Startup Creates Bathroom-Cleaning Robot

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. capability / ˌkeɪ pəˈbɪl ɪ ti / (n) – the power or ability to do an action

    I trust John’s capability to lead a team because he has shown good planning skills.

  2. run on (something) / rʌn ɒn / (phrasal) – to work using a certain source of energy

    Most houses in this eco-friendly village are running on solar energy.

  3. expose / ɪkˈspoʊz / (v) – to cause someone or something to be affected by certain factors, the environment, etc.

    Internships expose students to the corporate world.

  4. autonomously / ɔˈtɒn ə məs li / (adv) – independently

    The unmanned spacecraft can travel to space autonomously.

  5. a far cry from (something) / ə fɑr kraɪ frəm / (idiom) – being very different from another person or thing

    This luxurious hotel is a far cry from the small hostel we stayed at.


Read the text below.

Somatic, a tech startup, has developed a robot that is meant for bathroom cleaning.

The New York-based company showcased the new robot at a tech event in March. The innovation was made to clean public bathrooms, such as those in offices, airports, and shopping malls. With four wheels and an attached arm, it has the capability to perform tasks like vacuuming floors. The robot runs on water and electricity, and it can operate independently once it detects the bathroom to be cleaned.

Developers train the robot remotely. They expose it to an unfamiliar bathroom by creating a virtual reality simulation of the space. They guide the robot to areas where it should spray, get rid of chemicals, and vacuum. The robot then creates a 3D-mapping of the space and uses this image to navigate and perform cleaning tasks autonomously. It is even able to refill itself with detergent and other cleaning products.

According to Somatic’s CEO, the robot can get cleaning tasks done in around eight hours. It also has capabilities like opening doors and riding elevators to move from one building to another.

Somatic’s cleaning droid is not for sale. Instead, the robot is available for rent for 40 hours a week and completes an eight-hour daily shift. Renting the robot costs around $1,000 a month—a far cry from a human cleaner’s average salary, which would likely be at least two times higher.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Would you rather rent Somatic’s robot than hire a human employee to perform cleaning tasks? Explain.
• In your opinion, should Somatic’s robot be for sale? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• If you could develop a robot that can perform an eight-hour daily shift, what would be its main function? Discuss.
• How would you design this robot (e.g. looks human, very small)? Explain.