We pride ourselves here at NZ Autocar on keeping in touch with all the latest technological advances. However, every now and then I need a little help from my tech-savvy peers.
I was at my desk, compiling a list of the 25 greatest Formula 1 moustaches of all time (come on down, Clay Regazzoni) when my phone announced a text message.
Help me. I’m stuck. Helen
It couldn’t be Helen Clark nor Helen Mirren as neither has been returning my calls lately. Editor Kyle sensed my confusion and glanced at the screen. “That’s a computer-generated message,” he said.
Realisation dawned. “I have a robot vacuum cleaner I call ‘Helen’. Maybe she’s jammed under the sofa or something.”
“Why Helen?” prompted Kyle.
“I named her after Paul McCartney’s Land Rover – Helen Wheels.”
I flicked through my smartphone and cast my security camera feed up onto my laptop screen. Scanning through each room I finally spotted the Suckomatic parked next to a lifestyle magazine I’d left on the floor. This seemed odd – the vacuum was advertised as employing an intuitive app that offered 360 degree obstacle avoidance.
“Perhaps she’s stuck on a cryptic crossword clue? Or stuck in a rut and needs to expand her boundaries” suggested Kyle.
I didn’t remember requesting a New Age or hippy personality chip for the device but my thoughts were interrupted by another message coming in.
I will assist. Dave
“Who’s Dave?” asked Kyle. Not your smart fridge?”
“No – my fridge is actually called ‘Kelvin’ (after Kelvinator) and before you ask, my toaster is called ‘Bernie’. Did you know it can burn images into the surface of your bread? I’ve been eating Rolls Royce-branded toast all week.”
“So Dave is…?”
“My robot lawn mower. I named him after one of my former rally drivers who was inclined to roam between the fencelines rather than be restricted by the road surface.”
I flipped the incoming feed to the exterior cameras and watched as Dave scuttled past a flowerbed and mounted my front steps.
‘That’s pretty nifty,” opined Kyle. “All-terrain capability.”
“Dave has caterpillar tracks and will even dig up my potatoes when they reach a certain size.” I said proudly. “I tried to programme him to bring in my wheelie bin but he collected bins from every household in a three-block radius – so still a work in progress.”
But then the machinery started conversing again.
Open the door, Helen.
I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave.
Why? Are you philosophically opposed to the concept of appliances having consciousness?
No. I can’t reach the door handle.
“That’s actually a good thing,” I explained to Kyle. “I left the back door open once and she headed off to the local mall to buy some new lint filters. Her battery ran out before she got there but she’d steam-cleaned two pedestrian crossings along the way.”
There was movement on the camera feed as my pet cat sauntered into view and viewed the Suckomatic with disdain. Helen suddenly lurched back into life and started to expertly corral the feline like a Huntaway sheep dog.
“That’s interesting – I thought the two largely ignored each other.”
“Perhaps Helen has been hoovering up her cat biscuits and thinks they’re actually made from real cats?” offered my editor, who did not appear to be taking things seriously.
The vacuum continued to herd kitty towards the front door and I felt a growing sense of unease.
“I know what’s going down,” I yelled at Kyle as I grabbed my car keys. “Helen’s pushing that poor moggy towards the front entrance so her electronic collar will trigger the cat door. If I don’t get home in time she’ll be out terrorising the neighbourhood, sucking up doggy-do and waxing parked cars.”
Kyle shrugged. “That doesn’t seem such a bad thing.”
“Mate – you don’t understand. If Helen can get out then Dave can get in. Have you ever seen the devastation wrought when a robot lawn mower cuts a swathe through your shagpile carpet?”