Saturday, December 3, 2022 | 11:31 am

Dyson Has Been Secretly Building Robots

Dyson Has Been Secretly Building Robots

You probably know Dyson for their vacuums, or maybe that too-powerful dryer you’ve tentatively stuck your hands in while waiting for a flight. Maybe you’ve seen their hair dryers or fans. Dyson is a company that develops premium products that move air around. Basically, if they don’t suck, they blow.

Recently, the firm expanded with a very strange face-mounted air purifier. While showcasing the product, Dyson took pains to highlight some of the research behind it. It offered a peek into their labs, providing some insight into a future of products that expand well beyond premium vacuum cleaners. Turns out that includes robots.

Today at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Philadelphia, Dyson revealed “secret robot prototypes” that are part of broader research it’s managed to keep a tight lid on thus far. The reveal included some shots of a robot arm that looks fairly similar to smaller industrial models from companies like ABB.

On the face of it, the big difference here is the attachments. This includes a hand with soft graspers that look an awful lot like a human hand and, naturally, a vacuum attachment. As the firm notes, the robotic stuff doesn’t come out of anywhere, exactly — a surprising amount of vision processing, AI, and autonomy go into something like a robot vacuum. But from a pure investment standpoint, this could be much more than simple baby steps.

Some, like Toyota’s work with TRI, are thoughtful and deliberate, while others, like Samsung’s robotics efforts, appear to be more for show. For Dyson’s part, it says it has been refitting an aircraft hangar at Hullavington Airfield, a former RAF station in Chippenham, Wiltshire, in England that the company purchased back in 2016. It’s set to move some 250 roboticists over to the new lab.