Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Home – virtually – every weekend

Some trends you just know should be nipped in the bud. That may be the case with the new “Virtual Visiting Robot” from iRobot, the folks who make the Roomba, as well as other domestic cleaning robots and also some nifty automatons for the military.

The “Virtual Visiting Robot,” (VVR) also called iRobot ConnectR is described as “a fun new way to see, talk to and interact with your loved ones, friends and pets – when you can’t be there in person. Combining the latest in Internet communications and robot technology, ConnectR lets you virtually visit with loved ones, relatives and pets anytime you wish – seeing, hearing and interacting with them in their home as if you were there in person.”

It has audio pickups and a video camera that can be operated remotely over a wireless broadband Internet set-up – the “away team,” so to speak, can drive the robot around and interact with the folks back home. Or just look around and see if the kids have thrown a party or if that lazy brother-in-law of yours has remembered to water the plants and feed Fluffy. Like the Roomba, the VVR can automatically charge itself, so you don’t have to worry about it running out of juice.

I wonder how long it will take some smart fleets to realize this could be an incredible driver perk. I can imagine squadrons of drivers parked for the night at a Wi-Fi equipped truckstop or hooked into IdleAire, watching their kids learn to talk and walk. Whatever this gizmo will eventually retail for is far less than the revenue you’d earn – for yourself and your far-off family, as well as the carrier – if you ran on instead of coming home for those promised “weekends home.”

Oh wait – I just saw the flaw in my reasoning. They’d charge the cost of this against the truck – because you’re making extra $$ for spending more time on the road, it’s only right you should pay for the privilege of virtually visiting your family. Right?

As Emily Litella would say, “Never Mind!”