Roomba vacuming in the dark

Devices that speak in the night

The room is dimly lit and it’s 02:30 in the morning. My internet service provider is doing some unscheduled maintenance and my internet connection is down. I probably should have been sleeping…. Then all the sudden, a loud female voice starts talking behind me:

“Error 15: ‘Press CLEAN to restart.’”

The above is not the start of some bad sci-fi novel set in the slight-future. It was an episode that scared the heck out of me a couple of nights ago.

As anyone who’ve walked up behind me — and started talking while I’m concentrating on something — can attest to: I’m easily startled and can jump quite high.

It took me half a minute to realize that it was my needlessly-internet-connected Roomba 960 robotic vacuum that had spoken from its parking position. Apparently, it was unhappy about the disruption of internet service and wanted someone to take care of it. I felt the same way myself, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

I believe this is the perfect time to introduce a revolutionary new general design rule for any internet connected device that provide spoken feedback: REMAIN QUIET UNTIL MORNING! That actually applies to almost all types of devices that provide any type of audible feedback.

Unless there is a fire or a danger to health and safety, then things should remain quiet during the night. They most certainly shouldn’t start talking loudly on their own initiative!

The error in question, according to iRobot’s documentation, is an “internal error” and I should hold the Clean button pressed for ten seconds to reset it. This really could have waited till morning.

I don’t have an talking digital assistant in my home, but I certainly hope they’re smarter than my Roomba when it comes to understanding the concept of quiet time.