Wall-E? 300 robots will help clean Singapore by next year – they wink, tell jokes, and even speak Singlish

The company developing these bots claims the public loves them because they’re cute and interactive.
Singapore Press Holdings/陈渊庄

Out in Singapore? You might soon find yourself face-to-face with a robot telling jokes.

A fleet of 300 autonomous cleaning bots from local company LionsBot International has been hired to keep the city spick and span, under a special agreement between the company and and six cleaning firms, LionsBot said in a statement on Wednesday (July 17).

It added that the robots will be deployed by March 2020.

Commenting on the partnership, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said that these bots could free up time for cleaners to do “higher value-added duties”, such as supervising, operating and maintaining them.

LionsBot, which was founded by local couple Dylan Ng and Michelle Seow, offers 13 different types of cleaning robots, which can do tasks like scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming, sweeping, and moving up to 450kg of cleaning equipment.

The bots were developed by a team of 30 engineers, led by Assistant Professor Mohan Rajesh Elara from the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

LionsBot founders Dylan Ng and Michelle Seow.
Singapore Press Holdings/Yen Meng Jiin

So far, the company has invested S$5 million, including government grants, into developing the app-operated robots, The Straits Times (ST) reported.

They are available for rent from S$1,350 to S$2,150 a month, and the company will teach cleaners how to use them.

Cleaners can also stand to win rewards based on how well they run and maintain their bots.

“Cute and interactive”

As part of a previous pilot scheme, two of the company’s robots have been in operation at the National Gallery and Jewel Changi Airport since April.

According to a report by Vulcan Post, more have since been deployed to Resorts World Sentosa and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore’s offices.

LionsBot said that cleaning contractors appreciated how easy the bots were to use, and how well they could clean.

The bots also frequently drew crowds, as people found them “cute and interactive”.

LionsBot robots have digital expressions and can wink at passers-by. They can also introduce themselves, and make jokes if people get in the way of their cleaning duties.

Singapore Press Holdings/Alphonsus Chern

People can also ask them questions by scanning a QR code on the bot. According to ST, the bots are programmed to speak five languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, and Japanese (and Singlish, too).

They can also sing and rap.

Cleaning-wise, the bots have in-built AI that enables them to calculate the most efficient way to clean a space. They also have precision sensors to stop them knocking into people, and can be programmed to work as a team, taking turns to clean.

LionsBot claims its bots use 70 per cent less water to clean, compared to existing methods.

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