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June 24, 2020

Does your Robot Vacuum Have a Personality? Science Says YES

Robot Vacuum

If you have a robot vacuum cleaner, you may have had that lurking feeling that they’re more than just a vacuum. The good news is that you’re not alone. Whether or not you have experienced this phenomenon yourself, we’ve all heard stories from our friends or on TV raving about interesting or entertaining tails they’ve experienced in the company of their robot vacuum friend. 

We’re sure this all sounded a little absurd before you got one for yourself. Your pets initially loved or hated them, although inevitably learnt your robot is not a threat to their peace. Perhaps the regular hum of your robot on its daily clean is a soothing sound that gives you the assurance of having the company of another. Regardless of the impact robot vacuums have had on your household, it’s clear their benefits extend further than a clean floor. Let’s take a scientific look at how robot vacuums exhibit personalities and the unexpected benefits this can have in all our lives.

The history of human and robot relationships

The blurring of relationships has permeated even non-human interactions, as innovation pushes the boundaries of privacy and automation. A fundamental problem often raised when implementing new smart home devices, artificial intelligence, or other novel technology is the issue of ‘trust’. As devices continue to get more intelligent and more capable, rivalling our perceived human ‘advantage’, they need to earn our confidence, faith and respect. Consider the current issues surrounding 5G health concerns, Smart TV ‘snooping’ as well as other Smart Voice devices we use in our homes. While most of these concerns get promptly and effectively allayed, the constant scepticism of new tools is pervasive and will only get more intense.

“Robot vacuums appear to satisfy social needs in lonely people”

On the flip side, when trust is earnt, the impacts are genuinely fascinating. This 2017 study provides evidence that “exposure to or interaction with anthropomorphic consumer products (e.g. robot vacuum cleaners) can also satisfy social needs” in lonely people. The effect is even more pronounced when the robot appears to have human features, such as a design that makes it look like it’s smiling. Furthermore, when the stakes are raised, the emotional attachment felt grows even more pronounced. When bomb-diffusing soldiers work with robot tools in battle, they seem to form an emotional connection - referring to their instrument as a friend or colleague, rather than a human-made object.

What happens if you give robot vacuums a ‘personality’?

In this fascinating 2020 study, researchers programmed a robot vacuum with different movement patterns. These patterns represented three ‘personalities’ based on the Seven Dwarves: Happy, Sleepy and Grumpy. The Happy robot gravitated towards people and operated at a medium pace. The Sleepy robot did the same, but much slower. Grumpy vacuum avoided people and varied its pace. 

The humans involved were able to identify which robot exhibited which personality, only by how it behaved. Furthermore, when rating each of the robot’s perceived ‘intelligence,’ Happy robot scored high and Grumpy the lowest. The researchers concluded that this intelligence assessment might impact how ‘trustworthy’ advanced robot vacuum cleaners would appear to their owners, influencing their use and adoption in the home. Our brain has developed instincts in an environment where movements were a sign of life. As this definition changes forms, we need to consider how our minds view artificial ‘life’ humans have created, as well as how we can use it to enhance our world.

Another reason to use a robot vacuum

We already know that robot vacuum cleaners are an excellent addition to any household. You can automate them to run whenever you want, they’re modern and easy to maintain, and some will even mop too. They’ll build a map of your home and return to their charging dock whenever they need a new charge. If you want to spend less time cleaning and more time living, a robot vacuum cleaner is the way to go. 

“If your robot vacuum behaves like Grumpy, it might be time to upgrade!” 

They also add a lot to your family’s life, offering a sense of companionship when you (and even your pets) need it. If you already have a robot vacuum cleaner, what is its personality? Is it a smart and efficient dust soldier like the Roborock S5 Max? If it continually represents a confused, senile persona like Grumpy, it might be time to upgrade! 

Roborock is a global leader in the robot vacuum space, continually pushing innovation and the latest in smart-home cleaning automation. Our newly announced model, the Roborock H6 Adapt, is the world’s longest-lasting handheld stick vacuum. The Roborock H6 is exceptionally lightweight, comes packed with bonus attachments, and features an advanced sealed filtration system. You can check out our full range here. If you have any questions or need advice, contact us today.