Robot Home Efficiency

We know what automation has done for factories. Human workers are safer than they were before, child labor is a thing of the past, and consumer goods are available to more people than ever.

What about automation in our homes? Are they saving us energy? Time? Effort? Keeping us safe?

One study found that robotic vacuums don’t do any of those things. In fact, they don’t even vacuum that well. Owners use them for vacuuming (and also let them take on some characteristics of pets), but also still vacuum with the old uprights. They use more electricity than they would without their Roombas, and basically duplicate the work.

They also have cleaner floors. The belt and braces approach accomplishes that. How high a priority is it?

An in-depth study of human-Roomba interaction found a wide range of feelings, from a participant who felt that the household robot had changed her life to one that sent the Roomba home with the researcher after just a few months.

Efficiency didn’t really come up.

There are laundry-folding robots. Humans must carefully place pieces of clothing into the folding machine after removing them from the dryer — and of course they put the clothing into the dryer after removing it from the washer. The folding machine can take up to 15 minutes to fold one garment. It may be easier than beating laundry on rocks in the river, but it can’t really be called efficient.

A robot named Aeolus is able to pick things up and put them away, mop floors, and do that extra vacuuming. “Our robot can autonomously assist people’s work in human’s open environment,” the makers say, “to increase convenience, productivity and happiness.”

And that list may be part of the problem in identifying efficiency in home robots. Some people clearly are happier if they have a robot vacuum. And household automation is certainly convenient (except maybe for the laundry folding machine). But productivity doesn’t have a clear standard in the home.

If you can make 935 wrenches with the robots in the factory and only 93 without, you have a clear increase in productivity.

But having household chores done for you may not increase your productivity. Word from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that Americans only spend about one hour a day on housework. Not nearly enough time to supervise a folding robot. It’s also not an amount of time that really alters your productivity.

If you get a robot to do your household chores and work an extra hour each day, you might have increased productivity at work. At home, however, you will probably either duplicate the work or spend that freed-up hour on something like playing video games or relaxing. To increase productivity, you’d have to whip up some jam or make jewelry or something.

Few of us actually measure productivity in the home in any case.

At work, however, it makes a big difference whether your Rexroth industrial motion control systems are working correctly. Call us immediately if you need service or support.

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