Roomba Fans Fall Hard for Robot Vacuums

Roomba Primary

People name, dress and feed their Roombas. MyRoomBud.com hide caption

itoggle caption MyRoomBud.com

People are growing attached to their Roombas, giving the robotic vacuums names and dressing them in funny clothes.

Tyler and Niles Smith, from Acton, Mass., have started a company called My Room Bud — designing costumes for Roombas. "Our originals were cows — and leopards and tigers and zebras," says Tyler, just before heading out for school. "Since we've added a French maid, that actually sells a lot, too."

Niles, Tyler's younger brother, adds, "We're thinking about creating a Halloween special, which might be a pumpkin."

The boys explain that they got the idea to sell Roomba costumes as a way to make pocket money for Christmas shopping two years ago, when their mom wanted a pair of cowboy boots. The plan worked better than they'd expected. "So now we have the My Room Bud business." Tyler says.

Why would a reasonable adult want to dress up a Roomba? Tyler harks back to the day another Smith sibling first encountered the iRobot gizmo. "He saw it going around the floor, and it looked like an animal," Tyler says. "The costumes turn it into an animal even more. So I think that's what attracts grownups as well." This time of year, the company might sell five "Room Buds" a day. The pair hope to reach the 1,000 mark by year's end.

And researchers at Georgia Tech scoured the Internet for "Roomba-attached individuals" who've become emotionally involved with the roving little robots. Ja Young Sung, a member of the research team, dives into the world of emotional design. Why do people fall in love with a vacuum robot? Gratitude for a cleaner house tops the list. "People tend to react anthropomorphically to the unit," she says. "They thank, they praise Roomba, and they even reprimand Roomba if it doesn't behave."

On our blog, owner Andy Carvin tracks the arc of his Roomba romance.

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