- Soft Bank Robotics
- A new robot vacuum is on the market for $499 per month from Japanese tech giant SoftBank, aimed mostly at office spaces.
- SoftBank is the company that has taken over WeWork, and has also heavily invested in Uber and Slack.
- The vacuum, called Whiz, uses LIDAR sensors, the same technology used in self-driving cars.
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These days, SoftBank might be best known for its role in the WeWork debacle, taking over the coworking company following a failed IPO and the ousting of its CEO, Adam Neumann. But the Japanese giant has other projects in the works, too.
Whiz is the company’s newly released robot vacuum. SoftBank calls it a “fully autonomous vacuum sweeper,” similar to a Roomba, but with a much heftier price tag at $499 per month.
The vacuum works using LIDAR technology, in which sensors use pulses of light to detect objects and determine how far away they are. This is the same technology used in self-driving cars. SoftBank says Whiz is programmed to avoid “people, glass walls, cliffs, and other hazards.”
The first time Whiz is used in a new area, you guide the route to teach it where to go. Then, SoftBank says, Whiz can clean the route on its own – “no downtime, no extra work required.”
- Softbank Robotics
After each cleaning, Whiz provides a report about how, when, and where a space was cleaned. It can clean for about three hours on a single charge, and cover up to 15,000 square feet in that time.
Because of the high price, SoftBank is marketing the vacuum to offices, positioning the product as a replacement to a cleaning staff. SoftBank says it is an opportunity to free up janitorial staff to “focus on higher-value work that often goes neglected.”
In reality, though, automation often leads to unemployment. This might be particularly attractive to a company like SoftBank – in the case of WeWork, the company has had issues relating to recognizing cleaning staff unions, and has been accused of unfairly firing cleaning contractors.