Nobody likes cleaning the house. So why not get a flying robot to do it, right? That's what 23-year-old Adrian Perez Zapata thought too. Except he's not happy with one or two—he wants a swarm of them.
Zapata's concept, called Mab, has just won Electrolux's Design Lab competition. In his vision, 908 mini-robots fly about your home, making an assessment of what's looking dirty. Then, from a range of options, you decide what needs cleaning that day. The insect-like machines venture out, depositing tiny amounts of water and cleaning solution onto surfaces. Then, having sucked up the dirty liquid, the swarm returns to its "core," where it unloads.
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"I was in my university gardens when I observed the controlled flight of bees pollinating a flower, and how magical it is to see swarms of bees working together," the inventor says.
"My concept Mab only requires a short initial configuration to function autonomously, so you could arrive home and see a swarm of mini-robots roaming around cleaning independently. This means you could sit back and relax, as you observe with great astonishment the little Mab fairies working their magic."
The robots fly by spinning tiny propellers; their energy comes from built-in solar panels, and the core unit. Zapata says he was inspired by "robo-bee" research at Harvard (which we covered here).
Several other wacky ideas did well in the contest. Luiza Silva, from Brazil, won second prize for Atomium, her home 3-D printer for food (draw a picture of something and it will create an edible version in seconds). Jeabyun Yeon, from South Korea, came in third for his Breathing Wall—an "air cleaning concept which pulsates and changes shape as it cleans the air."
After that, the finalists included: Nutrima, a device for instantly assessing food's nutritional value and possible toxicity; Kitchen Hub, an app to keep track of food in the fridge, encourage healthy eating, and reduce waste; OZ-1, an air purifier worn as a necklace; 3F, a shape-shifting autonomous vacuum cleaner; and Global Chef, a hologramatic device for bringing virtual guests to the dinner-table.
Check out videos for all the concepts here.