Spider-Man Robot Is Window Cleaner Of The Future

Sponsored by the Asper Foundation and Reichman University

It’s 2023, and window cleaners on ropes, with a bucket of soapy water, are still cleaning the world’s tallest buildings. Electric Glass Cleaner Robots

Spider-Man Robot Is Window Cleaner Of The Future

We’ve made huge leaps in technology, from electric vehicles to gene editing, from AI and 3D-printing to nano-satellites.

But even today, the overwhelming majority of skyscraper windows are washed by hand.

Ido Genosar believes there’s a better way. One that’s quicker, cheaper… and safer.

He and his team at Verobotics, a startup based in Israel, have developed a lightweight robot that climbs Spider-Man-style the height and breadth of a building.

“it’s just like the iRobot you put on your floor that can go anywhere. It’s basically the same principle,” he says. “The navigation is automatic, based on a computer vision solution.”

The robot moves around like a crab, lifting one arm, moving it, attaching it to the glass, then lifting the other and so on, so it literally walks up, down and across the entire building.

It also checks the exterior for repairs while it moves. It needs no water or any other liquid, and it all fits inside a box that one person can carry.

Genosar believes he’s come up with a truly disruptive technology. He says every other attempt to automate high-level window cleaning has relied on putting robots into cradles suspended from big, clunky cranes (called BMUs or building maintenance units) that comes as standard on all tall buildings.

But he approached the problem from a different angle entirely. “My background is building real estate construction, curtain walls, facades. My family is one of the biggest facade constructors in Israel,” he says.

He was astonished to find that the way buildings were cleaned and inspected had barely changed in a century, and many of those who were trying to innovate were still wedded to the idea of using the BMU.

“I looked into innovative ideas, thinking someone had probably come up with a solution, but they hadn’t. I spoke to CEOs, to very smart, intelligent people in cleaning and inspection, but 99 percent of them didn’t come from the construction industry and had never spent a day on a roof of a building.”

He teamed up with AI and robotics expert Itay Levitan to develop a small “human-like” robot that dispenses with the need for a BMU altogether. It clings to the side of a building and uses sophisticated suction cups to maneuver itself around. It can easily clean four times more window area in a day than a man on a rope, says Genosar.

A human window cleaner will actually be cleaning no more than five hours out of an eight-hour shift. They can only clean as far as their arms reach right and left. The lower themselves down the building then have to climb to the top, shift over two meters and repeat the whole process.

The most they’ll get done in a day is 300 square meters, says Genosar. His robot does 120 square meters an hour. So in a typical 10-hour day it can cover 1,200 square meters. And there’s technically no reason why it couldn’t operate 24/7. The robot is, he says, literally climbing the building like Spider-Man.

Genosar isn’t keen to disclose much detail about the actual robot, or to show it in action, but he does explain that there’s a base unit with a winch that fits on the roof of the building. The robot climbs the building using suction cups and actuators (the device that creates the suction).

It is “literally walking vertically on the building,” he says, thanks to patented developments in computer vision and AI.

“We don’t use water, liquid, soap or anything like that,” he says, “Because we’re doing continuous cleaning, every month or every two months (instead of every six, or even 12 months like with human window cleaners), we maintain the level of cleanliness of the building.

“And this is also part of the secret sauce that we’ve developed, a unique mechanical cleaning process that cleans in a very smart, efficient and environmentally-friendly way.”

There are a number of other building-cleaning solutions, such as Skyline Robotics, also based in Israel, which has developed a robot that relies on the BMU. Other companies, among them Erylon, Serbot, Sky Pro and Kite, also have robots. But they are, according to Genosar, slower, heavier, and take longer to set up. All of them, and more, are chasing a share of what is globally a $40 billion industry.

Verobotics recently signed a $5.4 million deal to provide dozens of robots to autonomously clean and inspect some of the 9,000-plus tall buildings in Hong Kong.

Cleaning windows is only part of the Verobotics story. While the robot is up there it can use its cameras and other sensors to map the outside of the building. And regular visits means regular updates, which means it can warn of problems before things actually break.

Spider-Man Robot Is Window Cleaner Of The Future

Automatic Window Cleaning Robot “Inspection is the future,” says Genosar. “Because inspection is data, and data is valuable. It’s the biggest opportunity for robotics in the future, once we have enough data.”