From iRobot to HEXA: Are Robots the Next Home Appliance?

The other day, I was in one of my student's homes. Noticing the lack of dust--really, the house is always clean--I joked to her, "Is it you or your parents vacuuming these floors so well?" She told me that they actually have a central vacuum system installed in the house.

As someone who lives in a rather modest townhouse, she might as well have been speaking Latvian. A central vacuum system? That sounds amazing.

Thus, as I usually do, I began the rabbit hole internet search about central vacuum systems. When I ruled out that a central vacuum system would be possible in our house, I thought about other options. What's the thing that the YouTube videos always show cats riding around on? A Roomba?

When I arrived at the iRobot website, I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only do they sell Roomba, but they have also come up with robotic devices to clean the gutter, mop the floor, and clean the pool. Now, it's possible that I'm behind the times. After all, my students have to show me how to use Snapchat and Twitter properly. However, do we really know what is quietly being developed behind the scenes?

Continuing down the rabbit hole of Google searching, I came across a robot called HEXA. Marketed as a consumer robot, and less for industrial purposes, it basically looks like a mechanical spider. Built with distance sensors and an infrared camera, you can imagine the applications. My first thought was that it would have use in law enforcement. Reeling it in to the domestic sphere, though, I imagine it could probably help senior citizens and disabled individuals to grasp objects in hard-to-reach places.


What's interesting, is that the startup company, Vincross, does not mention specifically what HEXA can be used for. It seems the possibilities truly are endless, since HEXA is fully programmable by the user. The robot is able to climb on a variety of surfaces and even write its name. (Actually, if it has literary abilities, that would be one more way it could help disabled people!) I think I even saw it dancing at one point. I was personally bewildered at all of this; as a non-tech person, I felt as it I was finally catching up to the times. A robot? In our houses? Really?

Of course, this brings me to my philosophical musings on the idea. Technology is always a double edged sword, isn't it. With a Roomba, parents might have a clean floor, but they lose out on the parenting opportunity of getting kids to vacuum the floor as a chore. In some ways, we might consider the phrase, just because we can doesn't mean we should. With that said, technology that has the opportunity to help the marginalized should always be considered. At the end of it all, it's not the products themselves; it's how we, as humans, utilize them.

Would you invest in a consumer robot beyond a vacuum?