Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Robot Love & a Guck Named Hal: Roomba Owners Bond

I wonder how many Roomba owners name their robot cleaners "Robbie"? Isaac Asimov foresaw the potential bond between robots and humans in his series of stories "I, Robot," but somehow, attachment to a round little cleaning device seems well, a digital click beyond.

Then again, I now have a new-generation Roomba, made by iRobot. As the story points out, people have forgiven earlier models that died (as mine did). I haven't yet tried my new Roomba because the floor had some doggie hair dust bunnies that needed to be cleaned up first.

And I didn't want to glom up the works of my new robot. You know. It's all bright and clean and shiny.

Research shows that Roomba owners have named their little cleaning robots. Others have created costumes for their Roomba pal.

In fact, Roomba has led to a thriving business enterprise for some kids who just wanted to make Mom a unique present. Now myRoomBud is up and running as a model of creative business enterprise.

The myRoomBud kids have created a Second Life Roomba experience. Their froggie costume appears in a Tech Blog ranking of the top Roomba hacks. They also have a Dashboard for Roombas with bluetooth interface that allows owners to have conversations with their Roomba via voice synthesis programming.

This story now leads me to ponder--I've repeatedly named my computers (except, ironically, this Dell desktop that seems to be establishing a career of crashing). I've said "good morning" to Kirk, and bid a sweet "good night" to Picard.

Am I now destined to name my Roomba? Frankly, I'm too busy. I have to dress my guck (a bird statue that looks like a goose and a duck combined) in his Halloween costume and get him out on the front porch.

Hal, my guck, has a series of outfits for special occasions. It's time for the witchy ensemble, after which it's "dress up as a turkey" time.

Hal recently had a horrible accident when yard workers knocked him over, and, he took a nasty fall. However, thanks to some great glue, and convalescent time, his neck is nicely healed, although there's still a tiny hole in his head. The ensemble hats should cover the hole up, I hope.

What were we talking about? Oh yes. Thanks for reminding me. People who actually name their Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners and dress them up. Can you imagine? Then again, those froggie and ladybug costumes look awfully cute.

From FoxNews, a glimpse into a Georgia Tech study on Roombas and their human partners.

People give them nicknames, worry when they signal for help and sometimes even treat them like trusted pets.

A newly released Georgia Tech study shows that some Roomba owners become deeply attached to the robotic vacuums and suggests there's a measure of public readiness to accept additional robots in the house — even flawed ones.

"They're more willing to work with a robot that does have issues because they really, really like it," said Beki Grinter, an associate professor at the school's College of Computing. "It sort of begins to address more concerns: If we can design things that are somewhat emotionally engaging, it doesn't have to be as reliable."[/p]

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