What to Do When Rover Resents Roomba

When I got an iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner a few years ago, my dog’s first reaction was mild curiosity, followed by total disinterest. He was clearly intelligent enough to understand that the gadget wasn’t alive—and that therefore it wasn’t a rival or a threat. Alas, some people’s dogs just aren’t as smart. An article in today’s Wall Street Journal takes a lighthearted look at the frictions that, apparently, are all too common between real pets and robotic ones, especially the Roomba.

Nancy Dussault Smith, a spokeswoman at Bedford, MA-based iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT), told the Journal that the subject of animal-robot relations “comes up constantly” at the company. “Dogs, cats, all animals, they have their own personalities, so they react differently to the robots,” she said. The issue is so common, she said, that iRobot has built safety features into the Roomba line to disable the robot if a pet flips it over or sits on it.

If your dog just can’t get along with your robot vacuum, the Journal has a suggestion: tell the robot “bad Roomba” in front of your dog. After one violent confrontation, such a scolding calmed down Argos, a dog belonging to San Carlos, CA, software engineer Keith Hearn, according to the article.

The Journal piece includes a pointer to this entertaining YouTube video showing a puppy facing off with a Roboquad toy robot from WowWee Robotics. And the paper’s website excerpted the YouTube video in the following video from reporter Adam Najberg:

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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