November 10, 2006

Are the Beagle and the Roomba Conspiring?

When talking heads traditionally yammer about artificial intelligence, the common themes center around finding ways for robots to feel emotion, or to out-maneuver the latest chess grandmaster, not to complete relatively simple tasks, like vacuuming. But ever since getting our Roomba last Sunday, we're seeing the little guy act independently, not just doing those direct missions that we had instructed, but acting out on its own.

Today, after leaving the house for a few hours, we returned home to see the gate to the kitchen (to keep our beagle out, of course) knocked over, the throw rugs wrinkled, and familiar spiral-like tracks in the carpet, showing that the Roomba had gone out on its own, answering the call of duty to clean. But the Roomba was nonchalantly sitting in its cradle, charging, and wouldn't talk. I checked the auto-scheduler to see if the Roomba had been given a mission, but there was nothing on its docket that said to give it a run today.

So what could possibly have happened? Did we imagine that those spiral markings were not there before we had left? Did the Roomba look around, realizing nobody was home, and went out for a spin?

Best as we can guess, the dog was likely searching for food, or trying to step on the Roomba as a stool to gain access to the table or kitchen counter, always trying to get an extra inch for the occasional morsel. In her quest for crumbs, she likely stepped on the Roomba's power button and set it on Clean, launching it ahead to defeat dirt. I wish I had been there to see the beagle jump with alarm as the Roomba whirred up and set off to get her, and again, to see the dog's reaction when the Roomba later slammed into the gate and knocked it askew.

While we may never know what actually took place this afternoon, we know this: you can't trust the beagle and the Roomba home alone. Those two, while they won't talk, are up to little good.

Listening to ''Totally Fascinated'', by M.I.K.E. presents Fascinated (Play Count: 1)

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