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For such a high-end appliance brand, it's surprising Dyson doesn't already make a robot vacuum cleaner. The British company actually unveiled a prototype in the early 2000s, but didn't think it was ready and it never went to production. Then in February this year it pumped $8 million into robotics research with a lab at Imperial College London, which was tasked with developing robot sensor tech and advanced vision, interpretation, and interaction algorithms. It looks as though this R&D investment has paid off -- Dyson is finally coming out with its own robot vacuum.
The Dyson 360 Eye, announced at IFA, will be available in Japan first before a wider international release and will cost 130,000 Yen -- roughly $1,250, £750, and AU$1,320. It weighs 5.2 pounds (2.4kg), holds 0.4 liters of debris, auto-docks, and has a lithium-ion battery that claims to last for 20 minutes. That doesn't seem like long when you consider that highly rated Neato and Roomba bots can clean for hours before needing to be recharged. But Dyson bashes other brands in its official press release, calling them out for focusing on battery life conservation rather than motor power.
Dyson makes big claims about the 360 Eye's energy-efficient V2 digital motor with cyclone tech, saying that it has "more suction power than any other robot vacuum on the Japanese market." So, it sounds like you could be swapping some battery life for better performance with this Dyson robot. That's a welcome trade, if true.
Dyson is touting more than the 360 Eye's suction power, though; it's also app-enabled. The Dyson Link app for Android and iOS will supposedly let you set a recurring schedule or request a one-time cleaning run on the go, including start, stop, and pause functionality. This could give robot vacuums -- at least Dyson's robot vacuum -- a real edge in the smart-home market.
As its name suggests, the 360 Eye boasts a 360-degree camera that can capture up to 30 frames per second. Dyson claims that this lets the robot better orient itself so it knows exactly where it is, where it has been, and where it needs to go. It also uses infrared sensors to detect obstacles. That sounds good, but pretty much every robot vacuum we've tested makes claims about its highly evolved vision-mapping system.
Dyson also points to its tank-like track wheels and full-width brush to differentiate it from the pack. Instead of traditional robot vacuum wheels, the 360 Eye has continuous treads that are supposed to be able to traverse various flooring surfaces and obstacles with greater ease. Its wide carbon-fiber brush bar can supposedly get close to walls and reach other stubborn nooks without needing the side brushes that are so common on other robot vacuums.
I got to spend some time with the 360 Eye this afternoon and was struck by its size. It's much smaller in diameter than other bots, but taller, too. So, while its brush bar stretches across the whole width of the bot, it might still be shorter than other brand's offerings. These unique dimensions might also mean that it won't be able to scoot under your couch or chair to collect pesky dust bunnies quite as easily. However, it does suggest that the 360 Eye has a pretty serious motor hiding behind its sleek Dyson exterior.
The Dyson 360 Eye is scheduled for a Japan-only release in spring 2015, with international launches expected later next year. It will cost 130,000 Yen (converted, that's roughly $1,250, £750, and AU$1,320). Be sure to check out more of our IFA coverage here.
Editors' note, September 4, 2014: Dyson has confirmed the price of its 360 Eye robot vacuum, and this article has been updated accordingly.