Thursday, December 21, 2006

From the "Time = Money" Files

A friend was recently explaining to me the Technology Adoption Curve.  Looks like this:

I generally pick up new technology somewhere around Early Adopters or Early Majority.  Actually, I generally pick it up right before it becomes so commonplace that the price really goes down.  Yeah, I remember my first digital camera.  Weighed a few pounds, had a tiny screen, and "megapixel" was still a dream.  And it cost, like, $300!

(Could be worse.  I coulda been one of those "innovators" who invested in a Laserdisc machine.  But the "early adopters" never went for it and it never ended up as the alternative to VHS they'd been hoping for.)

But, yeah, I like being a bit ahead of the herd.

Which leads us to my latest jump into new tech, the robot vacuum.  Or, more precisely, the Roomba For Pets.  Honestly, I never would've even considered being the first person I knew with a robot vacuum, but I'd read about the low-end models dropping substantially in price (like, a remanufactured basic model for $110) and I started thinking that the fifteen minutes I spend each and every morning Swiffer Carpet Flick-ing the tracked kitty litter off the carpet is perhaps worth the investment in new tech.  And when I discovered the Roomba for Pets (with the easy-to-remove-and-clean brush, so you're not trying to unwind cat hair from all sorts of important robot vacuum bits), well, it called out my name.

I've had it for a couple days now and must admit he's a cool little piece of tech.  (I call it "he."  You are apparently encouraged to personalize your Roomba, as the messages on it are written in first person.  You know, like, "Clean my brushes regularly."  There's a problem with such personification though.  When it does something you don't want it to do, you have a tendency to yell at it.  And then you're like, "Um, idiot, you just yelled at a vacuum.")

It comes with "virtual walls," which are little objects you put beside doorways that give off "don't go here" rays.  The Roomba sees the rays and backs off from the room.  In theory.  The manuals say to put the virtual wall on the outside of the doorway, so that the Roomba will clean all the way up to it.

I don't want the Roomba vacuuming in my kitchen.  This is because the cat food (and water dish) are on the kitchen floor, and I don't especially need the Roomba plowing into either item.  (He "sees" things by plowing right into them, then backing off, turning a bit, and changing direction to go around them.  Tough little bugger.  The impacts are fine when he's hitting sturdy things like a chair leg, but a little too strong on lighter objects.  He tends to move my bathroom scale an inch or so before realizing he has to go around it.)  So, I put a virtual wall inside the entryway to the kitchen, thinking Roomba will just clean on down the hallway and not go in the kitchen.

So, here's Roomba, jauntily bouncing off walls and cleaning his way through my condo.  As he comes down the hallway, he approaches the kitchen, recognizes the virtual wall, and bounces back.  (So far so good.)  Then he moves a little farther on, and vacuums right on up to the virtual wall.  Problem:  The hallway is carpeted, the kitchen is not.  When Roomba vacuums up to the virtual wall, he leans off the carpet and partway into the kitchen.  At which point, gravity takes over, and Roomba tumbles right through the virtual wall into the kitchen.

Heads straight for the water dish.  ("Noooo!" I yell.  Like he hears me.)  Plows right into it, splashing a bit of water on himself.  He keeps going in the kitchen, but seems confused.  I think he recognizes he shouldn't be in here, but now he's on the other side of the virtual wall, so (as far as he's concerned) he's stuck in here.  I pick him up like a wayward kitten (unlike a kitten, he stops moving the second you pick him up), pat him dry, move the virtual wall to the other side of the doorway, and reset him down in the hallway, pushing his little power button and letting him go.  Poor little confused guy.

This morning, however, he was absolutely perfect.  I set up the virtual wall right outside my bedroom door, powered him up, and went about my business of showering and getting ready for work.  About 45 minutes later, he had driven himself back onto his little charging station, having removed every stray bit of litter and cat fur from the floor -- and I was ready to go to work. 

I'm keeping him.


lanurseprn said...

I have wondered if those things work ok.

helmswondermom said...

Oh, I got to have me one of those!  Think they will make a robot cat barf cleaner?  Wouldn't that be grand?