Japan and other select markets earlier this year and has taken part in pilot schemes in offices, hotels, airports, campuses and more across the county, including CVG (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Their reasons for those locations? It’s simple; they have plenty of carpets. Until now, no other commercial sweeper has managed any kind of scale or penetration into the cleaning industry and, while there will be competition, the market is large enough for more than one robotic vacuum cleaner.
Whiz can clean for 3 hours on one battery charge, covering up to 15,000 square feet. It isn’t a large vacuum cleaner, just three feet tall by two feet and has a zero-turn radius.
Powered by BrainOS, Whiz is initially taught by human operators – they ride behind it, pushing it along the route they want it to travel. After the route has been defined, Whiz is lined up, a button pressed and it used BrainOS to move around, avoiding the obstacles.
Dawson says that the commercial cleaning sector is only one industry that SoftBank wants to disrupt with automation. They want to target any industry that has highly repetitive tasks, crying out for innovative solutions where robotics can play a defining role.
Hospitality, food services, logistics, and warehousing are all in their sights and Whiz is just the first step on the ladder to what could be widespread industrial disruption – or a major revolution.