Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yonder Spherically-Imprisoned-Rodent-Driven Automaton

If you're not familiar with the iRobot company, take a glance through their products. They produce both the Roomba and Scooba automatic vacuum cleaner and mop, respectively. Intriguingly, they also produce the Talon and PackBot tactical robots used by the US Army for building infiltration and EOD work (Explosive and Ordnance Disposal, i.e. the army's Bomb Squad). For some reason I really appreciate the fact that they don't have separate brand names for the consumer 'bots and the tactical models. It really does add a level of respectability to the autonomous hockey-puck vacuum cleaner scooting around one's living room.

In any case, the greatest appeal of iRobot's consumer products is that they are fully 'moddable': put together with standard screws and connectors, their internal workings are spaced conveniently and clearly labeled for basement tinkerers' convenience. Which, of course, leads to results like this, the world's first hamster-controlled vacuum cleaner.

Great way to get it to move randomly around the room, sure, but isn't this taking a step backwards? Sort of like designing a USB punch-card reader. Though now that I think about it, it wouldn't really surprise me if those existed.

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