Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Just to follow up on the previous Roomba post, a quick note.

Strangely, Roomba changes your relationship with your kids in a small, subtle way. Here's how: You worry less when the kids make a mess.

An example. Today at the dollar store one of the kids bought a little six-shooter confetti gun. You know the little confetti poppers you see at parties (like these). They've managed to fit six of these in a little plastic revolver, and it costs a dollar. So of course, if you are a kid, the thing to do when you get home is shoot it off. And now the floor is covered with confetti.

Pre-Roomba, this is a problem. You want the kid to clean up the mess, right? It teaches responsibility and so on. But a 5-year-old is a) unable to operate the vacuum cleaner alone, and b) going to put up some amount of resistance to the "chore" (no, my children are not perfect). This is a pain.

With Roomba, this little vignette plays out differently. There is confetti everywhere, so you turn Roomba loose in the room. 30 minutes later the confetti is gone. Every bit of it. It is one less thing to hassle with the kids about, and that makes life a tiny increment better. Instead of the chore, they do homework or work on the science fair project or read a book or whatever.

Still hoping for Pickba in the near future, and wouldn't mind having Spillba either...

Really interesting on virtual property

Banking on a virtual economy

From the article:It's an interesting interview.

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...

Monday, November 21, 2005

New idea - always-focused camera

[See previous]

Say Sayonara to Blurry Pics: "Prototype camera made by a Stanford University graduate student could herald the end of fuzzy, poorly lit photos... [He] has outfitted a 16-megapixel camera with a bevy of micro lenses that allows users to take photos and later refocus them on a computer using software he wrote."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fun facts - penetration of consumer electronics

[See previous]

Typical American households own 25 electronic products. But different products have much different penetration, as these percentages show (courtesy of the Consumer Electronics Association):Given how many iPods you see, the 15% for MP3 players is surprising. Only 50% having cell phones seems surprsing too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A funny way to look at "Intelligent Design"

Here is a different way to think about the theory of Intelligent Design:

     Intelligent Design Made Mankind?

Comments/suggestions/improvements/rebuttals are appreciated.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Makes me smile

[See previous]

Here are three things to start the weekend off with a smile:Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Your next vacation

Have you ever wondered where you should go on your next vacation?

I was trapped on an airplane the other day, and one of the movies they showed was a BBC documentary called "50 places you should visit before you die." The list was compiled, at least in part, by running a poll of BBC viewers, and the order of the places was determined by the audience.

As I watched, I wrote down all the places that were mentioned (another handy reason to carry a laptop with you everywhere you go). One way to look at this list is, "your vacation plans for the next 50 years."

Here are all the places in reverse order -- the place ranked "best place in the world to visit" is at the bottom of the list:Some personal spots that were not on the list that I want to visit:Have you been to any of these places on the list, or are there places not on the list that you think people should visit?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Are you planning to buy a car, ever?

I read this article about 6 months ago in a book, and it has forever changed my impression of how the car-buying process works. There are some car dealers that follow the "no haggle" approach (most web sites that sell cars work this way too). But if you are ever at a "Haggle" type of place, this article tells you exactly what you are up against and how to defeat it:

Confessions of a Car Salesman

It takes about 30 minutes to read the whole thing. If you ever buy a car from a dealer, it can save you thousands of dollars.

ARCHIVES © Copyright 2003-2005 by Marshall Brain


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