Date
22 October 2019
SoftBank's robotics arm has introduced an autonomous cleaning robot in Hong Kong targeting businesses. Photo: SoftBank Robotics
SoftBank's robotics arm has introduced an autonomous cleaning robot in Hong Kong targeting businesses. Photo: SoftBank Robotics

SoftBank’s robot Whiz now in Hong Kong to clean office floors

SoftBank Robotics, owned by Japanese tech and telecoms giant SoftBank, has launched its AI-powered vacuum-cleaning robot in the Hong Kong and Macau region, targeting corporates, malls, and hotels.

Designed to optimize workflows in the cleaning industry and work best on carpets and hard flooring, the robot Whiz can record up to 600 cleaning routes. Janitors perform the initial floor cleaning with Whiz on the first day. Those routes are stored in the robot’s memory, after which Whiz can clean the area on its own.

“In cosmopolitan cities like Hong Kong and Macau, we believe the introduction of Whiz will significantly boost operational productivity at commercial premises, and enhance cleaning performance for customers over the long run,” said Kenichi Yoshida, chief business officer at SoftBank Robotics.

The autonomous floor-cleaning robot – equipped with a laser range finder, 3D camera, sensors and collision detectors can navigate its way close to walls and avoid obstacles. It determines the best route within a specific area.

Whiz is powered by automated driverless software BrainOS, a proprietary operating system developed by San Diego, California-based artificial intelligence (AI) company Brain Corp.

The robot can perform its task safely even when people are going about their normal business in the area being cleaned.

With its smartphone app “Whiz Connect”, the robot also generates cleaning reports using cloud data visualization technology.

In an interview with the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Ryan Chan, sales director of Hong Kong at SoftBank Robotics, said Whiz will be offered under a “Robot-as-a-Service” monthly subscription plan. Enterprise customers will pay HK$3,980 (US$507) per month for each unit.

Chan believes the autonomous floor-cleaning robot addresses the challenge of recruiting cleaners amid an aging workforce, while also significantly enhancing the efficiency of cleaning tasks.

Focused on providing robotics solutions, SoftBank Robotics says it has produced over 25,000 robots, used in more than 70 countries worldwide, which offer applications in retail, tourism, healthcare,  and other fields.

After its first product, the humanoid robot NAO, the company launched a social humanoid robot, Pepper, which is able to recognize faces and basic human emotions.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 7

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal