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Friday
Aug192016

Review: Dyson 360 Eye Robot Vacuum

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

The Dyson 360 Eye is an accomplished vacuum cleaner. It dispels many of the issue that have plagued robot vacuums for many years now. Powerful enough to clean as well as larger handheld vacuums it ups the ante by being generally autonomous.

As evidenced by various marquee products in consumer technology, being the first doesn’t always mean the best. There were certainly many smartphones before the Apple iPhone came along but they were swiftly leapfrogged once that device rewrote the rules. Similarly, there have been robot vacuums for a number of years now but no product has challenged the market’s expectations more than Dyson’s first commercial robot vacuum.

Robot vacuums, flying cars and hoverboards


Robotic vacuums are a category that seems to have been willed into existence by technophiles and fantasists. An autonomous robot that cleans your home is on an esteemed shortlist, it is right up there with the flying car, the hoverboard, the jetpack. Devices that were made popular decades ago in science fiction movies and shows which showed what our future as the human race should be like.

Cars are just starting to learn autonomy but are many years away from flying, today’s hoverboards are sawed-off Segway knockoffs with a penchant for bursting into flames. As for jetpacks, sign me up on Kickstarter or Indiegogo once someone figures out a way to mass produce those.

Robotic vacuums have been with us for what seems to be a very long time. Just think that the original Dyson Robot was conceptualized and prototyped 15 years ago and you can go to any Canadian Tire store and get a selection of robotic vacuum cleaners.

While it is hard to justify a hoverboard’s place in the family budget, a robot that vacuums the floor and saves human hours of cleaning time a month is easier to sell. They’re autonomous, most park themselves back at their charging stations and a few can even be controlled via smartphone apps. The problem I have found is that the robot vacuums of the past were not good robots and really poor vacuums.

The cleaning power is usually lacking because of the piddling motors these devices have. They’re not ideal for deep cleaning. The robot part is also somewhat a mixed bag. I’ve given up on many robot vacuums that manage to get stuck under sofas or lodged in impossible situations. Battery life has also been generally disappointing.

Enter Dyson


Dyson is clearly the Rolls Royce of vacuums. Priced at the top of the market, the company is constantly inventing new ways to suck…er, better. I really wasn’t surprised to learn that a robot vacuum was already a glint in James Dyson’s eye in the late 90’s. The company went so far as to hire young roboticists, many of whom have dedicated much of the past decade and a half to developing the 360 Eye.

I got a kick out of seeing the original Dyson robot prototype, decked out in Walkman Sport yellow, next to the small and sleek 360 eye which is clearly the company’s most ambitious product to date. The reason why Dyson didn’t produce their initial design was that the technology was nowhere near where they needed it to be. Dyson stipulated that it had to be, “a great vacuum first and foremost.”

Dyson's robot vacuum prototype from 12 years ago next to the 360 Eye

The Dyson 360 Eye feels like the future. It comes in a small box with a clear photo of the product, much like an iPhone or an iPad, you know what’s in the box, and it makes you giddy with excitement.

Once unpacked, the 360 Eye is composed of the round puck-shaped vacuum, a small container for dust and debris and the foldout charging station and a power cord. Setting it all up takes around three minutes. Charging the Dyson 360 takes around an hour and a half.

Deploying the Dyson 360 Eye is as easy as pressing the power button which, after orienting itself, begins a standard cleaning cycle until the batteries are near depletion (or until it gets caught up or stuck somewhere).

Power where it counts

The cleaning capability of the Dyson 360 Eye is impressive. I am always surprised at the amount of fur, dust and grit the vacuum manages to suck up even in areas that, to me, look relatively clean. A few days into my review and I could already tell that the Dyson 360 Eye was twice as effective at cleaning than all of the robotic vacuums I have tried.

How the Dyson 360 Eye navigates itself is another key feature. The 360’ vision system uses a 360’ camera for panoramic recognition, the vacuum ‘sees’ where it is by taking thousands of photos and quickly referencing them as it goes along. This does mean that to be truly effective, the 360 Eye needs a fair amount of ambient lighting to really be accurate.

Older robotic vacuums simply tried to cover as much area as possible and others even required external sensors for navigation, The 360 Eye is aware of where it has cleaned and where it has left to clean which is quite remarkable.

On its own, the 360 Eye is an impressive navigator. It can deftly turn corners, manage its way along corridors and even move around tables and chairs. Where it doesn’t do too well is in areas where there are rug tassels, wires, cat toys or string which can be caught in its tank tracks. This is universal problem for robotic cleaning devices and it is up to us humans to ensure all floors are clutter free and that the vacuum’s path is uncluttered.

The app part of the equation

One of the key components of the Dyson 360 Eye is its companion Dyson Link app for Android and iOS. This allows users to turn on the device remotely, set scheduled cleaning sessions as well as interact with any errors or problems that might force the vacuum to stop working.

Aside from an initial issue connecting to the app, the Dyson Link works quite well. Not only does it keep you apprised of how the vacuum is doing (i.e. if you’re travelling or at the gym, it lets you know when the cleaning has started and whenever something has caused a fault, it gives you and update as well.

The Dyson Link app is one of the ways to control the Dyson Vacuum and it is a good start, but it need some work as there’s no way to troubleshoot the vacuum using the app. Resetting the vacuum, for example, can only be done by letting the batteries run down, this takes around two days.

The ability to remotely control the Dyson 360 Eye makes it possible to track the amount of cleaning done as well as remotely turn the vacuum on or off. Dyson has been updating the companion apps and improving features.

Verdict

The Dyson 360 Eye is, first and foremost, an accomplished vacuum cleaner.

It dispels many of the issue that have plagued robot vacuums for many years now.

Powerful enough to clean as well as larger handheld vacuums it ups the ante by being generally autonomous. It is also quite easy to remove the container that holds the dust.

The 360’ Vision camera works well provided that the vacuum is in a well-lit space. The inclusion of the Dyson Link app makes scheduling, controlling and monitoring the 360 Eye remotely a promising proposition.

I’ve said that the Dyson Eye would be an ideal option for people who rent out their homes and spaces to services like Airbnb or for any situation where cleaning a specific area regularly is required.

The Dyson 360 Eye, with an SRT of $1299,99 is a premium product which is on its first generation, this means that early adopters will bear the brunt of the initial quirks and bugs. It signifies a new product category for Dyson as well as an aspirational product for consumers who have been failed by earlier robotic vacuums or who have been waiting to see what Dyson can bring to the equation.

With impressive cleaning power, a simple to set up and use interface, and a promising mobile app, the Dyson 360 Eye redefines the robotic vacuum space and fulfills Dyson’s ideal of being a great vacuum first and a robotic device second.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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