Despite a fondness for sci-fi and fantasy stories that has persisted since childhood, I’ve never completely been sold on the idea of a robot cleaner. To my mind, it always seemed a little C-3PO: a rather goofy application of robotics compared to the infinitely more interesting possibilities posited in celluloid and paperback. Then I met the Dyson 360 Eye – and now I’m a completely converted to the home droid revolution.
To extend the Star Wars reference, the 360 Eye most resembles the R2D2 of the home: compact yet colourful, a programmable device with personality. While it doesn’t constantly burble mechanical sounds or project holographic videos of princesses in distress (at least, not in testing performed to date), there is definitely an element of anthropomorphism involved when the 360 Eye bumps gently up against an obstacle, stops, reorients itself, and then heads off again in a different direction.
An independent thinker
Dyson’s latest innovation is a connected vacuum cleaner, although there is definitely more emphasis on the ‘hoover’ element rather than smart features. A reasonably neat app allows you to control the 360 Eye via a smartphone (as long as you’re sharing a WiFi connection) as well as seeing maps of previous cleans; however, this is not necessary for operation, as you can simply press the ‘On’ button and let the little cleaner do its thing without any further human intervention.
Scheduling a clean to take place at a certain time and day is a key part of the app, but not one that will necessarily be useful for a household with multiple occupants (this is particularly true when kids or untidy spouses are involved). Floor space needs to be clear of clutter and spills before the vacuum gets going, while a reasonable amount of light in the room is required, making it often better to manually activate the machine rather than let it loose without knowing whether the room is in the right condition.
Nonetheless, once it gets going the Dyson works a treat. It can run for up to 45 minutes – comfortably enough to clean a smallish flat – and will return to its docking station and recharge itself, before continuing from where it stopped if it hasn’t managed to clean the entire available space with the initial charge. It triangulates and splits each room into zones using 360° imagery, so that each space is carefully mapped out and methodically covered. This means that it can adapt its route to accommodate unexpected items – a chair that has moved in the dining room or a pair of shoes in the hallway, for example – and leave the maximum available space dirt-free.
A supercharged design
The Dyson 360 Eye has been in development since 1999 and, basic shape aside, there is little in common between the 2001 prototype and the 2016 commercial version. For its diminutive size, it is surprisingly powerful, thanks to a combination of a 78,000 RPM motor and the Radial Root Cyclone suction technology that is found in other models in the Dyson range, which means it is able to clean a floor with a single pass.
Its exterior is equally robust – the device-wide brush incorporates both nylon and carbon fibre bristles, while its ‘tank-style’ caterpillar tracks not only look cool (in a nerdy kind of way), but also allows it to deal with almost any surface that it might encounter in a home environment.
There is no doubt that, despite its size, the Dyson 360 Eye is an efficient machine – yet there are definitely some limitations when it comes to performance. Granted, it will clean the entire reachable area, but there will always be areas around the edges of the room that even its generous brush width will be unable to reach. Likewise, the height of the device means that it can be stymied by certain pieces of furniture, resulting in a less than perfect clean.
Its smallish bin is inevitable considering its size and, while it is certainly adequate for a few cleans, it is something that will need to regularly be cleared out manually by the user. A couple of times the device was completely flummoxed by the movement of a piece of furniture or a door moving in the breeze during the cleaning process – once to the extent that it had to be physically carried back to its dock before it could reorient itself.
A homely home device
Despite having its flaws and being rather fussy on set-up (not difficult per se, just slightly more laborious than it needs to be), the 360 Eye is an excellent addition to the connected home. It won’t completely eliminate the need for the occasional pass with a traditional vacuum cleaner but, it certainly reduces the time you’ll spent on cleaning your home on a weekly basis. Technology in the home has a primary objective: make the life of the homeowner easier than if it wasn’t there. By and large, the Dyson 360 Eye does this and – despite the £799.99 price tag – the convenience is worth the outlay.