If I don’t think about the implications too hard.
Like twice a year I fantasize about buying a Roomba and then end up not going through with it. Something always seems to come up that justifies my ducking out of owning an expensive self-driving vacuum and setting it free in my home. One time my friend Rebecca’s Roomba bumped into her full-length mirror while she was out of the house and shattered it*—that quieted the fantasy for a few months. But invariably time will pass and I’ll suddenly find myself on Amazon again, gazing at pics. How cute, I think. How fun to have.
The thing that’s always held me back is that we’re assigning all this powerful technology to one niche purpose. Here, we have an appliance that can propel itself around my house, detect when it’s near a wall or a piece of furniture and adjust its route, and then plug itself back into its own charger when it’s done. And all we’re using it for is vacuuming? Seems like a missed opportunity tbh. Maybe if I wait a year it will also be an Alexa, or have Seamless functionality, or be a stereo. I’ve had no such luck so far. Year after year they roll out improvements and it’s the same song and dance: this is a vacuum. It vacuums your house. iRobot, the parent company, introduced a sister product that mops called the Braava, but that leap hasn’t been quite enough for me to throw down triple-digits dollars.
So imagine my delight when I read today that a Chinese company that makes laser navigation tools for home robots is starting to make mosquito-zapping laser tanks. As in: it rolls around looking for mosquitoes and then zaps them like a bug zapper. Finally! Some new features!
According to Shephard Media’s Max Rotor:
They’ve essentially taken their 2D LIDAR technology, commonly seen on home cleaning robots, integrated it on a small UGV and stuck a mosquito killing laser on the top. A LeiShen Intelligent representative said while they had yet to make a sale, the company was pitching the idea to hospitals, schools or other public buildings in areas blighted by diseases such as malaria or zika. Through an object recognition and tracking algorithm, the killer robot recognises a mosquito and ‘instantly’ lasers it. The company claims the laser is capable of killing an impressive ’30 to 40 mosquitoes in one second’, a fact I double-checked had not been mistranslated.
While that laser sounds… powerful, I’m more interested in the fact that we’re starting to get more bang for our buck here. If this tank and a Roomba got together, you’d have an appliance that kills the bugs in your house and then vacuums them up for you. Two birds, one stone! Add one more feautre—like a cup holder, some mints, or a little face—and suddenly you’re describing a product crappy and convoluted enough to be sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, where I would certainly buy it.
Could this also be pioneering technology that would be misused for bodily harm to non-bugs? Perhaps. But for the time being I’m happy to imagine a future where every home has a Roomba and every Roomba is laden with apps and add-ons specific to your lifestyle. Why not start with a mosquito laser?
*It also produced my one of my favorite conversation types, which goes something like:
Christine [expecting a regular answer]: Omg what happened to your mirror?
Rebecca [proving the universe is vast and generous]: I left the Roomba home alone and he knocked it over.