A Rumba with a Roomba
Verity puts her feet up
4. It could give Goldie Hawn cuteness lessons (© Sir Barry Norman). It is like all the comedy robots in film and TV, only actually rather than theoretically amusing. Its shape suggests R2-D2, but its ability to speak suggests something else, I can't quite remember what. 'Error 12, Roomba stuck in excessive schmaltz. Danger Verity Stobinson!'
5. It can be programmed to start autonomously each day, so you can schedule it to prevent morning dallying on pain of hearing Roomba play its Stylophonic reveille and having bare toes bashed. This works better than you might think, although not as well as Thought for the Day.
6. A Proustian factor: it reminds me of my dear little tortoise that I owned as a child. Especially the part where you go round the garden/house looking for where it has gone to sleep. Like Terry, it is myopic. It can see a whole wall, and will slow down gracefully on approach. But it collides with a table leg or a darkly coloured bookcase at full pelt. Bonk. Also, its repeated hitting of certain objects with its shell recalls my erstwhile randy reptile's occasional misguided attempts at mating with my foot. If you ever wanted an indoor tortoise - and, deep down, who hasn't? - this is problem solved.
7. As you follow it round the flat, you become oppressed by the dirtiness of other surfaces compared to the cleanliness of the floor, and tend to engage in secondary dusting. After just a few weeks, I have brought two rooms of my flat up to NDL*, without conscious effort.
(*Near-Delia Level, a standard based on Delia Smith putting in six hours of housework per day, wearing Norwich City-themed rubber gloves.)
8. One time I thought I had shut it in while I went to the shops. But I had misaligned the virtual wall gadget that was supposed to confine it to an area cleared of obstacles, and it escaped. When I got home, I toured the flat in a state of alarm, remembering the time C's puppy got out and left Jennie Lees, Douglas Hurds and Spotted Richards in her Jimmy Cheweds. In the event - the reverse experience! It had carefully nudged the bathroom mats to one side, the better to give the lino a good brush, and had painstakingly hoovered (ironic verb, that) all the way round my clothes horse, without so much as a nibbled knicker.
9. It comes with a free paradox in every box. It is the answer to the riddle: what simultaneously sucks and doesn't? (Thanks to the boys at Reg Hardware for this idea.)
10. 'But there was nothing to be seen on the ceiling, and nothing more than a discreditable amount of dust to be found under Miss Farrell's bed.' - Pawley's Peepholes, John Wyndham, 1951. In the event of an attack of intangible time-travelling tourists, I am now completely ready. Are you?
11. It doesn't connect with the Internet. No, seriously. How many getting-on-the-Net gadgets do you need? A spot audit shows I have an absurd four devices in this room with which I could browse the web right now, and several more around the flat if I charged batteries, swapped SIMs, got stuff out of cupboards etc. Enough already.
12. But, yes, Roomba does have a concealed serial port on its back, and a published API, and people do cruel things like fitting Bluetooth transmitters to them. I admit I feel 'meh' about this, especially after seeing this film of what can be done. Still, it makes up my dozen.
He sleeps at my feet as I write, his charging light glowing a soothing amber. I wonder: if I wake him up, have we got time to do the kitchen again before beddy-byes?
Wait a moment, something's afoot on Facebook. Kevlin's just got a TV remote in the shape of a wand that is controlled by gestures.
A wand, eh? I think we all know what that represents. Now, in order to dismiss Jonathan Woss, Kevlin will be obliged to go into a paroxysm of Malcolm Sargenting. Pah, a mere boy's toy. Who would want a thing like... but wait a moment. TV's run on infra-red. Roombas can consume infra-red commands. I have always wanted a familiar.
Verity Stob declares she has no relationship with Roomba makers iRobot, except as a pleased customer. Alternative robot vacuum cleaners are available, and may well be better for all she knows.
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