Brighton University's Product Design showcase sees flying, AI-mapping vacuum cleaner

17 December 2018

The VacHumme's creator, student Tom Harding holds the AI-mapping 'dusting drone'

A hovering, self-flying vacuum cleaner was among the cutting-edge inventions at the University of Brighton’s Product Design showcase: named 'VacHumme', the 'dusting drone' is almost fully automated.

Created by student Tom Harding, the domestic device operates via an AI mapping function – having been designed to fly around a single room, cleaning every surface it can reach. Plus, with every new journey around a room, the VacHumme’s memory and knowledge of the space will grow stronger. This means it is – with time – able to tell whether furniture has been moved, all before adapting its route accordingly.

The device has a wireless charging station, and the only human intervention required concerns the occasional need to empty the vacuum chamber.

The brief that students were given for their showcase inventions was to “design a product which would help someone over the age of 30 who is living alone”.

“From this brief,” said Tom, “I decided to create a product which would reduce the amount of work a single person has to do to keep their house in order.

“Following this, I tried to think of a situation that everyone must do, but not very many people enjoy doing. It was only when I went home shortly after the brief was set that, while helping out with the cleaning at home, I stopped to consider how many jobs the four of us were accomplishing.

“The only job we all did was dusting the house. It was then a small leap of logic to assume every household was the same, and that I only needed to conduct research to see if my theory was correct.”

Tom has ambitions to secure the funding that would enable him to complete a version of the device that could be sold to the public: “That is a long-term goal and something I might have to tinker with until I have the required funding,” he added.

The theme of the Product Design showcase was ‘single living’. Research from the Office for National Statistics shows that roughly 28% of households in the UK contain just one person, meaning the idea of the traditional home is changing; and as a result, the products we use in the household are also in a state of flux.

To quote Damon Taylor, senior lecturer in Architecture and Design: “It was very encouraging to see that the students had responded to their brief with intelligence and sensitivity.

“The prototypes they are exhibiting in this show demonstrate a depth of research and a real effort to innovate around an issue that is the mark of good design. They are also in many cases showing a real ability to engineer viable solutions to difficult problems, while crafting functional and desirable products that people would really use.”

For more information on the University’s Product Design courses visit

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