But the most impactful recent innovation in my life and my family's life came from Costco. His name is Gary. He is a vacuum cleaner.
|One of Gary's brethern - hard at work|
Not just any vacuum cleaner - he is a shiny iRobot Roomba that wakes up every morning at 10am, sounds a nice little chime, undocks from his charger and cheerfully spends the next hour or so cleaning our hardwood floors. We are blessed to have a wonderful yellow Lab but cursed that our dog sheds light colored hair like crazy all over our dark brown floors (the picture above is a generic Roomba one).
Why is Gary an innovation which is so impactful on our family?
- Our floors are clean, every day, without any effort by us
- Our kids love Gary - they are totally entertained by his roaming around the house, chirping
- Did I mention our floors are clean?
But I admit that an automated, cute vacuum isn't the future. It's been very impactful. But maybe it isn't the future. But maybe there is more than meets the eye?
First of all the company is named after one of the classic books by Isaac Asimov, one of my all-time favorite science fiction writers (forget the crappy Will Smith movie with the same title). Asimov's book is a collection of short stories published in 1950 which describe the evolution of robots from primitive origins to intelligent life forms. From Roomba to Terminator.
But it's just sci-fi, right? Home robots are just for the Japanese - you know those strange Sony pet dogs.
But then I went to check out the iRobot website . They have home robots for bathroom washing, gutter cleaning and pool cleaning. They have a programmable robot for education and researchers. They have industrial ground (e.g., bomb squad robot) and maritime (e.g., remote underwater robots). Holy Asimov Batman! Isn't this like sort of how it all develops in Terminator 3 when a bunch of robots like this become intelligent and belligerent? I guess a belligerent vacuum cleaner isn't too much of a threat. Maybe a self-aware Predator with a Hellfire missile is a different story......
So, my eyes have been opened to a hot new area for innovation and invention that isn't green tech, social, mobile or bio-tech - and it's robotics! My takeaways after a little time with Gary:
- Robotics are apparently making impressive strides while we've all been focused on social and mobile. The future, in terms of robotics, looks a lot closer than I would have thought.
- iRobot looks like an impressive company with a diverse set of products and probably plans to expand into more applications. Medical costs, aging population, shrinking able-bodied labor pool, defense - lots of room for them to grow.
- Clean floors are really nice, go buy an iRobot Roomba!