There’s a Robot in My House

Robot vacuum

Behold, my mechanical servant. He rolls with a pleasant humming sound, but not with a plan in mind — there’s no mind in that can. He’s got program on board that jogs his disc body 20 degrees left when encountering an obstacle. We were told by the manufacturer the disc needed a name. Son No. 2 said, “Sven.” Now the robot has pronouns (he/his/him).

The three year old (Son No. 4) likes to wake him up in the morning. He summons Sven with the remote control, pressing the button with crushing force. Sven beeps, whirs his brushes and emerges from the darkness under the couch, on patrol for breakfast crumbs. Son No. 4 believes he eats these, and they do end up in his “tummy.” Daughter No. 1 is skeptical. Son No. 3 wants to paint a face on him. Son No. 1 says, “How long before he makes us his slaves?”

Domestic robots were a nerd’s fantasy. Then they were the rich person’s luxury. Now, when we are working and schooling from home, this one is affordable. It’s awkwardly animate. It, Sven, gets stuck under the one chair, heaving it’s disc over and over without making it across a leg. Then we have to rescue it. If it gets lost for too long, it sends a distress signal to my wife’s phone. One more moving object to track in a house with a few of them already.

But Sven does get the job done. He sweeps up the debris twice a day so we don’t have to. He goes right to the edge of the stairs to get that stuff. His disc teeters on the cliff, an inch from toppling to the doom of his plastic housing. Then he backs away, obeying the sensors and the program, and heads off again, 20 degrees to the left.

Modern living, friends.

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