Dyson may have unveiled its new 360 Eye robot vacuum (MSRP about $1000) in Tokyo, but the company also brought one of the first working models to IFA Berlin.
That's where we got some hands-on time with Dyson's first ever robot vacuum. Even though we never got to see it perform outside of a controlled environment, and the carpets had already been cleaned before we got there, we were pretty impressed.
That's because it appeared to have more actual suction than many other robot vacuums we've seen, and it also seemed to navigate a room less chaotically than much of the competition.
Of course, those could be trade-show tricks, which is why we're looking forward to getting the 360 Eye in for more comprehensive testing. Until then, you can read about what we know—and hear about the new robot vacuum direct from Alex Knox, Dyson's design director.
Working the room
The first thing that stands out about the 360 Eye is its tall, narrow stance. According to Knox, that's an intentional design choice. Apparently, narrow furniture is a greater barrier for robot vacuums than low-profile obstacles. The 360 Eye definitely won't fit in the toe kick of your kitchen cabinets, but it might do a better job cleaning under the dining room table and chairs.
The second thing that jumps out about this robot is the eyeball-like camera mounted on the top. It swivels around 360 degrees (hence the vacuum's name) to scan the entire room for waypoints.
Like a digital camera's auto-focus, it detects objects by identifying areas of contrast. The robot then maps out all potential obstacles, and does its best to avoid them. The technology is different from similar camera-based models offered by LG, Miele, and Samsung, which use a top-mounted camera to map only a room's ceiling.
The 360 Eye also has a different cleaning algorithm than most robotic vacuums, and makes ever-smaller concentric squares until it gets to the middle of a room. If it needs a recharge (the on-board battery lasts about 20 minutes), the 360 scoots back to its sleek power dock for restoration before returning to where it left off.
We watched 360 Eye clean a very small, square room, and it appeared to have no problems getting to the corners. We did not have the chance to see it avoid obstacles, so we can't vouch for how well the software works.
The first thing we heard when the 360 Eye turned on was a quiet whir. The second thing we heard was a somewhat louder whine.
That's actually a good thing. Many robot vacuums have weak suction, and have more in common with carpet sweepers than stick vacs. The Dyson 360 Eye, however, contains a version of the same Digital Slim motor that powers Dyson's handheld vacuums—which do a decent job of cleaning dirt and dust.
We're also fans of the brush bar, which again shares more in common with full-size vacuums than most robotic cleaners. The brush bar sports two types of bristles for carpet and bare floors, and stretches the whole width of the machine.
We don't know how well it actually cleans, since the carpets at IFA weren't dirty at all. But we'll let you know as soon as we get it into our labs for testing.
Flip the Dyson 360 Eye over, and you'll notice "floating" tank-like tracks, not wheels. Knox said these would help the cleaner crawl over different types of floors. At the back, there's a HEPA filter on the exhaust.
You can also watch the whole cleaning process play out on the vacuum's smartphone app, which lets you peek at the 360 Eye's various room maps, and even follow its progress as it cleans.
The smartphone app also lets you remotely schedule cleaning. And if the vacuum gets stuck, the app notifies you and includes instructions on how to fix it.
A Dyson representative told us to expect pricing in the $1,000 range when it goes on sale in the U.S. early next year. That's a lot of money, but Dyson has a knack for convincing people to pay a premium for its products.
Overall, the Dyson 360 Eye is an expensive, unique product that has what it takes to be the best robot vacuum on the market. Whether it actually works as well as it promises—and whether it can replace your full-size vacuum—remains to be seen.