- By Kevin McCaney
- Oct 21, 2007
The makers of robotic vacuum cleaners apparently have succeeded where the makers of PCs and software have failed ' they've made unreliability an endearing trait. A recent study by Georgia Tech University found that some owners of the platter-shaped Roomba vacuum cleaners from iRobot have become so attached to the robotic devices that they are willing to forgive their faults. The study found that they even seem to love them for their issues. The Roomba owners are 'more willing to work with a robot that does have issues because they really, really like it,' Beki Grinter, an associate professor at the school's College of Computing, told the Associated Press. 'If we can design things that are somewhat emotionally engaging, it doesn't have to be as reliable.'
Grinter said she became curious after seeing pictures of Roombas that had been dressed up by their owners. The study found that people also give them names, travel with them and even do extra housework to make life easier for the Roombas ' buying new carpets and cleaning first so the robots would have an easier time. 'I was blown away,' Ja Young Sung, the doctoral student who assisted with the study, told AP. 'Some Roombas break a lot: they still have functional problems. But people are willing to make that effort because they love their robot enough.' Funny, but decades of insubordinate PCs, Error 404 messages and Blue Screens of Death didn't seem to generate love from early PC users, many of whom were more willing to throw the machines out the window than put a party dress on them. But, on the other hand, maybe those issues are why we kept coming back.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.