Monday, February 19, 2007

An army of robot ninjas?

With a view to the fact that we’ll be moving into our own home soon, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about home maintenance and stuff.

Since Hide and I both have pretty hectic jobs and relatively long working days, it’s pretty difficult for us to perform home maintenance tasks and still retain some semblance of sanity.

One option is that we can hire people to perform basic, time-consuming functions so as to minimise our workload: a maid to clean the house and do the ironing, a gardener to mow the lawn and weed the garden.

This option is somewhat problematic. From a security point of view, it’s unwise to allow strangers access to your property. Although I’m sure there are many trustworthy service providers around, it’s virtually impossible to know which are the good ones. And even the good ones are sometimes prone to temptation when required to work in the homes of people who make a lot more money than they do.

It’s also problematic for the dogs. Our dogs don’t get along well with strangers, which is usually a good thing. However when we have to provide access for a stranger, we have to manage the dogs accordingly which will require limiting their movements. That’s undesirable both for the mental health of the dogs, and the reduced security of confining them to the back yard.

The third problem is competence, or the lack thereof. We currently have a domestic who comes in once a week and does a really dodgy job: she routinely ruins our clothes by ironing them incorrectly and she spends the rest of her time moving things around so as to give the illusion that she cleaned them. We also have a garden service employed by our landlord: they only operate within working hours, which means one of us has to stay at home late in the morning to manage the dogs while they mow our lawn; and even then they seldom arrive.

So, what’s option 2?

One word: Robots.

That’s right, we’re in the 21st century. Why the hell can’t we use robots to perform our chores? The answer is we can!

The most obvious robot to use is the washing machine. No surprises there, it’s probably the most pervasive robot in the world. We already have two of them!

Next is the dishwasher. It’s been around for some time, and reduces the amount of time spent washing dishes substantially. You can buy a nice one these days for under R4 000.00.

Next on the list is the dryer. The tumble dryer is a pretty good one. If used correctly it can eliminate a large portion of the ironing that needs to happen. The down-side is that manual intervention is required at just the right moment so as to derive maximum benefit from it. If left to its own devices you end up having to iron all the stuff anyway. A possible alternative is the “Dribuddi”. Although I have yet to investigate it fully, it seems to have the same benefits of a tumble dryer, but without the need for human supervision.

What about cleaning the house itself? The iRobot Roomba, that’s what. A robot vacuum cleaner can be activated and left alone. It will navigate itself around your house without damaging any furniture and will politely inform you when it needs to be recharged. R 4 000.00 is a good price for an expensive vacuum cleaner... and one that pushes itself, it's a steal.

Okay, and the garden? The Robomow! A robot lawnmower in a variety of models. The top of the line can be configured to mow your lawn according to a predetermined schedule. Just lay down the border wire once, and activate the Robomow. It’ll mow your lawn while you’re at work and recharge itself when it’s done. You come home to a lawn mowed better than any push-mower. And there’s no need to dispose of the cuttings either: the Robomow automatically mulches and redistributes the cuttings as fertiliser for the grass. At R18 000.00, the big fella is not cheap… but can you really put a price on not having to mow the lawn yourself?

Okay, so there are still a few chores outstanding: weeding, tough-garment ironing, dusting and picking up the dogshit… but with all the rest of it out of the way there’s time for all that and some R&R between 3 and 4 in the morning! Science guys: I’m counting in you to hook us up with robots for the rest of that stuff too!