How Does A Robot Vacuum With Camera Work?
Did you know robot vacuums only started using cameras in 2015? Prior to that, they used low-cost infrared and collision detection sensors to detect obstacles, dumbly moving around a room at random. It was only in the last decade that smart vacuums started using cameras to capture photocells so they could identify specific objects and map their environment. Now, robotic vacuums with built-in cameras are on the rise. Let’s talk about what a camera does in your robot housekeeper and how cameras are used in tandem with other technologies to allow your robot to not simply clean your floors, but actually learn and improve its cleaning protocols.
What is the Purpose of Cameras in Robot Vacuums?
Not all robot vacuums use cameras. Some just have lidar or infrared sensors for navigation and mapping; others use cameras combined with other technologies, aggregating the data from each source for a more detailed understanding of the environment. Now, do you need a robot vacuum with a camera? Not necessarily, but if you have a compact space or lots of furniture or just want a smarter vacuum with more precise navigation skills to make the process more friction-free, camera-equipped robot vacuums might be the key.
Improved Navigation & Mapping
Robot vacuum cleaners with cameras are better able to understand where they are in relation to your house layout. They do this by using visual images and localisation sensors to determine their current orientation in the environment. Together with the images they take of obstacles in their path, they have a richer cache of information to navigate your space more efficiently.
Accurate Obstacle Detection
The next purpose of robot vacuum cameras is better obstacle recognition. These cameras can be pointed in one direction or provide a 360-degree view. For instance, it’s important for the device to distinguish a sock from a piece of pet poo. (Many robot vacuum cleaners are trained with image sets so it can recognise a gallery of household objects; DEEBOTs recognize up to 30 common obstacles1.) DEEBOT automatic vacuums even send a notification to users’ phones through the ECOVACS HOME app when they have identified an obstacle, offering the option to pass through the area again after the obstacle has been removed.
Real-time Environmental Analysis
With a camera, robot vacuums can analyse a changing environment in real time. As your space changes over the weeks and months - with new or shifted furniture, or even day-by-day changes like if your little ones have a playing area that they frequently often leave toys laying around in - newer models of vacuum robots with cameras use artificial intelligence to learn the evolving layoutso it cleans quicker the longer it spends in your space.
Remote Home Monitoring
Lastly, vacuum cleaners with cameras can be used as a mobile home security device, giving homeowners a glimpse into their home to keep an eye on pets or ensure all’s well when away on vacation. Along with a live video feed, certain DEEBOT models also feature a two-way voice call feature, should you want to remotely communicate with your pup while out of the house.
What are the Best DEEBOT Robot Vacuums with Cameras?
One of the best robot vacuums with cameras in the DEEBOT line, the DEEBOT X1 OMNI uses a camera, and ECOVACS’ own TrueMapping 2.0 and AIVI 3D technologies to map your entire home in minutes. These technologies make it possible for the automatic vacuum cleaner to methodically navigate the house and clean on a schedule even when the user isn’t home. It is also capable of mapping multiple floors, and recognising which floor it’s on. ECOVACS’ flagship all-in-one vacuum and mop, the DEEBOT X1 OMNI is housed in the front-of-the-line OMNI station which offers auto dust collection, automatic water refill and auto mop washing and drying, and voice control with YIKO assistant.
The DEEBOT T10 PLUS equipped with AI-based obstacle avoidance software - TrueMapping 2.0, AIVI 3.0 and an astrophotography grade camera (those used to capture detailed images of the solar system) - is a cost-effective vacuum cleaner capable of detecting objects in the dark. Tailored for pet households, this device is armoured with three different types of filters and air freshener pods to purify the air of allergens and pollutants that your four-legged friend may track in from the outdoors, it vacuums and mops for a deep clean on all kinds of surfaces, ranging from hardwood to tile or vinyl.
The DEEBOT N10 PLUS is a robot vacuum with a security camera that sweeps and mops simultaneously. Its OZMO Mopping System uses a precision water pump to use just the right amount of water while mopping, avoiding over-wetting or leaking water onto your floors. This smart vacuum mop uses bumper sensors and TrueMapping 2.0 to effectively manoeuvre, avoiding leaving marks on walls or running over objects that could get stuck in the suction. The DEEBOT N10 PLUS’ docking station also features auto dust emptying.
How do Robot Vacuums with Cameras Work?
A robot vacuum camera is usually a small, low-resolution camera (DEEBOTs’ built-in cameras offer HD resolution, however) mounted on the top of the robot. This camera captures images of the robot’s surroundings and uses computer vision algorithms to extract information about the environment. This can include identifying walls and furniture and also building a map of the living space.
Robot vacuum cleaners with security cameras are often quipped with localisation sensors such as wheel encoders or inertial sensors to determine its current position. Based on this information and the information gleaned from the image data, the automatic vacuum can then plan its path to manoeuvre around the space.
Cameras vs. Other Navigation Methods
The first floor-cleaning robots used a clumsy ‘bump and go’ technique prone to leaving uncleaned spots, going over certain spots once, giving other spots multiple passes, and missing swaths of floor altogether.
The sensor revolution, wherein robots actually started to map out the room and understand their location within it, has made vacuum robots more intentional and effective, doing more in less time.
Sensors commonly used in robot vacuum include lidar, which uses laser light to build a 3D map, and infrared sensors which measure the reflection of infrared light bounced off of objects to determine how far away obstacles are. Cameras are able to capture nuanced information about the type of obstacles in its environment, but their performance can be affected by lighting conditions or the presence of complex patterns and textures. This takes us into the potential limitations of robot vacuum cleaners with cameras.
Limitations & Considerations of Robot Vacuum Cameras
The first limitation of robot vacuum cameras is impacted performance in low light. Of course, if the camera can’t capture anything, it’s not of much use to the robot. However, this is why auto vacuums typically use a combination of sensors: for a more robust navigation system. For instance DEEBOTs pair cutting-edge ToF and 3D structured light sensors with cameras so they don’t have to rely solely on the camera. Therefore, they have no issue navigating spaces in the pitch black.
As with any smart home device, vacuum cleaners with cameras have been a point of debate over data security and privacy. What kind of data is your smart vacuum gathering about you? Where is this information being stored, and is it being utilised by the manufacturer in an exploitative manner? Can third parties hack into the camera and see inside your house? People have concerns, understandably. In a viral 2022 story, a woman was photographed on the toilet by a vacuum robot. One way to ease concerns is to read the data privacy statement from an individual robot vacuum company prior to purchasing, and to check if images are encrypted. ECOVACS’ smart vacuums with cameras are encrypted to fend off hackers; users can also opt out of sharing personal data with third parties.
Another possible limitation, as mentioned above, is the vacuum cleaner camera’s ability to detect reflective or transparent objects such as glass doors, mirrors or clear plastic barriers. Some models can have trouble interpreting these objects or their shapes, resulting in collisions. However, auto vacuums which are also equipped with other types of 3D-imaging sensors (e.g., ultrasonic or laser mapping) are able to form complete images of their environment even if the camera gives misinterpreted data.
Do robot vacuums have cameras?
Since 2015, robot vacuum cleaners have started to feature cameras. Not all smart vacuums have cameras, but the ones that do offer multiple additional functions (such as live home monitoring) and improved obstacle detection.
Do robot vacuums take pictures?
Vacuum robots with cameras can capture images to be used for image processing purposes, which help the device navigate your home more efficiently and accurately avoid more types of common domestic obstacles.
What do robot vacuum cameras do?
Robot vacuum cameras are just one of many technologies that your smart cleaning device can utilize to ‘see’ and ‘learn’ your home. Cameras help the robot understand their location in relation to your house’s layout, analyze the environment as it changes in real time, better detect and recognize foreign objects and even allow users to see a video feed of their home from the robot’s perspective.
- This data comes from ECOVACS laboratory.