We do like our robotic vacuum cleaners here at Gizmag, but most of those that we have featured so far have, for good reason, followed a similar short and squat design. Dutch designer Dave Hakkens has opted to turn his back on this familiar shape and the household cleaner environment in which such a device might be found, in favor of a fairly large, industrial-strength ball for cleaning up public spaces.
Hakkens' Dustball concept is said to have been inspired by a hamster ball, but is not intended to be powered by the frantic footwork of tiny mammals. Although not giving away any specifics, the designer says that the unit will move around by shifting its internal weight across two axes. A motor inside the core of the large football-sized device takes care of generating the flow of air through the honeycomb of vents in the tough outer shell, and will also blow out short bursts of used air to disturb otherwise inaccessible dirt from corners.
When the dust collector is full, the Dustball returns to its docking station – where it also receives charge for the batteries – and starts to glow. The two halves of the outer shell are held together by magnetic force, which is released when the unit needs emptying to allow the dust collector to be removed.
Hakkens sees the Dustball rolling around public spaces, like train stations or airports. If and when it crosses the path of a pedestrian while going about its business, it can just be kicked out of the way. Whether this would lead to some impromptu games of robot football remains to be seen.
I don't see this concept as being a particularly efficient way of cleaning a floor. The surface contact point is far too small to make this anything more than a fairly novel and attractive visual distraction for passengers. It's more likely that stressed-out travelers will view such a machine with irritation rather than wonder – as it gets under their feet or causes them to fall as they rush from one terminal to the next.
Then there's the problem of getting under seating and furniture to clean up the crumbs and dirt that's fallen through gaps or been kicked out of sight. The current variations on a flat disc design for such devices have been made that way for a very good reason.
Such things would no doubt be ironed out if and when the Dustball jumps from unusual concept piece to prototype to production model... if it ever does.