Bladeless fans. Impossible hand-dryers. The best vacuums on the planet. These are the hallmarks of Sir James Dyson and his eponymous home appliance company that has attempted to change the world through innovation over the last 20 years. The one question remains, however: why won’t Dyson make a robot vacuum? We spoke to a senior engineer who let us in on the secret.
Martin Peek is a Senior Design Engineer working for Dyson out of its mythic Japan office. Several hundred people work around Martin in Tokyo, trying to live out Sir James’ mission of changing the world through innovation.
“So why no robot vacuum?” I ask Martin. The simplest answer he gave me is that they don’t work.
“Pretty much all the major manufacturers have come out with some version of a robotic cleaner. I think the problem with them, we know from our testing, is that they do a visual job of cleaning the floor. That means that if you’ve got fluff or stuff that’s relatively easy to pick up off the floor, they do kind of get that up, but they don’t clean your floor thoroughly. It’s this whole ethos about getting something that does the job properly,” he says.
If you do a clean with your robot vacuum and then do a clean with a Dyson, you’ll reportedly notice a whole lot of mess that the robot left behind. That’s not what Dyson is about, Martin explains, adding that the company isn’t about to launch a product just to be like everyone else.
“We could, probably next month, launch a robot cleaner if we wanted to that uses the current technology, but we know it doesn’t work properly. You do your whole home with a robot and then go over it with one of these [Dyson cyclonic vacuums] and you’ll fill the bin up with all the fine dust the vacuum left behind,” he adds.
But that’s not to say that Dyson will never release a robot vacuum.
“We’d love to launch one. If we can get all the technology we’re known for that sets the prescedent in terms of performance into a size and packet of a robot, then I’m sure we would launch it, but it’s a huge challenge and we have to meet the existing benchmarks we set ourselves. We could join the others, but that’s not what we do. We want to come out and say here’s the fault with all the other cleaners. They have a robot cleaner that’s not a cleaner, it’s just a robot that sweeps the floor. We want one that does a proper job. That’s what people expect from Dyson,” Martin says.
Martin is a guy who always loves being taken by surprise by what comes down the pipe from the UK for him to work on.
“I remember when we released the home environment products — the bladeless fans — I never saw that coming! When I first got the prototypes in Japan, I was amazed. Suddenly we came up with a fan with no blades and the whole of the Japan office was really excited about it as well! What’s next? I’d love to answer that.
“James loves creativity and encourages new ideas. If there’s worth in the idea, it will get looked into, but we’ll never release a product unless it’s doing something different or better than what’s already available. That’s James’ ethos,” he says with a twinkle.
Will we see a Dyson robot vacuum? Only time will tell.