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1. (WO2019063066) CONTROLLING MOVEMENT OF A ROBOTIC CLEANING DEVICE
Anmerkung: Text basiert auf automatischer optischer Zeichenerkennung (OCR). Verwenden Sie bitte aus rechtlichen Gründen die PDF-Version.

CONTROLLING MOVEMENT OF A ROBOTIC CLEANING DEVICE

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention relates to a method of controlling movement of a robotic cleaning device over an area to be cleaned, and a robotic cleaning device performing the method.

BACKGROUND

In many fields of technology, it is desirable to use robots with an autonomous behaviour such that they freely can move around a space without colliding with possible obstacles.

Robotic vacuum cleaners are known in the art, which are equipped with drive means in the form of a motor for moving the cleaner across a surface to be cleaned. The robotic vacuum cleaners are further equipped with intelligence in the form of microprocessor(s) and navigation means for causing an autonomous behaviour such that the robotic vacuum cleaners freely can move around and clean a surface in the form of e.g. a floor. Thus, these prior art robotic vacuum cleaners have the capability of autonomously vacuum clean a room in which objects such as tables and chairs and other obstacles such as walls and stairs are located.

Robotic vacuum cleaners use various sensors to keep track of where they are, and detect objects, i.e. obstacles, in their vicinity. The obstacle detection is more or less intelligent depending on complexity of the particular robotic vacuum cleaner, but will inevitably make occasional errors. For instance, the robotic cleaner may avoid areas where it should go, or bump into objects that it should stay away from.

SUMMARY

An object of the present invention is to solve, or at least mitigate, this problem in the art and thus to provided an improved method of controlling movement of a robotic cleaning device over an area to be cleaned.

In a first aspect of the invention a method of controlling movement of a robotic cleaning device over an area to be cleaned is provided. The method comprises storing at least one representation of the area over which the robotic cleaning device is to move, receiving an instruction to execute a cleaning program, localizing, in response to the instruction, the robotic cleaning device relative to the stored representation, and moving over the area to be cleaned as stipulated by the cleaning program by taking into account the stored representation.

In a second aspect of the invention a robotic cleaning device is provided. The robotic cleaning device comprises a propulsion system configured to move the robotic cleaning device over an area to be cleaned, a memory configured to store at least one representation of the area over which the robotic cleaning device is to move, and a controller configured to receive an instruction to execute a cleaning program, to localize, in response to the instruction, the robotic cleaning device relative to the stored representation, and to control the propulsion system to move the robotic cleaning device over the area to be cleaned as stipulated by the cleaning program by taking into account the stored representation.

Hence, the robotic cleaning device advantageously stores a representation, or map, of an area to be cleaned. Upon receiving an instruction to execute a cleaning program, for instance by having a user operate an App on her smart phone where she simply presses "start program", and submits the instruction e.g. via a radio signal to the robotic cleaning device, the robotic cleaning device will, in response to the instruction, localize itself relative to the stored representation. For instance, the robotic cleaning device may assume that its charging station has not moved since the last cleaning session, and thus use that as a reference to localize itself relative to the representation 10. It may also use a sensor such as a camera, lidar, radar, 3D camera, sonar or similar to scan the immediate surroundings when starting the cleaning session, and then compare the scan to a similar scan, associated with the representation. If the scans are sufficiently similar, that can be used to localize the robotic cleaning device to the representation. Then, the robotic cleaning device

moves over the area to be cleaned as stipulated by the cleaning program by taking into account the stored representation.

By knowing e.g. the extent and shape of the cleaning area, the robotic cleaning device can advantageously plan how to divide the area into cells in a more efficient manner than when cleaning without prior information. The device can also minimize the time spent in transport, by starting in one end of the area, rather than cleaning outwards from the middle, having to transport across the area when one side is done. Further, it may plan when to go back to the charging station and recharge, to avoid leaving a small area uncleaned in a room and thereby avoiding having to climb over a threshold to that room several times.

In an embodiment, the instruction received further advantageously comprises user advice on how to execute the cleaning program, and the robotic cleaning device associates this user advice with the stored

representation, the robotic cleaning device will then move across the area to be cleaned by taking into account the stored representation and the associated user advice.

In an exemplifying embodiment, the user advice comprises instructions to the robotic cleaning device to avoid one or more sub-areas in the stored representation.

In another exemplifying embodiment, the user advice comprises instructions to pass a boundary indicated in the stored representation.

In still another exemplifying embodiment, the user advice comprises instructions to move into contact with an object indicated in the stored representation.

In yet another exemplifying embodiment, the user advice comprises instructions to move over one or more sub areas in the stored representation multiple times.

In still a further exemplifying embodiment, the user advice comprises instructions to move over sub areas in the stored representation in a prioritized order.

In another embodiment, the robotic cleaning device deactivates the received user advice if after at least one attempt the robotic cleaning device is unable to move as stipulated by the user advice.

In a further embodiment, the robotic cleaning device stores, from one cleaning session to another, a representation of the area over which the robotic cleaning device is to move only if user advice has been associated with the representation.

In still another embodiment, the robotic cleaning device cancels the stored representation upon being instructed to clean a new area.

In a further embodiment, the robotic cleaning device requests advice from a user for instructions on how to move over the area to be cleaned.

In yet another embodiment the robotic cleaning device proposes, to a user, a sub-area in the representation to be cleaned, and receives, in response to the proposal, an instruction from the user on how to proceed.

In another embodiment, the instruction from the user comprises an instruction to modify the proposed sub-area.

Generally, all terms used in the claims are to be interpreted according to their ordinary meaning in the technical field, unless explicitly defined otherwise herein. All references to "a/an/the element, apparatus, component, means, step, etc." are to be interpreted openly as referring to at least one instance of the element, apparatus, component, means, step, etc., unless explicitly stated otherwise. The steps of any method disclosed herein do not have to be performed in the exact order disclosed, unless explicitly stated.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention is now described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure l shows a robotic cleaning device according to an exemplifying embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 2 illustrates a representation of an area to be cleaned in an

embodiment;

Figure 3 shows a flowchart of a method according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figure 4 illustrates a representation of an area to be cleaned in another embodiment; and

Figure 5 shows a flowchart of a method according to a further embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The invention will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which certain embodiments of the invention are shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided by way of example so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout the description.

The invention relates to robotic cleaning devices, or in other words, to automatic, self-propelled machines for cleaning a surface, e.g. a robotic vacuum cleaner, a robotic sweeper or a robotic floor washer. The robotic cleaning device according to the invention can be mains-operated and have a cord, be battery-operated or use any other kind of suitable energy source, for example solar energy.

Even though it is envisaged that the invention may be performed by a variety of appropriate robotic cleaning devices being equipped with sufficient processing intelligence, Figure 1 shows a robotic cleaning device 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention in a bottom view, i.e. the bottom side of the robotic cleaning device is shown. The arrow indicates the forward direction of the robotic cleaning device too being illustrated in the form of a robotic vacuum cleaner.

The robotic cleaning device too comprises a main body in housing components such as a propulsion system comprising driving means in the form of two electric wheel motors 115a, 115b for enabling movement of the driving wheels 112, 113 such that the cleaning device can be moved over a surface to be cleaned. Each wheel motor 115a, 115b is capable of controlling the respective driving wheel 112, 113 to rotate independently of each other in order to move the robotic cleaning device 100 across the surface to be cleaned. A number of different driving wheel arrangements, as well as various wheel motor arrangements, can be envisaged. It should be noted that the robotic cleaning device may have any appropriate shape, such as a device having a more traditional circular-shaped main body, or a triangular-shaped main body. As an alternative, a track propulsion system may be used or even a hovercraft propulsion system. The propulsion system may further be arranged to cause the robotic cleaning device 100 to perform any one or more of a yaw, pitch, translation or roll movement.

A controller 116 such as a microprocessor controls the wheel motors 115a, 115b to rotate the driving wheels 112, 113 as required in view of information received from an obstacle detecting device (not shown in Figure 1) for detecting obstacles in the form of walls, floor lamps, table legs, around which the robotic cleaning device must navigate. The obstacle detecting device may be embodied in the form of a 3D sensor system registering its surroundings, implemented by means of e.g. a 3D camera, a camera in combination with lasers, a laser scanner, etc. for detecting obstacles and communicating information about any detected obstacle to the microprocessor 116. The microprocessor 116 communicates with the wheel motors 115a, 115b to

control movement of the wheels 112, 113 in accordance with information provided by the obstacle detecting device such that the robotic cleaning device 100 can move as desired across the surface to be cleaned.

Further, the robotic cleaning device 100 is equipped with one or more batteries 117 for powering the different components included in the cleaning device 100. The one or more batteries 117 are charged via a charging station into which the robotic cleaning device 100 docks.

Moreover, the main body 111 of the robotic cleaner 100 comprises a suction fan 120 creating an air flow for transporting debris to a dust bag or cyclone arrangement (not shown) housed in the main body via the opening 118 in the bottom side of the main body 111. The suction fan 120 is driven by a fan motor 121 communicatively connected to the controller 116 from which the fan motor 121 receives instructions for controlling the suction fan 120. The main body 111 may further be arranged with one or more rotating side brushes 114 adjacent to the opening 118.

With further reference to Figure 1, the controller/processing unit 116 embodied in the form of one or more microprocessors is arranged to execute a computer program 125 downloaded to a suitable storage medium 126 associated with the microprocessor, such as a Random Access Memory (RAM), a Flash memory or a hard disk drive. The controller 116 is arranged to carry out a method according to embodiments of the present invention when the appropriate computer program 125 comprising computer-executable instructions is downloaded to the storage medium 126 and executed by the controller 116. The storage medium 126 may also be a computer program product comprising the computer program 125. Alternatively, the computer program 125 may be transferred to the storage medium 126 by means of a suitable computer program product, such as a digital versatile disc (DVD), compact disc (CD) or a memory stick. As a further alternative, the computer program 125 may be downloaded to the storage medium 126 over a wired or wireless network. The controller 116 may alternatively be embodied in the form of a digital signal processor (DSP), an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), a field-programmable gate array (FPGA), a complex programmable logic device (CPLD), etc.

Figure 2 illustrates a representation 10, or map, of an area to be cleaned by the robotic cleaning device 100. For instance, the representation 10 may represent a floor of a house, where different sub-areas of the representation 10 represent various rooms such as a kitchen 11, a living room 12, a bed room 13, etc.

In an embodiment, further illustrated with reference to a flowchart of Figure 3, a robotic cleaning device stores S101 at least one representation 10 of the area over which the robotic cleaning device is to move.

Now, in step S102, the robotic cleaning device receives an instruction to execute a cleaning program. For instance, it is envisaged that a user has an App on her smart phone where the user simply presses "start program", whereupon a radio signal is submitted to the robotic cleaning device from the smart phone via for instance WiFi.

Upon receiving the instruction to start the cleaning program in step S102, the robotic cleaning device 100 will, in response to the instruction, localize itself relative to the stored representation 10 in step S103.

For instance, the robotic cleaning device 100 may assume that charging station 14 has not moved since the last cleaning session, and thus use that as a reference to localize itself relative to the representation 10. It may also use a sensor such as a camera, lidar, radar, 3D camera, sonar or similar to scan the immediate surroundings when starting the cleaning session, and then compare the scan to a similar scan, associated with the representation 10. If the scans are sufficiently similar, that can be used to localize the robotic cleaning device 100 relative to the representation 10.

Thereafter, the robotic cleaning device 100 moves over the area to be cleaned in step S104 as stipulated by the cleaning program by taking into account the stored representation 10.

As an example, by knowing the extent and shape of the cleaning area, the robotic cleaning device 100 could plan how to divide the area into cells in a more efficient manner than when cleaning without prior information. It could also minimize the time spent in transport, by starting in one end of the area, rather than cleaning outwards from the middle, having to transport across the area when one side is done. Further, it could plan when to go back to the charging station 14 and recharge, to avoid leaving a small area uncleaned in a room and thereby avoiding having to climb over a threshold to that room several times.

The stored representation 10 may be a representation that has been created by the robotic cleaning device itself, for instance created during the execution of a previous cleaning program. However, it is also possible that the robotic cleaning device is provided with a representation or map by the user.

Figure 4 illustrates the representation 10 of Figure 2. However, in this particular embodiment, the user is capable of advising the robotic cleaning device 100 on how to carry out the cleaning program.

In the flowchart of Figure 5, the robotic cleaning device 100 stores S101 the representation 10 of the area over which the robotic cleaning device 100 is to move.

Now, in step S102, the robotic cleaning device 100 receives an instruction to execute a cleaning program. For instance, it is envisaged that a user has an App on her smart phone where the representation 10 is shown, and the user may simply press the screen to indicate that the cleaning program should commence, whereupon a radio signal is submitted to the robotic cleaning device from the smart phone via for instance WiFi.

In this particular exemplifying embodiment, the user advises the robotic cleaning device 100 by indicating a sub-area 15 (corresponding to the kitchen 11 of Figure 2) on the representation 10 by pressing her smart phone screen, thus instructing the robotic cleaning device 100 to start cleaning the sub-area 15.

Upon receiving the instruction to start the cleaning program in step S102, the robotic cleaning device 100 will, in response to the instruction, associate the received user advice to start cleaning sub-area 15 with the stored

representation 10 in step Si02a. The particular advice to start cleaning the sub-area 15 is referred to as a procedural device.

In another example, the user advises the robotic cleaning device 100 to avoid sub-area 16 altogether. It should be noted that these user advice may be associated with the representation 10 on a more or less permanent basis (or at least until counter- advice is given), meaning that the association of the user advice to the stored representationio is maintained over time. The user advice to not go to a certain area is referred to as a negative advice.

In a further example, a third type of advice is given referred to as a positive advice. For instance, at sub-area 17, the robotic cleaning device 100 is given the advice to pass some boundary - for instance a threshold - and/or bump objects to make them move, such as a pile of shoes in a cloakroom. It could alternatively apply to a textile lining under a sofa or an area full of toys in a kid's room. It could also be a threshold where the floor on the other side is so glossy that the robotic cleaning device 100 perceives it as a hole, which it refuses to traverse. Further, it could be a door that the robot can push open if it happens to be only semi-open.

Again, the robotic cleaning device 100 localizes itself with respect to the representation 10 as previously discussed.

Thereafter, the robotic cleaning device moves over the area to be cleaned in step S104 as stipulated by the cleaning program by taking into account the stored representation 10, as well as the received user advice. Again with reference to Figure 4, it is in an embodiment envisaged that received user advice is deactivated if after at least one attempt the robotic cleaning device 100 is unable to move as stipulated by the user advice.

For instance, in case of receiving user advice to try and open an alleged semi-open door, and after concluding that the door cannot be opened (since it for instance is closed), there is no point in proceeding with carrying out the advice. Hence, the robotic cleaning device 100 deactivates the user advice.

This could also occur in a situation where the user made an error, or subsequently changes something in her home and forgot to update the advice (or the representation). Any deactivation of a user device may be indicated on the representation, for instance by using a special symbol removable from the representation by the user.

In yet an embodiment, the robotic cleaning device 100 requests advice from a user for instructions on how to move over the surface to be cleaned.

Various situations can be envisaged where it would be desirable to have the robotic cleaning device 100 ask for advice:

a) if the robotic cleaning device identifies an area that is slippery, but is enclosed by distinct edges; mark the area as a carpet and ask the user if she wants to label that area with negative advice (e.g. "avoid"),

b) if the robotic cleaning device identifies an area with many small

obstacles; mark the area as possibly accommodating chairs and tables and ask the user if she wants to label it with procedural advice (e.g. "clean twice" or "clean first"),

c) if the robotic cleaning device repeatedly gets stuck at a specific area; mark the area as problematic and ask the user if she wants to label it with negative advice and possibly modify the shape of the area on the stored representation to correctly reflect the difficult area.

As can be concluded, a great number of situations may be envisaged where it would be desirable to ask the user for advice.

In a further embodiment, the robotic cleaning device stores a representation from one cleaning session to another only if user advice has been added to the representation.

If the robot is moved to a new area, it needs to decide what to do with stored representation(s). Hence, it may be envisaged that the robotic cleaning device should store one representation corresponding to current surroundings, and only save older representations if they have advice associated with them.

That way, if the user moves the robot between different floors or even different homes, a plurality of prior representations being stored is avoided, unless the user associates advice with them.

Further, to avoid a process where the controller 116 is burdened with spending processing power on localizing the robot with respect to stored representations, it may be advisable to only store a few representations, such as one, two or perhaps three.

In still a further embodiment, the robotic cleaning device proposing, to a user, a sub-area in the representation to be cleaned, whereby the user submits, in response to the proposal, an instruction whether to clean the proposed sub-area or not.

For instance, the robotic cleaning device could put a mark on the

representation to be viewed on the App of the user's smart phone. In response, the user could just confirm that the marked sub-area should be cleaned (or that it should not be cleaned). The robotic cleaning device 100 may e.g. identify a room from thresholds, doorways and walls, even if the room would be absent in the stored representation.

Moreover, the instruction from the user could comprise any suitable user advice, or even a modified version of the sub-area proposed by the robotic cleaning device 100, in case the user would not agree with the robotic cleaning device 100 as regards the proposed sub-area.

The invention has mainly been described above with reference to a few embodiments. However, as is readily appreciated by a person skilled in the art, other embodiments than the ones disclosed above are equally possible within the scope of the invention, as defined by the appended patent claims.