Dyson rolls out his latest idea, the vacuum cleaner on a ball

At first glance a vacuum cleaner perched on a yellow swivelling ball does not appear revolutionary - or even workable - but the entrepreneur James Dyson has a way of turning the slightly bizarre into mighty profit.

He had a "eureka" moment when he saw the prototype created by Stephen Courtney, senior designerat the Dyson research centre in Wiltshire, and decided it was what the world had been waiting for.

Costing just over £300, the Ball is the latest product from the stable that introduced the no-suction-loss vacuum and the two-drum washing machine.

Mr Dyson, 57, has spent three years developing the technology to create what his marketing team has billed as the most revolutionary idea since the original Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner in 1993.

The Ball, which looks like a yellow spheroid at the bottom of a vacuum cleaner, was launched yesterday, and can apparently speed up the tedious task of cleaning floors and carpets by steering past furniture and zigzagging round corners.

The vacuum cleaner has gears rather than a belt and the ball at its base enables it to swing around obstacles with a quick flick of the wrist, rather than the user having to walk around with it or push and pull to manoeuvre it into position.

Such was his excitement that Mr Dyson, whose fortune is estimated at £800m, adopted the role of salesman for the launch and spent the day demonstrating the product. Mr Dyson said: "The engineers came up with the idea and pushed it through. It is simple but revolutionary. It is a little like using a mouse on a computer rather than an x-y co-ordinate. It's certainly quicker and more fun to use."

Mr Dyson's ultimate aim is to change the nation's cleaning vocabulary, so that we no longer "Hoover" our homes but "Dyson" them. "People are already saying I'm going to Dyson my house," he said. Explaining his fascination with vacuum cleaners he said: "It is a machine that people are quite rough with and people don't necessarily enjoy using. It picks up a massive amount of dust, and I find refining its technology an interesting challenge."

He said Dyson cleaners had also created greater gender equality. "If a couple buys a Dyson, we have found that a man is 45 per cent more likely to do the vacuuming after that. Perhaps they feel they are using an effective machine because they can see the dust that is being picked up, so the function is far more obvious."

In 1978, Mr Dyson hit upon his big idea - the bagless vacuum cleaner - prompted by his exasperation with the model he used at home. After five years of developing the technology, the idea was successfully taken up by a company in Japan. He continued to fine-tune the technology and launched his own model in the early 1990s.

DYSON'S DEVICES

In 1970, Dyson invented the Sea Truck, a high-speed landing craft. The Ballbarrow, a wheelbarrow with a plastic ball at the front instead of a wheel, was conceived in 1974. A bagless vacuum cleaner was conceived in 1978 and first sold as the G-Force in Japan in 1983. The Japanese were so impressed by its performance that the G-Force became a status symbol, selling for $2,000 (£1,000) a each. In 1993 he set up a UK base in Wiltshire, and started developing the DCO1 range of cleaners giving constant suction. In 2000, the first washing machine with two drums was created, which enabled faster washing with better wash results and larger loads. Dyson's aim was to replicate a hand-washing action to release dirt more quickly.

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