In the Future, We Still Have Roombas
"Robot" once meant "worker" or "serf"note
. In modern use, the term describes any mechanism or even a disembodied computer program capable of performing tasks autonomously with little to no human intervention. In science fiction, however, it's used for any person-like machine, even no longer serving a dedicated purpose such as in the event of a Robot Uprising
. So it can be a bit surprising when an otherwise futuristic robot's primary purpose is something mundane, like cleaning or assembling automobiles, even though that's exactly what they do in Real Life
Named for the Roomba automated vacuum cleaner, probably the closest thing in modern everyday use to the Robot Maids science fiction has been promising us for decades
This kind of robot can help to set the work on the hard end of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness
. It's likely to be found in Mundane Dogmatic
Compare and Contrast: Mecha-Mook
, Robot Buddy
, and Robot Maid
. May be centrally controlled by a Smart House
Anime and Manga
- Mobile Suit Gundam has the titular Mobile Suits being the natural progression of space colony maintenance mecha, at least one of which - the Ball - shows up.
- A small robot called Haro is the franchise mascot. Depending on the adaptation, they're also given combat abilities, but are otherwise just there to be someone's teddy bear. Some iteneration (such as Gundam AGE) have Haros with built-in PCs, meaning they're basically cute laptops with very simple built-in AIs.
- Birdy in Gundam SEED was built for its own sake. It's functionally the same as Haro was in the original series.
- Leeron uses these in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
- In Outlaw Star, the title ship is full of little canister-shaped robots that do repairs and minor labor, and which act as extensions of the ship's AI. The crew paints faces on them.
- In Mobile Police Patlabor, Labors are piloted mecha used mainly for construction work, originally necessitated by the needs of the massive Babylon Project and then found to be useful in more mundane ways. Unfortunately, this includes destructive criminal purposes, so the police had to request their own fighting version.
- Ranka nearly trips over a street-cleaning one in the pilot of Macross Frontier.
- They show up every so often in Doraemon. Doraemon himself is one - a babysitter robot, to be exact - but is also so over-engineered that he can run off and have planet-saving adventures in the movies.
- General Motor's Superbowl robot nightmare commercial.
- Spoofed in the Australian Fan Film Star Wars Downunder with the ESK-1 Esky Droid (which keeps the beer cold as well as having handy legs to carry it to you), the W.B.R Barbie Droid (a barbeque on caterpillar tracks), and the LG-0 Bouncer Bot (used to defend pubs from attacking Sith Troopers).
- The Fifth Element has the cleaning robots that instantly jump into action in Zorg's office.
- In Idiocracy, a floor cleaning robot is shown repeatedly banging into a wall announcing "Your floor is now clean!" over and over. Given the putrid condition of the floor everywhere but where the robot is, it had been at this for a long time.
- In the Iron Man movies, Tony has robotic arm things to help him out when he is inventing, in his garage/lab, one of which he calls "butter-fingers". They seem to get in the way more than help him though and at one point he threatened to donate one to a city college.
- Of course, one of those robots saves Tony's life after Stane steals his arc reactor and leaves him to die.
- Most robots from Runaway are designed for one basic, tedious function, although they're not always very good at their tasks. The main character is a policeman whose chief duty is shutting down menial robots that malfunction.
- Star Wars has several.
- The little mouse robot in the hallway of the Death Star. Perhaps also the larger one seen in Palpatine's entrance.
- The even smaller one in Revenge of the Sith.
- The Pit Droids in the podrace segment of The Phantom Menace.
- The window-replacing and -cleaning droids seen briefly in Attack of the Clones.
- Several in WALL•E. Nearly every non human-character is one of these.
- An otherwise ordinary, inexpensive 1980's vacuum cleaner (complete with a tube connecting to a wide floor brush attachment) has autonomy and makes rounds in the house where Susie is staying in Japan, in Too Much: The Robot With a Heart.
- Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge. The Robotnik (robot hotel) has a luggage robot (with tentacles to grab bags) that sings a little song to every guest who arrives. It also has bellboy robots to show guests to their rooms.
- Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" was about the collapse of a house still being run by mini robots long after humanity had died.
- The Star Wars books and comics greatly expanded on the already large amount of non-awesome, non-fighting, non-remarkable-in-any-way robots present in the series. Along with those in the films, they make a massive workforce of completely automated helpers with no fighting capacity whatsoever. Many don't even have a complex personality. Here, take a look.
Manhwa and Korean Animation
- Buck Rogers in the 25th Century has an episode where a lowly "maintenance android" malfunctions and becomes dangerous.
- The DRDs from Farscape look like yellow Roombas with a pair of eyes on stalks and a retractable tool arm. Crichton taught one to chirp the 1812 overture.
- The Skutters from Red Dwarf have arms with three claws and an eye on the end, and according to Lister they have a better union than the technicians (which would be why they weren't cleaning out the soup machines).
- In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data discovers that robots of this type, called exocomps, have actually gained sentience. He then starts to fight for their rights.
- In Traveller, the adventure Research Station Gamma has maintenance (cleaning) robots.
- In Engine Heart, the Roomba is You!!
- In Paranoia, scrubots are one of the most common types of bot.
- In Mortasheen, Succoom the living Vaccum cleaner is a Mons version of this trope.
- In one level of Perfect Dark, Joanna must follow little cleaning robots to get into secret passages that only open for them.
- In the Interactive Fiction version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, two cleaner robots on the Vogon ship make it rather more difficult than it probably should be to get a Babelfish out of the vending machine.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Adam Jensen has a roomba in his office. Earlier games have cleaning robots roaming around. Because of the odd nature the game's AI is handled in the first game, a little messing around can cause NPCs to fight the vacuum cleaner.
- One of the common uses for drones in the Mass Effect setting. The geth were originally designed for this purpose, but tinkering with their networked intelligence resulted in the geth gaining collective sentience, and things went downhill from there.
- In JauntTrooper, utility bots patrol the abandoned MegaCorp facilities, cleaning up anything they deem a mess. This can be useful as well as aggravating to the player.
- The Ratchet & Clank universe is chock-full of Ridiculously Human Robots, and there are still simple, apparently non-sentient cleaner bots and guard bots.
- Space Quest has several. And they can give you Yet Another Stupid Death.
- Much like the Perfect Dark example above, one level of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey has Zoe sneaking into a corporate headquarters by following cleaning bots through passages that open for them.
- Sluggy Freelance features the Digbots.
- The little "dingbots" in Girl Genius definitely fit. They are amusing, very mildly anthropomorphic little builder bots that can make more copies of themselves out of odd bits and parts, and cause (generally helpful, and rather cute) lab infestations. They build things rather shoddily if left to their own devices, resulting in Clone Degeneration.
- At one point, Gil and Tarvek realize that the first generation Dingbots (the ones Agatha makes herself) are profoundly different from the standard AI of the Clanks (robot soldiers and/or servants) that exist all over the Girl Genius setting. In this case, they appear to have "The Spark" (the insane genius aspect that allows for amazing inventions that may bend the very laws of physics).
- In Questionable Content, Pintsize (himself an AI) attaches a rocket drive to an actual Roomba. The Roomba flies off through the window, only to return several strips later - together with a family of little airborne kids!.
- In Freefall, there are many robots fulfilling this role, such as carnivorous waffle irons.
- Vexxarr's ship has several maintenance drones of questionable utility, given that the first time they were used they had to be persuaded not to dispose of him as a waste of resources, and of course there was that time Carl introduced a bit of rebellion into their code so they would assist in one of his mutinies
- Commander Kitty has MOUSE, the little robotic avatar of the ship's A.I.. According to the notes on this page, it seems to do little more than serve as a mobile communicator, a function that's not always desirable...
- BIONICLE features Fire Drones in Legends of Metru Nui.
- In Futurama, Bender lampshades this by complaining about small robots cleaning up the trash at a not-baseball game (after he throws some trash).
- Bender himself was designed to bend girders to precise tolerances (even if he has some other capabilities). For that matter, a lot of other robots seem to be designed for a specific purpose and appear overqualified for it.
- Helper from The Venture Bros..
- Tarantulas in Beast Wars has little arachnoid robots that fulfill any number of menial roles such as serving as flashlights, lugging equipment around, and putting Tarantulas back together when necessary.
- Dexter's Laboratory has dozens of helper robots working for Dexter. Two of them even got an A Day in the Spotlight episode.
- Johnny Test: the many varieties of robots Susan and Mary create.
- In Robotix, the title robots were piloted mecha originally used for construction and the like. After a catastrophe, the main characters end up getting their minds permanently transferred into them.