November 26, 2007, - 2:31 pm

Hilarious: Humans Develop Feelings for Their . . . Roombas?

By Debbie Schlussel
Remember the Steven Spielberg (“Abu Spielberg“) movie “AI: Artificial Intelligence”? Probably not, since it bombed at the box office. A main theme of the movie was that humans were prejudiced against artificial humans.
Well, as with “Munich“, real life yet again proves Steven Spielberg completely wrong.
In fact, humans are developing feelings for their “Roombas,” the robotic disc-shaped vacuums that spin around cleaning up. It’s ridiculous, but true. These people are called “Roomba-attached individuals.” Yes, it does sound like a mental illness.

roomba.jpgroombacostume.jpg

Dressing Your Roomba in Costume:

A Symptom of Roomba Love Disorder

AP reports that people are giving them nicknames, worry when they signal malfunctions, and treat them like a trusted pet. People are dressing their Roombas up in costumes, and there are absurd websites (My Room Bud and Roomba Romance) devoted to Roomba worship. I kid you not. I’m waiting for the founding of the North American Man Roomba Love Association (NAMRLA).
This is too funny. I think it’s time to bring Blade Runner Rick Deckard out of retirement:

They give them nicknames, worry when they signal for help and sometimes even treat them like a trusted pet.
A new study shows how deeply some Roomba owners become attached to the robotic vacuum and suggests there’s a measure of public readiness to accept robots in the house – even flawed ones.
“They’re more willing to work with a robot that does have issues because they really, really like it,” said Beki Grinter, an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. “It sort of begins to address more concerns: If we can design things that are somewhat emotionally engaging, it doesn’t have to be as reliable.”
Grinter decided to study the devices after she saw online pictures of people dressing up their Roombas, the disc-shaped, self-directed vacuums made by Burlington, Mass-based iRobot Corp.
“This sort of notion that someone would dress a vacuum cleaner seemed strange,” she said. “A lot more was going on.”
She enlisted Ph.D. student Ja Young Sung, who studies “emotional design” – the theory that certain types of design can influence consumers to become emotionally attached.
The Roomba seems to have earned quite a following. More than 2 million of the robots have been sold . . . .
The first phase of the project, which involved monitoring an online forum devoted to the site, revealed people who named their Roombas, traveled with them and one owner who introduced the machine to his parents.
Others reported their efforts to “Roomba-ize” their homes so the robot can roam the floors more easily. Some bought new rugs, pre-cleaned the floors to clear the robot’s route and purchased new refrigerators with a higher clearance so the machines can clean under them easier. [DS: Incredible. These people are buying clean carpets to make it easier for their robotic carpet cleaner?!]
“I was blown away,” said Young Sung. “Some Roombas break a lot, they still have functional problems. But people are willing to make that effort because they love their robot enough.”
The next part, which studied 30 committed Roomba users, revealed 21 of them gave their robots names. And another 16 talked about the robot as a “he,” arbitrarily assigning the robot a gender.
The third phase of the study, presented last week at the Ubiquitous Computing Conference in Austria, focused on more traditional users. Polling 379 U.S. users, it found that some would pre-clean their homes before using the machine, and that it seemed to make males more excited about the chore of vacuuming.
“The female of the house says, ‘You take care of it – it’s your toy,’” said Young Sung.

Gosh, even with a robot to do the work, some women are still complaining about doing housework. Go figure.
Forget about gay marriage. Pretty soon, people will be demanding Roomba marriage.

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5 Responses

Debbie,
I was reading your piece here and was astonished to see such hate. You are nothing more than a Roomba-phobe. That is right, the ACLU is already adding this term to Wikipedia as we speak, so they can call you and others like you a bigot. Why are people in this country who have an attraction to a round disc put through such hell? They have feelings, too. I would appreciate if in the future, you are more sensitive. We at the Roomba-bow Push coalition would be willing to forgive you if you would make a million dollar contribution to further the cause.

Ford Jones on November 26, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Nice piece of parody Ford. He he heee. As far as Speilberg, doesn’t he and all the other Hollywood nit-wits ever get tired of preaching morality to the masses? Of all the professions and/or segments of society, Hollywood is the last one who’s gonna give me moral lectures.

Rich B on November 26, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Do these things work? Seriously, anything that means I have less cleaning to do I could appreciate (admitting something close to admiration for the Senseo in the kitchen).

dm60462 on November 26, 2007 at 4:45 pm

I can’t beleive what I just read!! Either I am losing it or Debbie is losing it. Time for a reality check. YAMMA HAMMA DEB!!!! joe, map, mn

JoeBoy on November 26, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Yes, Roombas really work. We have one and it does an amazing job of vacuuming. However, they do tend to break down rather frequently, so buy an extended warranty policy.
On a different note, what does it say about our society that there are people who develop “feelings” for self-propelled vacuum cleaners? And that stories are written about such people in a serious, not mocking, tone. The idea that any human irrationality or depravity (so long as no one gets hurt, of course) is just another way of expressing our “individuality” is part of the not-so-long slide into decadence and ultimate oblivion that are society is currently undergoing.
Sometimes it is really hard to be optimistic about the health, strength, and future of our country.

RepublicanPatriot on November 27, 2007 at 2:50 pm

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