Somatic is an autonomous robot that has been created to do the arduous task of cleaning public toilets throughout its life. In different offices in New York, it spends its days leaving the bathrooms spotless. Being a robot it doesn’t get tired or complain, even though its salary is half of what it would be paid if it were human.
Somatic’s robot is a kind of box with four wheels that has a robotic arm that vacuums and cleans the floor. It also has other smaller dispensers for pouring pressurized water, detergents and other substances onto the surfaces to be cleaned. It operates completely autonomously once the bathroom to be cleaned has been identified.
Its creators indicate that the robot is designed to work in airports, offices, shopping malls and similar places where there are bathrooms with a large influx of people. At the moment it is already operating in several offices in New York.
Unlike other robots, Somatic’s cannot be bought. Instead, it is hired, on a 40-hour weekly contract like any other employee. The difference is that its salary is $1,000, while a human in similar situations and contexts could be paid more than $2,000. According to the manufacturer, all it takes is to give the robot water and electricity to do its job.
The bathroom as an ideal place to train a robot
Training a robot is no easy task, no matter how many skills the Boston Dynamics people have. One example is the robot that after hundreds of millions of dollars of investment still doesn’t know how to make a pizza. But according to Somatic, in the field of public restrooms, it’s a little easier.
As their creators explain to TechCrunch, bathrooms have the peculiarity that they are designed in a very similar way every time, the elements found in a bathroom are almost always the same. Besides, there are usually no loose or moving parts. In other words, if the robot practices in a few bathrooms, it will know how to clean in almost any public bathroom just by knowing the bathroom map.
This “unique design” has allowed its creators to train the robot in a new bathroom using virtual reality and remotely. When the robot first arrives at a new bathroom, its creators connect to it and “clean” the bathroom once so that the robot learns how. From then on it has a 3D mapping of the space and can do it by itself the next time.
The robot routinely cleans the bathroom and combines that task with recharging itself with more detergent and other necessary resources. It completes its eight-hour workday and starts again the next day. And the $1,000 a month, for its creators.