Robots vs. bunnies!
September 16, 2002 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Robots vs. bunnies! Dust bunnies, that is. Roboticist Rodney Brooks, who you should know because you should have seen Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, co-founded iRobot, which is releasing its first consumer model this week: Roomba, the vacuuming robot. Even once you've seen it in action (which, of course, I haven't), it's probably not going to convince that the future has arrived or get you thinking about the moral rights of robots, but every consumer tech movement has its watershed, and maybe this will turn out to have been a Big Step for getting robots in our daily lives. The author notes that iRobot "hopes that one day Roomba will do for vacuuming what dishwashers did for dishwashing."
posted by blueshammer (18 comments total)
 
And when they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free.. because they're made of metal, and robots are strong.
posted by sharksandwich at 2:19 PM on September 16, 2002 [1 favorite]


I want one so I can use it as target practice with one of these.

(And why don't they make it squarish in shape? To get in the corners better, of course. A diamond-shaped robot could just wedge itself into a corner then back out again.)
posted by wanderingmind at 2:25 PM on September 16, 2002


I'm still waiting for my self cleaning kitchen and flying car!
posted by TCMITS at 3:06 PM on September 16, 2002


I want one (preferably v 2.0).
posted by uftheory at 3:23 PM on September 16, 2002


Wonder how long till they get sued by Apple for trademark infrigement. Either way, I want one. I hate housecleaning.
posted by atom128 at 3:57 PM on September 16, 2002


That's cool. How does it move all the heavy furniture and other crap all over the floor to do a decent job? Some new energy ray or something?
posted by HTuttle at 4:11 PM on September 16, 2002


That's cool. How does it move all the heavy furniture and other crap all over the floor to do a decent job? Some new energy ray or something?

I call bullshit. You don't have to move the furniture to vacuum! What, is someone going to lift up your dresser to see if there's dust underneathe it? You're crazy! Go back to Nazi Germany!

*Trying to start a flame war over vacuuming*
posted by Hildago at 4:16 PM on September 16, 2002


I don't see how this gadget could possibly do a good job of vacuuming. It's far too small to have a decently-powered motor. Once you've had 12 amps, anything less is just a toy.
posted by kindall at 4:22 PM on September 16, 2002


hopes that one day roomba will do for vacuuming what dishwashers did for dishwashing

That brings up an interesting question, what's the difference betweena robot an an appliance? Is it movement?
posted by Mick at 4:26 PM on September 16, 2002


mick: "robot" is from the czech 'robota,' which has some other German roots but mostly means 'forced labor.' However, a robot doesn't have to perform a helpful service; it only needs to do something on its own after being programmed or told. An appliance must do something specific.

So:
"dancing coke can:" robot.
"harry potter broomstick vibrator:" appliance.
posted by neustile at 4:40 PM on September 16, 2002


kindall, the article mentions that the device was designed to use less power efficiently.

The relevant paragraph in the article:

The iRoboters also had to learn about a subject that most scientists never really study: cleaning floors. They got down on their knees and worked out the physics of how dust collects and circulates. Vacuum cleaners consume large amounts of electricity, so they had to invent a new kind of low-power vacuum that would allow Roomba to run on rechargeable batteries. They ran their baby bot over "torture tracks" to test its mobility. They spent a night in a Target store to watch industrial cleaners at work.


I'm just wondering how quiet it is, and if pets will hunt it down.
posted by linux at 4:53 PM on September 16, 2002


You don't have to move the furniture to vacuum!

We are definitely NOT related...(Absolutely, positively different moms & grandmoms!)
posted by HTuttle at 5:14 PM on September 16, 2002


The author notes that iRobot "hopes that one day Roomba will do for vacuuming what dishwashers did for dishwashing."

You'll have to vacuum before your robot vacuums for you? What a rip off.
posted by fore at 6:49 PM on September 16, 2002


the article mentions that the device was designed to use less power efficiently.

Well, yeah, I'm sure it is, but a vacuum like the Hoover WindTunnel V2 is designed to use more power efficiently. The advantage of Roomba would probably be that you can run it more frequently than you'd want to run a big vacuum, so you get the dirt before it gets too ground-in. But you'll still want a big honkin' vacuum to get things really clean once in a while. I mean, the latest 12-ampers (I have a Panasonic model myself) really suck. In a good way. People upgrading from underpowered vacs to these beasts often report picking up half a bag of dirt from their "clean" carpets. I have a hard time believing the Roomba will do even half as good a job.

And unless I'm missing something, you have to charge the battery manually. As a robot that can't even plug itself into an outlet to recharge a real robot? Really, it should run on cold fusion or something.

Sadly, I predict the established vacuum manufacturers are going to (groan) clean the floor with these guys. Still, iRobot is just a brilliant name. Don't think Apple for the inspiration behind the name -- think Asimov.
posted by kindall at 7:46 PM on September 16, 2002


I think these robots could be a good idea, so long as we establish a few ground rules first.

Rule 1: A vacuum cleaner must never vacuum a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to be vacuumed...
posted by Hildago at 8:27 PM on September 16, 2002


I want one. With two young kids, we're always pulling the vaccum out to get small messes. It would be great if we could finish a meal, turn on Roomba, and walk away knowing the crumbs will be taken care of.

And the price point? It makes the Roomba an affordable companion for the stronger vaccum that gets pulled out for the big messes.
posted by jazon at 8:52 PM on September 16, 2002


What ever happened to the first robot vaccum cleaner?... The The Dyson DC06 is in home trials, according to the Dyson site. And IMHO it's much sexier, though admittedly much bigger, than the Roomba. No 4 inch clearance there. The interesting thing about the DC06 is that it could be used as a manual cleaner as well with the hose attachement.
posted by i blame your mother at 1:06 AM on September 17, 2002


This is great, especially the price. I see this really making it big, like personal computer or cell phone big.

But my house is not a long carpeted hallway without obstructions. I figure I'm like most people. In my house I've got chairs, sofas, tables, lamps, legos, papers, stuffed animals, the occasional pet, piles of books--STUFF--scattered everywhere. What I really want is a crew of little vacuum bots, about 3 or 4 inches long, and say $30 a piece. Buy three, six, a dozen. Make them able to fit in the corners, under chairs, around and over all the little stuff. Include a recharge center for them to power up, with some sort of filter (to reclaim the little Lego bits they'll pick up), and them I'm sold. I"ll take a dozen.

Next step: climbing cleaners for the windows, for the cobwebs (and spiders!) in the corners, for the dust up on the walls and bookcases.

Seriously, this is a dream of mine from many years back. Yippee!
posted by mooncrow at 8:12 AM on September 17, 2002


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