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Lee Pitts: She Robot

In addition to owning a couple great ranches, Thomas Watson Jr. was also the son of the founder of IBM. After his father died, Thomas Watson Jr. ran IBM as President and CEO and he did a much better job at that occupation than he ever would have as a fortune teller. For example, he predicted that there would only ever be a world market for five computers!

I think it’s safe to say that your average teenager in America has more than that!

This year we went to a conspicuous consumption Christmas at a friends’s house and got to watch their family unwrap box after box of computer driven equipment, as if they didn’t already have enough. To give you some idea how big their house is, the alpha male of the family drove a Segway® to the unwrapping ceremony and HE WAS IN THE SAME HOUSE as the gifts! By the time he arrived his son was already in someplace called Virtual Reality and was wearing something called an Oculus®, which looked like a giant pair of sunglasses and allowed him to play expensive video games. He could be anything he wanted to be, a hero in outer space or a gun-wielding warrior. I was amazed by the device because it allowed whoever wore it to start knocking over knick knacks while grabbing at things in midair as if he was a ring man catching bids at a bull sale.

The grandkids thought it would be a real hoot to put Grandma in the pilot’s seat of a plane flying through the Grand Canyon. This, despite the fact that the closest Grandma had ever come to a cockpit was in aisle three on an Alaskan Airlines flight from Denver to Seattle! As Grandma did the smart thing and baled out, she kept yelling something about a parachute, of which there was the same number of working toilets in Virtual Realityville: none.

Those who weren’t stuck in Virtual Reality were lost in “real time” where they got into a big argument over who inherited Grandma’s FitBit®, a gift she’d unwrapped prior to her takeoff earlier in the day. As far as I could tell, FitBit® is a wearable computer that counts the number of steps it takes to the refrigerator and back.

The star of the day was something its box identified as I-Robot. Apparently there are two strains of I-Robot, one will spit-shine your vinyl floors while the other version vacuums your carpet. According to the instructions that came in Japanese, Chinese and Korean (but not English.) you can teach I-Robot to clean your floors any time of night or day and when it’s done it returns to its charging station to fuel up for its next adventure.

You may have heard about I-Robot because it made the national nightly news when one family that opened gifts on Christmas Eve programmed their new I-Robot to vacuum their carpet at night. Either they must have forgotten, or they drank too much egg nog, because at exactly two thirty on Christmas morning they heard strange noises like someone was breaking into their house. They assumed it was crooks because they had long ago given up on Santa Claus. So they hid in an upstairs closet and didn’t venture out until daylight. The baseball-bat-wielding couple was relieved when they tippy-toed from the closet and dared to venture downstairs where they caught the intruder red-handed, hiding in its charging station.

One of the young tech-heads, about six or so, informed us that Husqvarna® made a similar device for mowing lawns. I thought I must get me one of those until I remembered that we no longer have a lawn because the water police made us get rid of ours last year.

The big surprise came when our hosts announced they’d adopted someone called Alexa®. Initially, I thought this meant they’d hired a new illegal housekeeper. “Watch this,” our host said. “Alexa, turn on the heater.” Sure enough, the heater roared into action. “Alexa, turn on the television to ESPN.” Again, Alexa performed flawlessly.

“That’s nothing,” I proclaimed. “I’ve had something like that for 45 years. Watch this: “Diane, bring us all a beer.”

Evidently Diane’s power source was low because she yelled back, “Get it yourself!”


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