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Ready-to-Clean Robots

Azriela Jaffe

You can buy robots that will vacuum and wash your floors. In development are droids that will do your laundry. Sounds like a pre-Pesach dream, right? Before you splurge, read our review (we got the real dirt).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I have a dream. It’s not a big one. Nor is it something that’s impossible to pull off, at least for most people. I fantasize about my house getting cleaned, top to bottom, six days a week — without me lifting a finger. I don’t mean hiring a live-in housekeeper, because there isn’t room for another resident in our rather squishy house, even if we had the means. No, I mean the stuff of real fantasy, like those robots I’ve heard of, you might know the ones I mean — you turn them on and they clean the floor for you.

Ideally, I’d have a troop of droids at my command, who wouldn’t take it personally if I was grumpy, and wouldn’t talk back or tell me that they’re not in the mood to follow orders, who would obediently shine my floors, remove every crumb, and make the house look like it’s Erev Shabbos afternoon, even on a Sunday. While we’re at it, can they fold the laundry and wash the stack of dishes in my sink, too? Or better yet, can scientists hurry up and create a robot before Pesach that can detect chometz, retrieve it, and burn it — all with the flick of a switch?


Science Fiction Meets the Real World

In 2006, Bill Gates predicted that there will come a time when most households will have a robot that’s designed to perform a specific household task.

The trend has already started. The floor-cleaning droids that I had heard about — both of which are manufactured by iRobot — are currently in two million homes in the US. With the vacuuming model, called “Roomba,” you hit a button and off it goes, eating up dirt along the way. The “Scooba” mops your floors for you with a brush, water, and cleaning fluid, and then has the ability to suck up the dirty water, leaving a slightly damp — and very clean — floor behind.

iRobot, which was founded in 1990 by two young geniuses from MIT, isn’t done inventing more machines (there are 500 innovators on staff). The company’s other household droids include the “Verro,” which cleans pools, and the “Looj,” which will clear out your gutters.

In Japan, University of Tokyo engineers are hard at work perfecting machines that are capable of performing other kinds of housekeeping jobs, such as robots that will do your laundry (can they differentiate between whites and darks and know which articles of clothing require fabric softener?). My dream droid is still in training — it will pick up dishes from a table and carry them to the kitchen counter. The Japanese have even invented a robot that can stack dishes in the dishwasher, all in the proper place and order, and, get this, when the dishwasher is full, hit the start button.


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