249 | How a robot turned me from a hobo to a bohemian

Mitchel Lensink
Sep 6, 2021
2 min read

A few days ago, I purchased one of those little circular robotic vacuum cleaners with the promise of never having to vacuum again. I’m pretty sure I can’t trust that machine to completely eliminate the need for me to clean every nook and corner of my apartment but any lightening of the load is welcome. Is it too early to write up some thoughts? Probably. But I’m doing it anyway.

I find these machines quite expensive still1 and didn’t want to spend multiple hundred of euros on a vacuum cleaner. So I got one of the ‘dumb’ ones that just bounces around your home randomly, until it decides it probably got everything and then returns to its base station.2 Despite its lack of intelligence, it still at least looks like it is actively making decisions as it moves around the apartment. For example, it does not simply default to a 90 degree turn on each obstacle but instead sometimes decides it can go a little wider (or less wide). Other times it chugs along in a straight line, then seemingly gets bored in the middle of the room, stops, and heads off in a totally different direction. I have yet to find its motivation for switching directions like that but I guess I’m guilty of the same behaviour, so who am I to talk.

The biggest hint of its level of ‘intelligence’, is when it runs into an obstacle that’s too low for its sensors to pick up, or its bumper to bump into, but too high for its tiny wheels to conquer. At first, you can almost see the confusion in it when it repeatedly tries to drive over the obstacle — like a Sims character desperately trying to reach its waypoint which you’ve sadistically placed in the other room while locking all the doors. The vacuum cleaner trumps the Sims character though, as it eventually gives up on its dreams of overcoming the obstacle, stops trying and just goes somewhere else. Something I’m still learning to do.

Wrapping up this very unnecessary story about a vacuum cleaner: I really like it so far with the most important aspect of that being: it gives me back control of my home. For the past year, especially with the addition of two cats, I just couldn’t keep up with keeping the house as clean as I’d like it to be. I’d spend hours vacuuming the place, only to having to do it all again two days later (which, obviously, I didn’t, because who has time for that?!). Now that this little robot is taking care of the bulk of the vacuuming, at least the house stays relatively clean and it doesn’t make me feel like a dirty hobo as much anymore. I now have sufficiently more time to spare for my other interests like endless tinkering with html files, upgrading workflows without actually producing anything and walking circles in my neighborhood without a clear goal. And that, my friends, is how a robot allowed me to be my true bohemian self.

  1. Though you could argue that its a technical marvel that we can get actual robots to take care of chores for a price most people can afford. ↩︎

  2. Or I presume it does, as I’ve sent it home prematurely each time I’ve used it so far. ↩︎

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