MASA Presence: Roomba attempts great escape from budget hotel

[Normally I’d post this to the ISPR Presence Community on Facebook, but it’s a particularly vivid example of medium-as-social-actor presence. Note the anthropomorphic language in the Digital Trends report on a routine malfunction of a Roomba vacuum cleaner. Other coverage is similar, including in PennLive where the story begins this way: “A robot vacuum cleaner made a jailbreak and escaped from a British hotel the other day. Evidently fed up with its life of forced servitude, the vacuum broke out of the hotel…” The review of available models at the link at the end of the story below defines “robot vacs” as “sentient, disc-shaped floor-dwellers that you can program to sweep through the most common areas of your home, removing dirt, dust, pet food, and all other types of debris.” –Matthew]

[Image: The robot vacuum had enough of cleaning the lobby and made its bid for freedom from the hotel, which is next to the A14. Source: Picture and caption from BBC News]

Roomba attempts great escape from budget hotel

By Trevor Mogg
January 24, 2022

Apparently tired of cleaning up after messy hotel guests, a Roomba recently made a dash for it and trundled to freedom.

The great escape took place several days ago at a Travelodge budget hotel in Cambridge, England.

According to a now-deleted Reddit message posted by the hotel’s assistant manager, the robovac failed to sense — or simply ignored — the hotel entrance and just kept going.

The assistant manager wrote in his post that one of his Roombas had suddenly fled, adding: “They normally sense the lip at the entrance and turn around but this one decided to make a run for it.”

The poster said it was a full 15 minutes before anyone noticed the machine’s absence — more than enough time for it to make good its escape.

“If you happen to see it, there is a drink at the bar for you upon its return,” the assistant manager said, adding: “They aren’t compatible with any other charger or docking station so are useless once drained. I’m thinking someone probably took it by this point but here is hoping. I miss my lil buddy.”

Reddit commenters were quick to respond. One joked that the Roomba should be OK as it has “no natural predators,” while another raised concerns of a possible A.I. uprising, saying, “Probably shacked up with a robot-lawnmower by now. Within weeks, we’ll hear the pitter-patter of tiny robot feet. We’re doomed.”

But a day after the Roomba’s disappearance, news came that a member of staff had found the machine under a hedge. It’s not clear if it was hiding or simply drained of battery power (or clogged up with leaves?).

The BBC said the captured Roomba had been dusted off and was now “back sitting happily on a shelf with the rest of its robot vacuum family.”

Whether it’ll try to make another break for freedom remains to be seen.

If this somewhat odd tale has put you in mind of getting your first robovac or replacing your current model, then Digital Trends has you covered.

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