Have you ever dreamed about what it would be like to live life in a cartoon? A team led by Cornell students Micah Green and Alex Levy is trying to bring that dream one step closer with Maidbot: a robotics company revolutionizing the way humans clean. Growing up as an avid fan of The Jetsons, Green developed the idea for an autonomous cleaning robot like “Rosie” that could be used to clean hotel rooms while working at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
Maidbot’s first product, affectionately named Rosie after its inspiration, cleans floors of hotel bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, ballrooms and more to reduce the burdens of cleaning staff. Over time, the team plans to develop additional functionality to help hotels reduce the high costs and inconsistency in housekeeping.
Rosie’s mapping algorithms and battery power allow it to stand out from autonomous cleaning robots targeted to consumers. Through advanced sensors, Rosie uses mapping algorithms like the ones used in self-driving cars to navigate around common hotel items like luggage, blankets, and toiletries. Additionally, with its battery, Rosie can last longer and can use over ten times the vacuuming power of consumer robotics solutions.
“We’re operating under the assumption that we need to have a stronger and more durable product that will last longer than our competitors to cater to hotels,” explains Levy, who manages business development for Maidbot. “Our product runs much longer throughout the day, and housekeeping is the department that never stops operating.”
While many would see Maidbot’s robots as replacements to room attendants, the team plans to use its products as supplements to existing staff. In the service industry, no matter what the position, Levy suggests, “There’s a human touch to that. That’s something that we can’t replace.”
According to a 2012 report from UCLA, room attendants also have the highest injury rates in the service sector. A lot of these injuries come from repetitive motions and the stress of lifting heavy items like beds while cleaning. Maidbot hopes to use its products to eliminate these dangerous exercises and allow room attendants to focus on more meaningful work.
Beyond the value of improved worker safety, Maidbot estimates that it can save hotels $9,000 per unit in variable costs. Appropriately, the team has drawn interest from major hotel companies.
Levy has thrived through the challenge of being a full-time entrepreneur while continuing his studies at Cornell. Many people question a student’s ability to commit to a startup while also focusing on schoolwork; to ease these concerns, Levy encourages other student entrepreneurs with strong intellectual property to consider applying for a patent as soon as possible.
“The fact that you’ve done that gives you that much more legitimacy,” Levy says. “It takes a long time for a patent to go through, but the fact that you’ve done that shows that you’re committed to your project and committed to changing the industry.”
Being a student and an entrepreneur concurrently also provides unique advantages. “Thankfully for us, a lot of the top people in the industry are from the hotel school,” explains Levy. “It’s not only networking with alumni from Cornell, but potential partners, mentors, and leaders that we’ll be working with for the rest of our careers.”
Maidbot is currently beta-testing Rosie with strategic partners to develop a product that is ready for the market. “The industry’s lacking technology and the inefficiencies that come with that are crazy,” Levy concludes. “We like to say where we’re at with robotics is where computers were at in the 1970s. The opportunity for innovation is endless.”