1956 Idea Realized: Robot Cleans Kitchen Floors

iRobot's new Scooba floor-cleaning robot is a great idea - Robert Heinlein's! He specified what was needed in his 1956 novel The Door Into Summer. It took humanity only fifty years to go from the Hired Girl robot idea to reality:

What Hired Girl would do... was clean floors . . . any floor, all day long and without supervision... It swept, or mopped, or vacuum-cleaned, or polished, consulting tapes in its idiot memory to decide which. Anything larger than a BB shot it picked up and placed in a tray on its upper surface, for someone brighter to decide whether to keep or throw away. It went quietly looking for dirt all day long, in search curves that could miss nothing, passing over clean floors in its endless search for dirty floors... Around dinnertime it would go to its stall and soak up a quick charge...
(Read more about Robert Heinlein's Hired Girl robot)


(Scooba diagram and features)

The iRobot Scooba cleaning methods are a pretty close match to Heinlein's Hired Girl, performing these actions in a single pass:

  1. Preps - picks up loose crumbs, sand and dirt
  2. Washes - fresh clean solution applied
  3. Scrubs - scrubs while it roams
  4. Dries - picks up the dirty solution, leaving the floor clean and dry.
Scooba's appearance is a pretty close match for its robot vacuum cleaner cousin Roomba.


(Scooba in action)

You might also be interested in Roomba's (and Scooba's) Big Brother Packbot, a robot that helps soldiers in the field. Thanks to GoRobotics.net for the sneak peak; go to the site for the video link. Thanks also to an anonymous reader who suggested this article some time ago (not enough details were available).

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)