300 cleaning robots that can rap, joke to appear on Singapore streets by March 2020
SINGAPORE — By March next year, expect to be greeted by any of local firm LionsBot International’s 300 autonomous robots that can sing, rap, wink and even crack jokes while cleaning the streets of Singapore.
At the launch and live demonstration of its rent-a-bot service at the Gardens by the Bay on Wednesday (17 July), LionsBot signed an agreement with four of six existing cleaning partners: Anergy Building Services, Spotless Clean, Sun City Maintenance and Tranquest Supplies & Co.
Prospective and current partners can rent the company’s range of made-in-Singapore cleaning robots at $1,350 to $2,150 per month.
LionsBot said it is the world’s first company to offer such robots on a subscription basis, which frees partners from investing in ownership and maintenance of such devices.
Currently, two of its robots have been deployed at National Gallery Singapore and Jewel Changi Airport in April.
Another three would be deployed by the end of this week to these two attractions, Resorts World Sentosa and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
Besides local demand, LionsBot has also received orders from companies based in Australia and Japan, said a company spokesperson.
LionsBot’s partners can eventually choose from 13 different models of robots that are programmed to scrub, mop, vacuum and sweep across different terrains as well as transport up to 450kg of cleaning equipment.
For instance, its LeoBot Family series are made for narrow spaces such as corridors, while the upcoming LeoPod Family Series will be deployed for open spaces such as shopping mall atriums.
These robots can coordinate and clean a given area simultaneously in a group, without the need for human programming. They are also touted to use up to 70 per cent less water compared with their commercial counterparts.
Passersby can also interact with a LionsBot cleaning robot by scanning its QR codes, which will allow them to ask the device questions like “What is your name?” or “What type of cleaning do you perform?”. The robots can reply back in several languages including Bahasa Melayu, Tamil, Mandarin, Japanese and even Singlish.
The robots are co-developed and co-founded by husband-and-wife team, Dylan Ng and Michelle Seow, and Mohan Rajesh Elara, Singapore University of Technology & Design’s assistant professor with the engineering product development pillar.
“Our many years in the industry made us aware of exactly what was needed in a cleaning robot. We tried many existing solutions in the market but did not find the right one,” said Ng, who, along with Seow, has also been managing cleaning equipment and chemicals supplier SuperSteamAsia Pacific since 2002.
This led them to “dream about building our own cleaning robot workforce”, in an industry where labour shortage is a growing issue, he said.
A spokesperson said that $5 million, including government grants, has been invested in the production of the cleaning robots.
The company currently has a team of 35 engineers who produce these robots in Singapore, from developing a cloud platform for live mapping data to 3D prototyping. It plans to produce four robots on average each day.
To provide training for cleaners on how to use the robots, the company has set up the LionsBot Training Academy to oversee a six-hour training programme, along with a mobile app that rewards cleaners based on how well they operate and maintain the robots.
In his speech, Guest-of-Honour Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon stressed that equipping workers with the right skillset is critical as businesses across the cleaning industry adopt new technologies.
“Instead of displacing the cleaning staff from their jobs, cleaning robots can help to ease (their) workload and free up their time for higher value-added duties such as supervision, operation and maintenance of the robots,” he said.