People Really Love Their Roombas
I can understand how someone might learn to love, say, a Cylon. They have genuine emotions and act like us, and some of them are just plain hot. But a tiny, cylindrical vacuum cleaner? I kid you not: A new study from Georgia Tech has found that some people express genuine attachment for their little Roombas, a few even going so far as dressing them up, giving them names, and worrying over their "health."
In a recent study conducted by Beki Grinter and Young Sun at Georgia Tech's College of Computing, 20 Roomba users out of 30 admitted to naming their devices and giving them a gender (16 of those referred to it as a "he"). Other participants rearranged their houses in order to better accommodate the machines, though that seems more borne out of efficiency than attachment. One subject actually introduced his Roomba to his parents (before "popping the question," I assume).
Anyone who has owned a Roomba knows that they're not the most efficient vacuum on the market. Fringed rugs and electrical cords positively baffle them. They often miss cleaning entire areas of larger rooms with more complex furniture layouts. And, yet, instead of replacing the fallible gadget with a more appropriate tool, people will purchase new rugs to play into the Roomba's foibles. In perhaps the most interesting twist of the study, researchers had found that reliability of a Roomba had become less important to owners than the emotional engagement they received from owning one.
"I was blown away," states Young Sung, Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech. "Some Roombas break a lot, they still have functional problems. But people are willing to make that effort because they love their robot enough."