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It's funny.  Laugh. Robotics

iRobot Develops Hamster-Guided Robotic Vacuum 108

Posted by timothy
from the cat-powered-would-be-too-smart dept.
carusoj writes "The folks at iRobot apparently have plenty of time on their hands. They created a prototype wireless, robotic vacuum cleaner... powered by a hamster running inside a spinning ball. The rodent's movements with the ball are fed to and analyzed by a complex set of sensors, which then guide the actual vacuum device to mimic the animal's speed and direction. You can see where this is going: it's a clever ploy to then get you to buy a second robot that would automatically feed, water, and clean up after the hamster in the first robot."
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iRobot Develops Hamster-Guided Robotic Vacuum

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  • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:01PM (#27067669) Journal

    Isn't iRobot the company that got the Big DoD Contract to make battlebots? Are we about to see the use of Militarized Hamsters in combat? Will our heroic soldiers be replaced by Rodent Guided Missiles?

    Is "Rodent Guided Missiles" a Great Name For A Rock Band, or what?

    • Yes it is. I just might call my Rock Band name that!
      • by von_rick (944421)
        Translate "Rodent Guided Missiles" into Norwegian and you would have a name for a death metal band as well.
        • Preferably over the "R"

        • by idontgno (624372)

          Google translate sez:

          Gnager Guidet missiler

          Color me "meh".

          • by saforrest (184929)

            On the other hand, in German it's

            Nagetier-Lenkflugkörper

            though that's just "Rodent" and "Guided missile" concatenated. For a missile *guided by* a rodent, it would be:

            Nagetier-Geführter Flugkörper

            A little more forbidding-looking and you even have an umlaut there. But it doesn't roll off the tongue.

        • by macxcool (1370409)

          Translate "Rodent Guided Missiles" into Norwegian and you would have a name for a death metal band as well.

          I don't know. Google translate produces 'Gnager Guidet Missles' when you try that. Not a great band name by anyone's criteria.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by macxcool (1370409)
            ... on the other hand 'Helpless flock of sheep' gets you the very cool 'hjelpelÃs flokk med sauer'.

            Much, much better.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:07PM (#27067753)
      All I know is that after I'm done sucking myself off with the vaccuum cleaner, I can insert the hamster in my ass. A twofer!

      Steve Jobs? Are you listening?!
    • They'll all be named "Boo" and be given extensive training in how to go for the eyes!!!

      • by orielbean (936271)

        Robot not Miniature Giant Space Hampsters. I hope Bioware works Minsc and Boo into Dragon Age...

    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:10PM (#27067789)

      Isn't iRobot the company that got the Big DoD Contract to make battlebots? Are we about to see the use of Militarized Hamsters in combat? Will our heroic soldiers be replaced by Rodent Guided Missiles?

      I was going to ask the same thing. In WWII the military had a pigeon-guided bomb where the bird was trained to peck at an image on a CRT and the bomb would center on that pecking. Seemed impossibly Rube Golburg but it was supposed to have worked. Never was deployed in combat. They had another one where tiny incendiary charges were attached to bats. The idea was that bombers would fly over Japan with these bat bombs at the ready. The bombs would be dropped over the target, descend by parachute and the sides would pop off so the bats could fly out. They would look for roof overhangs to nest under and their bombs would go off soon thereafter, setting fire to entire cities. The concept was proven sound when the bat people burned down half of their own research camp but the war was over before they could be put into action.

      I fear the only way to defeat these hamster-guided killer robots will be to put cats in robots of their own. But then someone will put dogs in the robots and to defeat the dogs someone will put Koreans in robots and it all ends with gorillas freezing in the snow.

      • Isn't iRobot the company that got the Big DoD Contract to make battlebots? Are we about to see the use of Militarized Hamsters in combat? Will our heroic soldiers be replaced by Rodent Guided Missiles?

        I was going to ask the same thing. In WWII the military had a pigeon-guided bomb where the bird was trained to peck at an image on a CRT and the bomb would center on that pecking. Seemed impossibly Rube Golburg but it was supposed to have worked. Never was deployed in combat. They had another one where tiny incendiary charges were attached to bats. The idea was that bombers would fly over Japan with these bat bombs at the ready.

        Back in the days of the opium wars, the chinese had a plan to catapult flaming monkeys onto british boats, in the hope that the panicking simians would run into the powder reserves and blow up the ship.

      • by Rei (128717)

        The mix of robots and animals need not be so nefarious. The prime job of my roomba and my scooba is to clean up after my parrot. Instead of newspaper, there's a plastic mat beneath his cage and play area. Roomba cleans up all of the bits of food and torn matter that he drops, and then the scooba cleans up his dried messes.

        Pretty undignified use of technology, of course. On the scale of "robots I'd like to be reincarnated as", they'd rank pretty near the bottom ;)

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        The war wasn't over, it's just that the atom bomb development had come far enough along that they didn't need it. As you say though, it was quite effective.
      • From what I remember, they main reason they cancelled the project was when they had a "technical" mistake. They dropped the bats out in the desert as a test, but unfortunately, they were not far enough away and found their way back to the base...
      • by adamaix (1412123)
        Yes, in that movie Wanted [imdb.com], they describe in detail of an interesting method of infiltrating a nearly impenetrable castle using rats. Collect rats outside a dumpster using peanut butter and arm them with miniature time bombs. Activate the timer just before you let the rats loose in front of the castle, the idea is, that rats are able to go through places small enough to storm the inside of the castle and detonate their payload.
    • by Thaelon (250687)

      They used to be. They've been displaced. [smallcapinvestor.com]

    • Isn't iRobot the company that got the Big DoD Contract to make battlebots?

      They do? I thought iRobot guys are the ones that make that Roomba vacuum cleaning thingy. Given that Roomba works "probabilistically", ensuring complete coverage of the room by travelling in a random path until it thinks it walked long enough that it had most likely covered all the floor, it would be very interesting to see if iRobot battlebots deal with guns and targets in the same manner. From a distant, well-armored bunker, that is.

  • that won't work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:03PM (#27067689)
    You'll never get an even cleaning. All small rodents like that are genetically programmed to use the same paths over and over to get from point A to point B once it's proven safe. That's why setting snare traps in the wild works to catch rabbits and mice and stuff. They always use the same path once they've been on it a few times and found no snake lairs or anything dangerous on it. Even domesticated ones do the same thing in your house most of the time so you'd probably get like 30% coverage tops.
    • by Em Emalb (452530)

      Look here, Captain Logicboy, don't go answering this submission like it's nothing other than a publicity ploy/stunt.

      In other words, it's not funny, don't laugh, and more importantly, don't take it seriously. ;)

      Slashdot requires you to wait between each successful posting of a comment to allow everyone a fair chance at posting a comment.

      It's been 1 minute since you last successfully posted a comment

      Chances are, you're behind a firewall or proxy, or clicked the Back button to accidentally reuse a form. Please

    • Re:that won't work (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CarpetShark (865376) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:26PM (#27067971)

      Paths? Do hamsters even follow paths with a ball? Has anyone proven that they don't just run to ESCAPE the ball, with no thought about what's outside the ball except "freedom"?

      • by escay (923320)
        are you calling Mel Gibson a hamster?
      • Paths? Do hamsters even follow paths with a ball?

        My wife's hamster certainly seems to. Every time we put her in her ball, she ends up in a limited number of places.

        • I guess the "rooms at the bottom of the stairs" are limited places...
          • 1200sqft on the ground floor, six rooms - and she invariably ends up in the same corner of the computer room.

            • Most rooms aren't perfectly square, nor have perfectly even floors, so there's no surprise here. Not saying it's impossible, but personally, I'd need more evidence than that before making any assumptions.

              • This is a new house - the rooms are very square and the floors very level. Getting from where we normally set her ball down to the computer room requires going through the living room, making a 180 turn through the kitchen into the foyer (stopping to see if the pantry door is open, if it she goes in there), turning ninety degrees in the foyer, traversing the length of the foyer, turning ninety again into the back hall, then making a 180 again (checking to see if we've left the bathroom open, if it is she g

              • No kidding, we buy our cats bouncy-balls, and they ALL end up under the SAME shelving unit!
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Has anyone proven that they don't just run to ESCAPE the ball, with no thought about what's outside the ball except "freedom"?

        I don't know about "proven", but watch a hamster in a hamster ball some time. Sure at first they're probably just trying to get out of the ball and randomly bumping into things. But at some point it becomes pretty obvious that they're trying to get to specific places by running in the ball, which obviously takes a different kind of coordination to do than running on the floor, so t

        • Actually, I have watched a hamster in a ball many times, complete with my sister's commentary on where her hamster was going, and why. I remain unconvinced, given that the direction was always erratic, and that behavioral psychology dictates a critter will stop doing something (i.e., going somewhere) if there is no reward (i.e., it's still stuck in the same ball with the same plastic, so any place on the outside is much the same). Unless you're suggesting it's going places to admire the view? ;)

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            I remain unconvinced, given that the direction was always erratic, and that behavioral psychology dictates a critter will stop doing something (i.e., going somewhere) if there is no reward (i.e., it's still stuck in the same ball with the same plastic, so any place on the outside is much the same).

            "Erratic" describes hamster movement outside of a ball, and if psychology dictates that the hamster will stop, then why does it start again?

            Unless you're suggesting it's going places to admire the view? ;)

            Are you

            • if psychology dictates that the hamster will stop, then why does it start again?

              No, it stops THAT behaviour. Of course, it will naturally revert to trying other things, at random.

    • by xutopia (469129)
      Pretty sure that inside that ball the hamster doesn't know where the fuck he is and walks in random ways. That being said humans do the same as other mammals in regards to what's safe. We even step on exactly the same spot as the person in front of us when walking single file.
      • by KovaaK (1347019)

        We even step on exactly the same spot as the person in front of us when walking single file.

        Maybe you do, but when I'm walking single file, I don't tend to look down to know where someone is stepping. Then again, I'm 6'7", and I tend to kick people's heels all the time :P.

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      You'll never get an even cleaning.

      You're assuming that this is about driving a vacuum cleaner. There's other things iRobot does such as their communications [irobot.com] product.

      Then there's just, you know, the hack. Neat things are done to honor the hack. Realizing that there might be a practical use for the hack comes later.

    • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @04:13PM (#27068601)

      Just put a tazer in it to randomly shock the rodent, that way he doesnt think any path is safe. Problem solved :-)

      Well that one at least. You'll need some of iRobot's more serious military projects to handle the PETA onslaught after you add the taser.

      • by hawk (1151)

        *shrug*

        What's the problem?

        You've already got a taser-armed killer rodent on the premises . . .

        hawk

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey there, Count Buzz-Kill, enough of your "reasoning" and "making sense".

      The FACT of the matter is, the phrase Hamster-Guided Robotic Vacuum is, in of itself, incredibly cool.

      Who cares if it works well, I for one would buy a dozen of these things and put them in my back yard... with my cat. THAT outta keep them from staying on the same path for long....

    • You're probably right about the paths, but I doubt if we have much data about the paths hamsters take when pursued by a roaring monster only inches from their butts. I mean, that's the situation as far as the hamster is concerned, right? It's a lose-lose situation for it. We give it control of a vehicle, but the vehicle itself terrifies them and pursues them wherever they go. Poor bastards. The smart ones will be paralyzed with fright and poop themselves.
    • Looking at the video, I'm guessing that it's not supposed to be particularly practical - more likely just having some fun. The hamster can't even see where it's going - they're basically using it as a not-really-random direction generator.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    that keeps Richard Gere running

  • too bad it can't be powered by a human running in a ball instead of a hamster.

    Lord knows most people could use the exercise. :P

  • Genius!

    Watch out Bart, this little Hammy's going to have one serious case of static electricity
  • ...the hamster is sucked up by the vacuum.

    PETA's gonna have a field day with this one.

  • All they've done is replace their highly advanced "running in spirals" AI brain with a rather large trackball.....

  • by wonkavader (605434) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:18PM (#27067877)

    Years ago, they came out with a device that was good for its time. It was a dust-buster doing a random walk.

    Now they're on their 5th generation model. And it's a slightly better dust-buster which does a random walk. But it talks.

    Were there some smart people there at first and they all left?

    Why have they produced so little in all this time?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argent (18001)

      Probably because a random walk is a local optimum, and all the other optima are a LONG way away.

      I want one that picks up dropped coins and pens and other solid debris and separates it from the dust and fluff. Bonus if it can count my change.

      • I know what you're saying, but I just don't see it. They've had years to work on finding their way home to their power supply and still don't reliably do it.

        As for coins, you know, if the darn thing knew where it was, it could tell you it passed over a bump on a map of crap to pick up. I realize that that's manual, but it's would be nice to know that there's a new object under the couch when you're looking for your keys.

        I know it's all about price. But wouldn't it make sense for a company that built its

    • iRobot makes much, much more than Roombas [irobot.com].
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Years ago, they came out with a device that was good for its time. It was a dust-buster doing a random walk.

      Now they're on their 5th generation model. And it's a slightly better dust-buster which does a random walk. But it talks.

      Were there some smart people there at first and they all left?

      Why have they produced so little in all this time?

      They make a Scooba that "mops" your floor, a model that cleans your pool (2nd generation), a Looj model that cleans gutters, along with their stuff they make for military. I'd say they still have some smart people there.

    • by King_TJ (85913)

      I've played around quite a bit with the Roomba vacuums, and IMHO, the 5th. generation is about the first model that really works well enough to justify using it as a primary vacuum for the house -- and even then, don't count on long-term reliability or "hassle free cleaning".

      Until the current generation, they didn't really perfect the concept of the spinning bristle brush that sticks out from the Roomba's frame far enough to push debris out from edges of walls and into the path of its main brushes, so it co

      • The gutter cleaner is not the latest. It has been around for years and has already been seen on wholesale surplus selloff sites like woot.com
        • I realize it's been around a while, but their CEO still showed it at CES as the "latest product" of theirs. I think the real issue is, it wasn't marketed too well. I remember seeing it years ago in a Popular Science "What's New" feature, but never ran across a single one sold in a local store after that, and forgot all about it.

          I don't know if they have a consumer product any newer than it to hawk. (Everything else is just another Roomba revision or Scooba floor cleaner revision, and both of those have b

  • by quantumghost (1052586) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:18PM (#27067889) Journal

    Looks like a clear case of prior art:

    http://www.xkcd.com/413/ [xkcd.com]

  • This is the dumbest idea I've heard all week. Vacuum cleaners are there to make cleaning easier, robotic vacuum cleaners are there to make it even easier than old fashioned ones. So why would anyone want a vacuum cleaner that you had to feed, water, and clean up its shit after?

    Ideally, a robot should need absolutely no care at all.

  • At least from the summary (can't get to utube from work) this seems like its probably powered just like a regular one, yet directed by the rodent.
  • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Wednesday March 04, 2009 @03:34PM (#27068061)
    Is Idle cross-posting to Hardware?
  • Hm... nope, nope, they're going too deep with it. They should just make it hamster-powered, not guided. That is, use the ball to run a generator and use some sort of Roomba-like navigation system. That way, the noise from the vacuum will frighten the hamster, which will make it run, which will make the vacuum operate, which will...

    Okay, granted, this would require a forty-pound hamster and a giant hamster ball, but other than THAT, it would be the perfect perpetual motion vacuum! It would WORK, people!

    • by Reapman (740286)

      Sure it's perpetual.. until you forget to feed your vacum cleaner for a few weeks.

      Poor Boo :'(

  • I will construct a hamster combat machine! [tri-bit.com] I am Skynet!
  • What about Baron Von Cavitus? He's a hamster-guided robot too!

  • The next logical step is to remote the hamster ball interface, so the hamster in one room is driving the Roomba in the next room. A 360 camera on the Roomba and a full surround projection around the stationary ball would do nicely.

    This could be a boon for stay-at-home hamsters. Instead of wandering the same living room day in and day out, their thoughtful owners could plop the hamster in their own personal CircleVision 360 with the remote Roomba wandering in any number of living rooms across the world.

    • by dietdew7 (1171613)
      We wouldn't even have to use expensive and lazy American hamsters. With the virtual interface we could use offshore hamsters from India or China.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Here's my idea: make automobiles powered like this. What if you had a human-sized ball that you "walked" in, which in turn moved and steered your car? Scale the speed, so that a normal walking speed moved the vehicle 30mph or so; a jog could be 60mph, etc, whatever scales to your timing. Turn a 30 minute drive into a 30 minute walk/jog. Get to work, and get your exercise, too!

    Heck, even find a way to convert the movement to electricity to power the car...hmmmmmm.....

  • Davros? (Score:2, Funny)

    by OshMan (1246516)
    Clearly this is the prototype for the first Dalek. I'll bet it can't vacuum stairs either.
  • I don't actually think this is a vacuum. I think it is one of their Create robots.

    I also think it is possible the hamster was actually a gerbil.

    Sorry to rain on your parade.
  • Soon hamster-powered devices will spread throughout the world, and the masses will become dependent upon them.

    All hail our Hamster Overlords!

  • They showed this on Attack of the Show [wikipedia.org] on Monday night. In truth, it looks more like hamster torture than anything fun (for either operator or hamster). The poor hamster is locked in a colored (surprisingly opaque) ball on top of what looks like a standard Roomba. The hamster looked less amused than terrified.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      It never ceases to amaze me that some of my most innocuous posts can get modded down as "troll" or "flamebait." Sometimes I can understand getting modded down (when I say something provocative or not in line with popular /. groupthink). But this one? Really?
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTxW3GWZ5hI [youtube.com]

    They need to work on the restraint systems, but other than that it looks like it's working great!

  • 1. That's not a vacuum model. It's an irobot Create which is just a platform to build hobby robots off. It has no cleaning power at all.

    2. This is an old video. I mean OLD; years old. It was done by a few geeks asked to demo what the irobot create could do, when they were first introduced to the market. That's all, no 'hamster cleaning' market in mind.

    Bad slashdot, bad. Check your sources before publishing a story.
  • The ball (shown in the video) is too small for that ham - see how much she has to arch her back? Also, you really don't want to leave a ham in her ball for more than ten minutes or so at a pop to avoid overheating and dehydration.
     
    Lastly, that poor ham and all that noise! My wifes ham dives for cover anytime we start anything that makes a loud and/or high pitched noise. I'd never put Her Imperial Fuzziness through all that.

  • Who run Carpettown?
  • Betrayed by the hamsters? I knew this day would come! Quick, we must form an alliance with the cats if we are to fend off this new rodent-borg menace!
  • So the vacuum sucks up anything the hamster might want to eat. That's mean.

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