Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Robots in My Life

You just can’t ask for a more beautiful Sunday morning.

I played nine holes of golf yesterday with my good friend Dan.  It was my first attempt to play for several years. And I was pretty nervous about it.

So to take my mind off being nervous, I vacuumed the pool.

In fact, I played golf while I vacuumed the pool.

Okay, I didn’t actually do the vacuuming,

I left that task to my little Nomad pool cleaner.

If you haven’t heard of the Nomad – it’s only one brand of many – it’s a gadget that is a collection of plastic hoses with a plastic cleaning mat at the end. At both ends of the gadget are spring loaded valves. You stick one end in the filter hole that leads down to your pool pump and filter, and it makes the whole collection of hoses connected end to end down to the plastic vacuum cleaning mat jump. The spring loaded valve in the plastic mat then walk around the bottom of the pool liner in random patterns until the whole pool liner has been vacuumed clean.

It’s powered by the vacuum sucking action of the pool filter pump. And when it’s done, you just take end of the hose out of the filter hole and backwash the dirt from the pool floor down into the drain in the back yard.

They’ve been around for years.

It’s so easy. But it takes a couple of hours.

This is by far my favorite robot in our house.

Yes, I will argue that we already have robots in our homes.

They are not smart robots per say, not like the artificially intelligent humanoid looking things that we see in the movies and TV shows. But they have been programmed with just enough smarts to do the tasks they are assigned to do.

They are “smart-enough” machines.

We have washing machines that clean our clothes and dryers that dry them for us. They know just how much water to add, just how much to slosh them around, just how much to spin them to get the water out, and just how hot to tumble dry them. And just how long to do each task. And they tell you when they are done.

We have dishwashers that do the same thing, just for dishes though.
And we have ovens and microwave ovens that know just how long and just how hot to cook or reheat stuff for us based on the information we feed into them. Even our coffee makers have all kinds of smarts now, to provide us with that perfect cup or pot of coffee waiting for us when we wake up in the morning.

My television is even a robot. It will watch TV for me and record the shows I tell it to – the ones I don’t want to miss – and it lets me play them back when I have the time and desire to watch them.

Even my garage door is a robot. When I ask it to, it lifts up the door for me. And it will close it to, when I tell it to. And it’s smart enough to know if it’s open or closed.

And cars? These things are so loaded with artificial intelligence now it’s ridiculous.

To me, if it’s smarter than my black lab Suzy, then it’s a robot. Suzy can’t do my laundry, or clean my dishes, or record my favorite shows for me, or even open my garage door.

And Suzy can’t clean my pool either.

I guess that is my favorite thing about my Nomad pool vacuum. It really isn’t smart.

There are no electronic memory functions or instructions to feed into it. You just stick the nozzle in the filter hole and watch it go.

The inefficiencies of randomness

But my pool cleaner has no logic. It’s a totally random process.

I don’t ever sit and watch my laundry wash and dry in the laundry room, or the dishes get clean in the dishwasher.  And I probably should pay more attention to watching the food as it cooks in my oven.

I could watch my Nomad wander randomly around my pool bottom for hours.

But it’s maddening.

If you leave the Nomad to its task un-watched, when you return your pool will be clean.

But sitting and watching it will drive you nuts.

You will see the Nomad continually wandering over the parts of the bottom that it has already cleaned, and you will find yourself rooting for it to get one patch of dirt on the bottom, only to watch it continually just miss it as it re-travels the same space it cleaned on the last pass by.

It drives me crazy.

It’s worse than watching my daughters clean their rooms. And just as random and just as illogical.

Although the Nomad doesn’t procrastinate and continually yell to me “I will Daddy, I promise”.

I could watch this device clean my pool for hours.

If I were to hire a guy to come clean my pool, well, my lovely wife Darlene would watch him work for hours. That’s not good.

Now I can really multi-task.

I can do the laundry and cook supper and wash the dishes while recording my favorite television shows and clean the pool all at the same time as I sit out on the back deck with a cup of coffee.

Or play golf.

This is the future I dreamed about.

I didn’t really have reason to be nervous about playing golf. I had several putts at birdie. And on the last hole I stuck a 5 wood a foot from the pin, but the ball rolled 10 feet past and I did miss the birdie putt.

I really enjoyed playing golf again.

While I vacuumed the pool.


If only I could cut my lawn the same way.

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