Robotic bog cleaner loves the jobs people hate

2019-02-28 02:10:01

By Rosie Mestel IF you cannot stand cleaning the toilet, an American company could have the answer. Its “ScrubMate” robot will nor only perform that unsavoury task – it will also clean urinals, sinks and mop the bathroom floor. ScrubMate is the brainchild of robot pioneer Joseph Engelberger, who designed the first robot used in industry 34 years ago. Today, Engelberger has turned his attention to more everyday uses for robots – in the home, the hospital and wherever bathrooms need cleaning. When ScrubMate enters a bathroom, its human companion empties the bins, replenishes the hand towels and toilet paper and removes rubbish from the floor. From there on, ScrubMate takes over. First, it scans the room with laser light to match the particular bathroom it has entered with a set of maps stored in its computer. Next, it approaches a toilet, sprays it with water and scrubs it with detergent, being sure to lift the seat to clean underneath. Then it takes out a drying cloth from its rucksack”, and wipes the toilet. Once the toilets are cleaned, ScrubMate moves on to its other jobs, taking out mops and other tools from its rucksack and fitting them onto its arm as they are needed. At every step, force sensors in ScrubMate’s “wrist” tell it just how much pressure to exert to do a good cleaning job. ScrubMate is just a prototype for now, designed by Engelberger’s company TRC in Danbury, Connecticut. The robot was built for the US Postal Service, which has more than 200 000 bathrooms in its buildings. TRC is waiting to hear whether the post office will grant it another $500 000 to finetune the robot. Engelberger says that hotel companies have also expressed interest in ScrubMate. Despite the money it costs to build each robot – maybe $70 000 – Engelberger believes that ScrubMate would be as cost-effective and could do a more consistent lavatory-scrubbing job than a human. And working with ScrubMate would make its partner’s job more desirable, which should reduce staff turnover. “ScrubMate becomes the assistant custodian – it does the dirty work,