Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Robots are Coming! by Jenn McKinlay

Jenn McKinlay: When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of The Jetsons and Lost in Space, mostly watched as after school reruns. I genuinely believed that by the time I reached adulthood, I'd have a flying car and a robot companion. "Danger, Will Robinson!" You can imagine my disappointment that none of these things have manifested.

But then, I was driving through Tempe with Hooligan 2 and his Plus 1 as we were looking at off campus apartments when what do I see but a food delivery robot. I kid you, not. 




I watched it navigate the crosswalk at a busy intersection and roll on its merry way. I have to admit I wished I lived closer to campus just so I could give it a go. Maybe when I visit the Hooligans in their new digs. 

Playmate Pet

As things always seem to pop up in waves, I was chatting with some lifelong friends about their 92 year old mother and her new dog, Funzie. Even though she's as sharp as ever, living alone can be isolating for someone who doesn't have the same autonomy they once had. Enter Funzie, the robotic pet, who responds to her voice and is a cuddly, interactive companion. She looooooves him.

Of course, there are all sorts of innovative technologies like Alexa, Siri, smart appliances that tell you when you leave the door open, and task specific robots, like the roomba, and now what I would call the lawnba, a robotic lawnmower, which Hub has been lobbying for quite ardently. Yes, there really is. See below.

Roomba

Robotic lawnmower - Husqvarna



Personally, I am still waiting for that one size does all robot who cooks, cleans, does the yard work and now, of course, it needs to take the self driving car and bring me food, preferably while doing my taxes.

In the meantime, as an author, I wonder how much do I need to work new technology into my stories? For example, if the roomba tries to clean up the murder victim at a crime scene, what does that story read like? Tracks of blood all ver the house? If Alexa is "listening", did she hear the person being murdered? If they screamed "Knife!" did she put an order of new ginsus into the victm's Amazon cart? Yes, these are the things I ponder as we roll into this technologically advanced society.

How about you, Reds and Readers, what robotic interactions have you had lately? If you read a mystery with a food delivery robot in it would it seem reasonable or pull you out of the story? Asking for a friend :)


57 comments:

  1. Can a robot deliver my packages? Humans seem to be having trouble with that. I can imagine the bloody roomba tracks in a story. Read a story online once about a couple's roomba spreading their new puppy's accident all over the living room rug overnight. The writer called it the Poopcopalypse. I think the food delivery robot would be fun.

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    1. I read that story and laughed myself stupid!!!!

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  2. Not too many new robots in my neck of the woods. I still don't even have a roomba. But I'm laughing at the knives in the murder victim's shopping cart. Do you think the timing of that order will help the police pinpoint the time of death?

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    1. Exactly! Or “”Alexa, who killed this guy?” Story over! Ack!

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    2. And the possibility of voice recognition if Alexa recorded whatever led up to the murder.
      Imagine the courtroom scene when they ask Alexa for her testimony!

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  3. Hhhmm . . . although I’ve never seen one in person, I did see a news article about the food delivering robot; I don’t think having one in a story would seem unreasonable. Nor would I find a Roomba or Alexa particularly disconcerting.

    I don’t know about the knives in the shopping cart, but I did read a newspaper article about the police being able to determine a woman’s exact time of death from her Fitbit. So, having that any of that sort of technology pop up in a story wouldn’t seem to be out of place at all . . . .

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    1. Didn’t even think about the Fitbit! Brilliant!

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  4. JENN: I guess AZ has an ideal climate to be able to test these delivery robots.
    Let's see how he does on roads filled with snow, ice and slush!

    Although I like my smartphone I can't embrace other household gadgets such as a Roomba or an Alexa. Don't want my every move to be monitored and need to be attended to, no thanks!

    Staffing shortages continue due to the pandemic, especially in the services industry. Just across the river from Ottawa, there is a robot delivering dishes at a Gatineau restaurant.
    Here's a video of BellaBot at work:
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/robot-cat-gatineau-restaurant-1.6224125

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    1. I'm with you Grace, no gadgets in the house. Though it is funny to watch the grandkids boss Alexa around!

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    2. ROBERTA: Sure Alexa can be fun for your grandkids.

      I also heard there are now SMART FRIDGES and SMART LOCKS for houses.
      I don't know if I am ready those, either!

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    3. No Alexa in my house either but given how random on topic ads pop up in my Facebook feed after a convo with the Hub someone (Siri?) is always listening. Creepy.

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  5. Oh, good question, Jenn, about how much new technology authors should work into their writing. Now, I'm going to start being more aware of that.

    I admit I didn't see much purpose in the Roombas at first, but my daughter has one, and she loves hers. I might reconsider that one and eventually give in and buy one. I did not know about the food delivering robots, and I'm thinking of the different problems they might encounter, like theft. I'm still learning how to operate my iPhone 12 I've had for a year.

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    1. I have an iPhone 6 and I still don't understand all of its features!

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  6. My only fear is that these technology doodads will revolt and attack us. Yes, I watch sci-fi movies.

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    1. Yeah, like in the futuristic Will Smith movie, I Robot, where it's 2035 and some of the public service robots start killing people!

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    2. There are days where I'm quite certain my GPS is trying to guide me into the woods - never to be seen again.

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    3. Reference back to yesterday: could a GPS lead you into quick sand? Or a roomba pull you out? LOL

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  7. That's just nuts. In a town with students, too - don't they mess with the food delivery robot? And did your husband actually acquire the Lawnba?

    I hate when I encounter the tall robot with the googly eyes that roams the aisles of Stop and Shop. Ugh. I did see a robot at a hospital two years ago. Delivering meds or paperwork? It was mysterious.

    I wrote Alexa into my Cozy Capers Book Group series. The parrot loves to order groceries from her, but once screamed, "Call the cops!" at a critical moment - and the cops arrived. I have no idea if that would work in real life, so I made a character later refer to it as a "new feature" of the device. Otherwise, so far smart phones are it in my fiction.

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    1. My entire family has been telling me about the Stop&Shop robot - we do not have those out in AZ - that I know of - too many people clogging the aisles as is.

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    2. The Stop and Shop robot, Marty, is still creepy to me after all this time. And he/she (?) constantly gets in my way.

      DebRo

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    3. What does this creepy robot do? What is it's purpose other than freaking people out?

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    4. Yes, I must admit I had the same question as Libby.
      What does the Stop and Shop robot DO?

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  8. I'm up for drone delivery of packages, except I'd be looking for the delivery owl from Harry Potter. For a couple of holiday seasons, the neighborhood had a UPS storage locker in an empty parking lot. Our packages were delivered via high-speed electric golf carts. Very pleasant not to have "big brown" blowing exhaust in the street.

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    1. Big Brown makes my dog cuckoo - that would be nice.

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  9. My son-in-law is a robotics engineer and I'm always fascinated by his projects. He worked on a robot that does kidney surgery. They tested it out on pigs. (I know, more than one wants to know.) He also worked on one of the robotic digger arms of the Mars Lander. He can pretty much look at something and "see" how it works. He's also handsome and a great dad.

    I'm sure robots are showing up in today's "locked room" mysteries. A robot that looks to all the world like a footstool but...

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    1. That is amazing! He must have a real glimpse into the future with a career like that.

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  10. My imagination runs wild here. I keep seeing smashed robots with french fries flying out, as a texting driver plows right over the poor thing. I suspect the robots have avoidance software; too bad humans don't.

    I have heard of package delivery drones. Not much lately, though. You'd think Covid would have been a perfect opportunity for more of them.

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    1. The drone thing is weird. I was swimming in our pool one day and someone had their drone hover over our pool until I got out. I was not happy.

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    2. That's just icky, Jenn. I guess that spells an end to nude sunbathing even in private yards with high fences!

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    3. Hey! They snoop? They see what they deserve!

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  11. This is reminding me...
    HAL: "I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen." (ALexa starts where hAL ended...)

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    1. That movie was terrifying - HAL was soooo creepy.

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    2. Poor HAL. He knew only one song to sing.

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  12. Jenn, I read somewhere about robots picking up trashcans and delivering to trucks in some European city--so the trucks didn't have to navigate crooked little streets. The garbage collectors weren't too pleased about it--fewer human employees needed. A lawnba would turn renegade and flee down the road after one attempt at my lawn :-) But yes, I can totally see working in new technology into novels. Planes, phones.... technology chugs along, becoming just another part of our lives and stories.

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    1. Criminals are going to have to get tech savvy if they want to stay ahead of the law.

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  13. Also, unrelated to robots - Hank has been a splendid Guest of Honor at Crime Bake! Sharing generously, entertaining us, giving a heartfelt talk about life and writing. You rocked it, Hank.

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  14. I might have a comment after I stop laughing! A roomba cleaning up a crime scene! Oh, my!

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  15. My sister and her husband have all sorts of gadgets, including a Roomba that started itself going while it was home alone and went back and forth all over the cat vomit. Not surprisingly my sister said it was a nightmare to clean.

    I have an Alexa but it is off except when I do the question of the day. She stays off because she once made a comment about something I said to someone else. "That's not a very nice thing to say." I wasn't even talking to her and what I said was not anything bad - did she not hear the affection in my voice?

    As for robots in the books I read, I don't need them, but I suppose if it wasn't a major part of the story it would be okay.

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    1. Don't you hate it when machines get uppity?

      We were having a lovely evening with friends when our hostess suddenly asked Alexa to play some Rolling Stones. We all clammed up instantly, searching back in our conversation to see what might have been overheard by a bot we didn't know was on!

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    2. They should have named Alexa - "Mom".

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  16. I just read a John Sandford in which the FBI photocopied the money so as not to have a dye pack or tracker discovered. You know, so the bad guys wouldn't know the money was going to be linked to them later. Talk about low tech. I'd read a novel in which the Alexa, the roomba, the smart fridge- all of the hi-tech house KNOWS who the killer is but their software hilariously mixes up clues and such.

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    1. Oh, that's hilarious! I wonder if I can write off a roomba if I buy it for "research". LOL.

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  17. I have a roomba. It was a gift from my sister. She turned it on the first time, it tried to eat a ball of yarn hiding under the bed. When asked why she didn't have a roomba, my sister answered "Luma attacked and destroyed it." Luma was a cute puppy at the time, who was the size of an adult German shepherd, when the attack occurred. My non-operational Alexa bings when there is an Alexa ad on. It's get irritating when it bings multiple times in less than a minute. But my real question is, you have a lawn in the desert, Jean?

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    1. Small patch of lawn in the backyard (our home was built in '59) which is why there will be no robot lawnmower - it only takes 20 min to mow. LOL.

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  18. This is hilarious! Thanks for a some silliness to start the day.

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  19. And I just saw this article in the Washington post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/11/10/home-robots-more-personal/ Am I on trend this week or what?

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  20. The Deep State (run by George Soros, Oprah Winfry, and Tom Hanks) have been keeping the wide availability of flying cars from True Americans for decades! Take my word for it. I did the research.

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  21. I have an older model Roomba which I haven't used in years. It can't handle the fringe on rugs. I see on the local news all the various robots in town: the food delivery ones on campus, food delivery self-driving cars we've been seeing that are currently mapping out routes with a person aboard, and our airport parking garage has a new robot that roams around that you can ask for help. Back in the early 80s Texas Instruments had a mail robot that followed a set path and made stops in the building. People had to go to it to get or give mail.
    Did you watch that short season of the X-Files a few years ago? One story had Mulder and Scully meeting at a robotic sushi restaurant, no humans. They were the only customers. Mulder refused to leave a tip and after that they were under siege by the driverless car Scully came in, by her smart house, by drones, you name it. They all communicated and attacked until Mulder finally gave in and tipped.

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  22. Unfortunately, robots are NOT accessible to Deaf people. When I was in high school, as the only Deaf student (my choice), our physics teacher introduced a robot in the classroom and I remember seeing the lines moving on the "face" when the robot "talked".

    Loved the Jetsons.

    Diana

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  23. After watching BLACK MIRROR, robots scare the heck out of me!!

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  24. Our Giant Food Store robot is supposed to notify them about spills but it followed me around the store once. I don't really want a robot anything that is smarter than me.

    Isaac Asimov who wrote I. Robot, also wrote a mystery where a man was killed in a colony in a house with only his wife and robots. Since robots weren't supposed to be able to hurt humans, they called in a detective from Earth to solve the mystery. I wouldn't mind reading about technology in a cozy mystery.

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