In the age of rapidly evolving Artificial Intelligence (AI), where AI systems are composing music, penning poetry, and even generating technology news, one New York-based company, Somatic, has directed its efforts toward a less glamorous but essential area: toilet cleaning. As automation seizes numerous industries, it’s comforting to realize that robots are also taking over jobs that most humans would rather not do.
The necessity of a dirty job
Let’s face it, not many aspire to be toilet cleaners. The work is strenuous, repetitive, and less than pleasant. Nevertheless, it’s a job that needs to be done. Bathrooms in public spaces like offices or schools can become breeding grounds for germs if not adequately maintained. Therefore, automating the process of cleaning toilets doesn’t just make economic sense; it also has the potential to improve public health.
What does the robot do?
Somatic offers a fascinating solution in the form of an autonomous trolley-bot. This isn’t your standard automated vacuum; it’s a more advanced machine capable of complex tasks. It can open and close doors independently, navigate elevators, and move across floors. When it comes to the actual cleaning, the robot uses high-powered disinfectant and water sprays for the cans, walls, and floors. It can also lift toilet lids to clean underneath and finish by vacuuming the area dry. The vacuuming unit is then stowed away on the robot’s back, allowing it to proceed to the next designated area.
Setup and operations
While the robot functions autonomously once set up, the initial process does require human intervention. Somatic provides a shoebox-sized sensor kit, which a human operator uses to walk the floor plan of the building. This activity generates video and 3D depth data that map all elevators and bathrooms. Somatic representatives then use this data to virtually clean the toilets using a VR headset, essentially creating a template for the robot to follow.
Not a complete replacement, but a valuable supplement
It’s important to note that the robot is not intended to entirely replace janitorial staff. Instead, it handles routine sanitation tasks. If it encounters an unusual or unexpected situation—something not uncommon in high-traffic public restrooms—it has the capability to email photographs to the janitorial staff and move on to its next task.
Somatic’s service is commercial and readily available. The company offers the robot as part of a $1,000 per month service package, without any upfront fees. For this price, the autonomous toilet-cleaning robot will be deployed to your office for 40 hours a week, effectively costing approximately $5.68 an hour. This cost is below the federal minimum wage in the USA, which stands at $7.25 an hour.
While the company has not disclosed how many robots it has built or the extent of their deployment, the value proposition is clear. These robots take on a job that many would rather avoid, while potentially saving companies money in the long run. March on, little toilet-bots. We may not want to share an elevator with you, but we salute your contributions to a cleaner, more automated world.
Check out the video below to see the toilet-cleaning robot in action.