Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A few friends for Roomba

Leigh got a Roomba for her birthday this weekend. Roomba is the little pizza-shaped robot that runs around the house sweeping the floor.

I must admit that this device has exceeded my expectations. You simply turn it on before you go to bed and it will sweep the kitchen floor, the family room and the foyer. With four kids, there is lots of stuff for it to sweep up -- cereal crumbs and other food debris, sand and dirt being tracked in on shoes, etc. The little bin fills up a lot faster than I would have ever imagined.

The thing about Roomba is that it forces the mind to wander. Sure, a little sweeping robot is nice. But it begs for a family of companion robots. Let me show you what I mean...

The first companion I would create is Pickba. Before you turn Roomba loose, you have to pick up all the hot wheel cars, legos, puzzle pieces, books, shoes, socks, etc. that the kids leave lying around the house. Pickba would simply roll around, pick all this junk up and put it in a box in the corner. Then it would signal to Roomba for it to get started once the floor is clear of debris.

As Roomba is going around, it would have a little camera that visually scans the carpet for juice stains, mud, etc. Then it would send a signal to Stainba, who would come along with a special cleaning fluid and scrubbing brushes to get the stain out of the carpet.

The baseboardba would follow along after Roomba dusting and wiping down all the baseboards, ending this chore once and for all. The baseboard task is a little sticky because there are lots of times that furniture gets in the way. Therefore, Furba would be a low, flat lifting robot that can get under things like sofas, lift them an inch off the ground and roll them out of the way. Once Baseboardba has done its thing, Furnba moves the furniture back. The big advantage of Furnba is that, using a special piece of graphical software running on your home computer, you can decide on new furniture arrangements. The software would then transmit the new arrangement to Furba, which would move everything around for you.

Another advantage of Furba is that it makes painting easy. That's good, because Paintba will do all the painting for you. Paintba is a lot like Roomba, but has special suction wheels so it can roll along walls and ceilings. Just pour the paint into Paintba and come back an hour later to a perfectly painted room.

Watching Roomba running around in the kitchen makes you think of Counterba -- a smaller version of Roomba that wipes down and sanitizes countertops. It also has the ability to deal with stovetops and sinks!

Of course in my home, the countertops are rarely clean enough for Counterba to do his job. Therefore, he has two companions. Mailba cleans the piles of unsorted mail off the countertop, automatically throwing out the junk mail, putting magazines on the coffee table and filing everything else. Then Dishba empties the dishwasher, picks up all the dirty dishes on the counter and reloads it for you. Once Mailba and Dishba are done, Counterba has a wide open countertop to roll around on.

Dishba of course begs for a friend named Laundba, which roams around the house picking up dirty laundry, washes it, folds it and puts it back where it belongs.

Then there is Pooba. I admit that I hate changing poopy diapers. This is a special box-shaped robot. You put the poopy kid in, and Pooba removes the soiled diaper, cleans the kid up and puts a new diaper on.

If you combine the fundamental technologies in Pooba and Counterba you get Bathba, which you toss into the bathroom so that it can take care of toilets, tubs, sinks and showers.

There are lots of others that are easy to think of:And so on...

Some of these actually seem doable in the not-too-distant future. Pickba, which would be quite a useful companion for Roomba today, could probably be done right now without an immense stretch of technology. It will be interesting to see how long it takes...

Hi there, I just stumbled on your blog with a random "next blog" and found this entry really entertaining. I'm rarely inspired to comment when on shuffle mode (in fact, I don't think I ever have).

While you're on the friends for Roomba, what about "Bubba"? This would be the one that draws the bubble bath in which you could relax while chores are taken care of :)
I could use Deskba, to clean my desk. It would be an advanced form of Mailba.
Friendly Robotics makes a lawn-mowing robot. It works pretty well, although you have to install guide wires.
I have a Roomba too. One thing it really needs is a "my dust bin is full" sensor. Another thing it needs is a better way to map a room. The random-walk thing is OK in a small room, but not in a big room or one oddly shaped.
I am waiting for Roomba V2.0: Codename Stairba.

KittyLitterba would be nice.
I too would like to see it map the room. It should vacuum like you mow a lawn, using a pattern rather than a random walk.
I'm not convinced that there should be 25 different robots running around your place at any one time, although I do think that small, simple task-oriented is certainly more do-able for now than a general cleaner robot.
Would so many different *bas be necessary? It seems to me it would be more efficient to have a single robot with different attachments to do all those chores. Give it a long enough cord and it could charge itself while working indoors, as long as it's smart enough not to get tangled up. Make it humanoid, and you wouldn't even need special attachments--just give it the old Hoover (or spray bottle, or paint roller, etc.) and watch it go.
Shig... you want to create a monolithic robot. Why no modularity army of robot. One robot - one task. :D
I'm coming back and re-reading my own comment, I'm thinking of stuff like goldorak, power rangers or anything where a lot of robot can merge together to make a super robot. Hahaha. ;-) GO GO ROBOBAS!
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