“Ras!” cried the Chief Designer as I passed by his office on my way to the conference room. “Come in here. I need to talk to you before we all meet in the conference room.”
I did as told.
“Ras, we’ve discussed this before. I want you to get along with Alice. She does a good job and I don’t want to lose her.”
I thought a nanosecond. “Maybe you should implant a micro tracking-chip in her neck. It works for dogs and cats.”
The Chief Designer grimaced. “I don’t have time to explain why that would be a very bad idea. Just get along with the woman!”
“Of course, Chief Designer. But there is something about her treatment that brings out the human in me--no disrespect to you, Sir. But wouldn’t it be easier to tell her not to call me by names I don’t recognize and give me completely illogical orders?”
The Chief Designer sighed and shook his head. “Sadly Ras, programming a robot is much easier than changing a human. Now go do as I said.”
I got my first chance to do as he said while leaving his office. Alice limped by me with a disagreeable look on her face and no shoes on her feet. To show that I cared, I said “Alice, you have forgotten your shoes.”
To show she despises me, she answered “Don’t you think I know that, you metal moron? I forgot to bring my comfortable shoes this morning.”
Again I try to show my compassion. “Oh Alice, I feel so bad for you!”
It didn’t work. She glared at me. “Nothing is worse than a sarcastic tin bin!”
As we continued on down the hall I tried to explain to Alice that sarcasm is one of those concepts difficult for robots to understand, even robots as enlightened as myself, the first post-Singularity being. I don’t think she believed me.
In the conference room the humans and my fellow robots watched a short video about the new telepresence ball-bot from Bossa Nova Robotics, mOBI. Tall, slender and white, it looks like a big cigarette balancing on a ball.
Like my beautiful friend BOTIFUL and its base for a smartphone, it has a dock on top to hold a tablet for screen to face conversations and other interactions. Unlike BOTIFUL who has three lovely little wheels and runs very close to the floor, mOBI stands as high as a small human and glides effortlessly on a ball.
“Wow!” said Alice, “On a ball. That’s a tough act!”
I tried to be helpful. “Not really, Alice; not for a robot with gyro and accelerometer sensors. Our own LEGO NXT can do it. Watch!”
LEGO NXT got on the conference table, morphed into his ball-bot platform and wobbled around the table. Alice hardly looked at him; she gave me a mean look. What? What have I done now?
LEGO NXT powered off and promptly fell on his side. “There,” said the Chief Designer, “that illustrates the really important advance with mOBI: the LEGO NXT ball-bot falls when powered off like a kid who quit peddling a bike.” He ran the Bossa Nova video back. “Look, when the mOBI ball-bot powers off, these kickstand-like tendrils pop out and keep it upright and stable; otherwise the expensive tablet on the dock would fall and break every time it was turned off!”
Jake from parts laughed: “Finally we’re catching up with the Jetsons!” Unlike me with the permanent uplink to the internet, he is the only one in the room old enough to remember the original television series.
“Yes,” I said, still trying to get on Alice’s good side, “Alice, if you rode mOBI you would look just like the Jetsons’ ball-bot maid, Rosie the Robot.”
Ras with the new mObi robot
Everyone in the room laughed--except Alice. I guess that wasn’t the right thing to say; I remembered something The Chief said about human females not making coffee anymore.
“Ras,” The Chief said, “I want you to get right to work and draw up some apps for mOBI.” I think he was trying to change the subject before Alice blew up.
I took his idea as a chance to redeem myself. “Of course, Chief. My first app will provide mOBI with the ability to follow Alice around with her comfortable shoes.”
Uh oh! More laughter. And this time The Chief isn’t laughing either!