By way of disclosure, we didn’t exactly choose to have the robot join our household nor did the robot choose on its own like some kind of terminator barging into the place.
Rather, my mom gave it to us as a gift.
No it’s not quite like Rosie, the family robot maid on the Jetsons. It’s a Roomba, made by iRobot. Still, it’s a big step in the direction of Rosies of the future.
A Roomba is an “intelligent” robotic vacuum that putters around your house cleaning up the floor. You can manually turn it on or program it to run automatically every day. It is a black cylinder with one green “eyeball” or light in the middle, although it doesn’t have a light sensing capability….yet.
We have only had it for a month or so, but already it has made a big impression.
What’s it like to have a robot in the house?
I was curious how our dog Elvis, a giant of a dog, would react.
The first day, after charging the robot overnight, I fired it up to clean and off it went.
Elvis noticed it, but after some sniffing she wasn’t particularly interested one way or another on that day. I could almost read her mind that this was a “thing” and not an animal. It wasn’t smelly enough. The fact that it moved did interest her somewhat.
Our kids, however, had a stronger reaction. Interestingly, they all do not like it. It kind of creeps them out and annoys them. They do not seem quite ready for a robot in the household. By contrast, my wife and I are very impressed, just as my mom was. So this seems a case of where a new technology is adopted more readily by relatively older folks and not so much by the kids. Funny, huh? At least this was the case in our family.
A feature that I have to admit is both a bit creepy and cool is that a Roomba “knows” when it is running low on electricity, finds its way back to its docking station (perhaps via a wireless connection?), and docks in to replenish its battery.
I’ve talked to other folks who have Roombas and every one of them named their robot. In our family we found ourselves rather quickly feeling that it needed a name too. So far the name that has stuck the best is “Robo”, but other geeky names were suggested.
Robo is surprisingly good at cleaning hard wood floors and vacuuming. It’s low profile, cylindrical shape means that it can get under tables and chairs easily where it cleans rather well.
I have to admit that I do not entirely understand how Robo “decides” what course to plot, but if he bumps into something in the house he just backs up and turns so that he can readily find his way around. After feasting on a diet of dust, Elvis’ dog hair, and whatever else he encounters, when he’s “full” a little light becomes lit on top. We empty it out and off he goes again. It’s a very simple to do. I really like the design.
The major downside of a Roomba is cost, which ranges from about $300-$450 depending on the type. Frankly if one hadn’t been given to us as a gift, I’m not sure we would have bought one spontaneously. In hindsight, knowing now how well it works, I would buy one if I hadn’t already.
Another issue is that Roomba also requires that you don’t leave anything string-like on the floor where it might run over it. Why? Because Roombas tend to ‘eat up’ anything string-like, which gets tightly wound around the moving parts. We learned this fairly quickly with a chewed up iPhone cable and some yarn.
Roombas also can get stuck under tables or desks that have just the “right” or should I say wrong height that allows the robot to get underneath but not to come back out. Interestingly, when stuck, Roomba literally calls for help.
Overall, if I were to rate a Roomba on Amazon for example, I would give it 5 stars. It’s a great product.
We noticed, as you may have in reading this, that Robo became of the male gender after a few weeks in the house. Rather than being an “it”, Robo is a “he”. We also find ourselves talking to Robo.
Elvis has started getting more interested in Robo. I think it’s because Robo sometimes accidentally (I hope) bumps into Elvis and Elvis also senses that we talk to Robo. Perhaps she’s a big confused or jealous.
At this point, I would say we are happy to have a robot in the house, but we are still getting used to the idea. I’m not sure Elvis will ever be pals with Robo.
After the last month, it’s far easier to imagine a future just a few years down the road when various kinds of robots–perhaps even some more like Rosie on the Jetsons–are more common members of our households more generally.
Disclosures. I do not own iRobot stock and this is not a paid/sponsored post.