The New Cleaners! The rise of the machines!
I admit the title of that sounds a little Terminator-ish, but on recent display at the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year the company LG announced a new service: LG HomeChat. It works like this: you send a text to your washing machine or cleaner-bot, the machine replies, and then you answer with an option. Is this what the world has been waiting for?
We have been here before of course, in various different guises. Back in the previous century, Electrolux had the Trilobite (which was featured on Tomorrow's World - though nothing I've ever seen on there seems to have made it to reality). In 2001, Dyson created the DC06 but it was priced so high that it was never released to the market, and it was only when the Roomba was released the following year that people started to take notice. Yet this was still more than 10 years ago.
Personally, and from my experience of cleaning, the profession isn't going to be replaced in the near future by automatons as there is simply too much variety and physical dexterity needed to clean different areas of the home. My husband made this point after reading Michael Ford's book 'The lights in the tunnel' on the threat to jobs from ever more sophisticated technology in the future economy. At its heart is the idea that whilst the combination of software and limited hardware will mean machines can outperform human operators in a great many functions, the limiting factor is making the hardware as dextrous and mobile as a current human being. A good cleaner will find things to clean that the client will appreciate - it is this marriage of evaluation, labour, and appreciation that I am not sure a machine will ever be able to do.