Bring your cat to the vet - there’s a new pet in town.

A typical American family: 2.5 kids and a Roomba.  (photo courtesy of mhaithaca on flickr.com)
A typical American family: 2.5 kids and a Roomba. (photo courtesy of mhaithaca on flickr.com)
A wave of human-robot love is sweeping the nation, says a recent Georgia Tech study, with a scale and intensity not seen since the release of Short Circuit 2. And what’s behind this wave of the future, as it crashes on the sunny, unsuspecting beaches of the present? Robotic vacuums. That’s right – little Roombas have crept into the lonely chambers of our hearts, and are sucking them clean.

One can immediately understand some of the attraction to “robovacs”: like a good, “real” friend, they are small, obsessively tidy, and can be purchased. Beki Grinter of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing thinks that the phenomenon goes beyond this, however. Grint began her study when she started seeing online photos of people dressing up their Roombas, and soon found that people were naming the vacuums, taking them on vacation with them, and, in at least one case, introducing them to their parents.

Roomba owners were even modifying their homes to make the Roombas’ “lives” easier; some bought new rugs; some sought out furniture and appliances with higher floor clearance; and some went so far as to pre-clean their floors to make things easier for the Frisbee-shaped robot.

Owners even tolerated Roombas with mechanical failures and functional problems (earlier models tended to break more often), because “they love their robot enough.”

The study seemed to suggest that, among other things, things that are designed to be somewhat emotionally engaging don’t have to as reliable. (This is, coincidentally, one of my mottos.)

One can also infer from the study that the average American family is finally ready to accept robot helpers into their home. Just think: Roomba today, Johnny 5 tomorrow, the Svedka vodka robot the next day… and maybe Roomba again the day after that.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

OK, so last month we caved and got a Roomba. (We have a dog, who's shedding like mad, and it's summer, and our house suddenly seemed full of hair and pollen and kid-generated grit.)

So far, so good.

Only our 5-year-old seems to think that the Roomba is animate. "Hey, little robot! Come out from under that chair--you're going to get stuck, and then I'm going to have to crawl in after you!"

The rest of us figure that, hey, even if the Roomba only does an OK job on the floors, if it does an OK job every day, that beats the pants off me doing an excellent job, well...never. And if it does get stuck under that chair, we'll find it later. Like after the Svedka vodka robot is done serving me a refreshing cocktail or two.

posted on Thu, 06/26/2008 - 10:54am
Adam's picture
Adam says:

we got a cat

posted on Thu, 06/26/2008 - 11:30am

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