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...



Wired News: Is That a Bomb in Your Pocket?

Wired News: Is That a Bomb in Your Pocket?: "Bomb-detection technology is in the spotlight this month, as a deadline approaches for U.S. airport security personnel to complete a crash course in explosives screening just in time for the holidays."

The whole article makes you wonder how long before robots are handling all security. 10 years, tops?



Robotic surgery stenting speeds recovery

Robotic surgery stenting speeds recovery

From the article:



Machines and objects to overtake humans on the Internet

Machines and objects to overtake humans on the Internet: "Machines will take over from humans as the biggest users of the Internet in a brave new world of electronic sensors, smart homes, and tags that track users' movements and habits, the UN's telecommunications agency predicted.

In a report entitled 'Internet of Things', the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) outlined the expected next stage in the technological revolution where humans, electronic devices, inanimate objects and databases are linked by a radically transformed Internet. "

See Robotic Nation for details on why this is going to happen.



Robot attack drones

U.S. routinely using attack drones to protect convoys: "The U.S. military has turned unmanned aerial strike operations in Iraq into a routine.

U.S. military officials said the Air Force has honed the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to target and kill snipers and insurgency bombers in efforts to ambush U.S. military convoys and combat patrols.

'The use of UAVs has been critical in monitoring convoy routes for IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and their operators,' an official said. 'But with strike UAVs we will be able to hit them immediately. It's quite a deterrent.'"



Cars Chat and Park Themselves

Cars Chat and Park Themselves: "Normally, automobiles in the parking lot of SBC Park remain more or less stationary. But this week, cars are communicating with each other, parallel parking themselves and employing automatic, radar-based braking."

Combine that with:

Four vehicles finish in $2 million robot race

and this:

Robotic cars drive themselves (in 2008)

And you see that cars will be completely autonomous in just a decade or so.



Robot rebellion

Defend yourself against the coming robot rebellion

From the article: "Any robot could rebel, from a toaster to a Terminator, and so it is crucial to learn the strengths and weaknesses of every robot enemy," author Daniel H. Wilson warns in "How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion."

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