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In the Future, We Still Have Roombas

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Either a Do-Anything Robot is harder for Zorg to design than a Swiss-Army Gun, or he just loves the sight of a Million Mook March.

"And what a surprise! Look who's scraping up the filth! Is it a human child? I wish!"

"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 when they no longer serve 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 in hard science fiction. It's likely to be found in Mundane Dogmatic stories.

Compare and Contrast: Mecha-Mook, Robot Buddy, and Robot Maid. May be centrally controlled by a Smart House. See also Single-Task Robot.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam:
    • The titular Mobile Suits are 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 iterations (such as Mobile Suit Gundam AGE) have Haros with built-in PCs, meaning they're basically cute laptops with very simple built-in A.I.s.
  • Birdy in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED was built for its own sake. It's functionally the same as Haro was in the original series.
    • Haros themselves show up in SEED as well.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Leeron uses a number of small, quadrupedal robots to scan things.
  • 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 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.
  • A Certain Magical Index has the trash-can shaped maintenance robots that are everywhere around Academy City. They are usually seen cleaning up trash, fixing minor mechanical problems, or getting humorously interfered with by Misaka.

  • General Motor's Superbowl robot nightmare commercial.

    Comic Books 
  • The Peebos in Gold Digger.
    • Arguably a subversion, as the primary function of any Peebo is a self-propelled bomb, even the ones she really didn't create with the express purpose of blowing up. As her Peebos got smarter and/or more specialized, she developed a system that flash/downloaded their A.I.s back to her computer right before they exploded.
      • Played straight with the computer storage Peebo Peecee, however, who demanded that his bomb be removed as soon as he was told about it.
  • Mr Terrific has his T-spheres although they overlap sometimes with Attack Drone or Surveillance Drone.
  • Robyn "Toy Box" Slinger uses these in Top 10 to fight crime.
  • Reed Richards uses little flying robots called "HERBIEs" as his assistants and gofers. These are a Canon Immigrant from the 1970's F.F. cartoon series.

    Fan Works 
  • 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).

    Films — Animated 
  • WALL•E: In this future, all of mankind has become infantilized (even becoming overweight blobs) and living a life of endless leisure with the robots performing all of the manufacturing, maintenance, and clean-up duties.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
      Tony: Good boy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Passengers (2016): The ship is equiped with numerous roomba-bots to clean up after the passengers. Jim even intentionally drops stuff on the floor to get their attention, being so deprived of any sort of interaction as the only person who's awake. The fact that an increasing number of these bots randomly go haywire over time is a sign that the ship's systems are slowly failing.

  • 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 Expanded Universe and Legends books and comics greatly expand on the already large number 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.
  • In Voidskipper people make use of a wide variety of simple non-intelligent robots to perform menial labor and industrial tasks that people find stressful, repetitive and boring. These robots are often called "drones".
  • In The Emperor's Finest we discover that in the grim darkness of the far future, Space Marines use recon roombas. They're called CATs, and Techpriests often build them as a form of meditation, to the point you can't walk through some temples without tripping over a free-roaming CAT or two. And the Techpriests are very insistent that they don't treat them as mechanical pets.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Probe's "Untouched by Human Hands": The robots shown in this episode are called "mouse", and they often patrol parts of Serendip Corporation. They can also be reprogrammed for specific tasks, although the tasks must be relatively simple in nature. There's a programming flaw, however; they will endlessly repeat whatever they've been programmed to do.
  • 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.

    Manhwa and Korean Animation 

    Other Sites 

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • DC Heroes. A Clyde is a light-duty robot that is controlled by the equivalent of a home computer. It has automatic systems installed that allow it to act as an average housekeeper (sweeping, dusting, etc.). It has a voice synthesizer with the vocabulary of a twelve year old and the speaking ability of a six year old.
  • TSR's Top Secret espionage RPG, Dragon magazine #48 adventure "Dr. Yes: The Floating Island Mission". The enemy facility has small robots called "Bernies" that can act as vacuum cleaners (and trash compactors, because they compress the trash they pick up), They also mop and wax the floor as they pass over it. When one encounters a trail of debris (dirt, water, blood, etc.) it will follow it to its source, cleaning as it goes.
  • Gamma World 1st Edition (1978). The General Household Robotoid is designed to clean homes. It has cleaning tools such as cleaners, polishers, disinfectants and vacuums.
  • Dark Conspiracy, DarkTek sourcebook. The Maid4U robot has a humanoid upper body with 4 arms. It can use a vacuum cleaner, dust, clean windows and floors and mix drinks. However, its attempts at cooking and answering phones result in legendary disasters.

    Video Games 
  • In one level of Perfect Dark, Joanna must follow little cleaning robots to get into secret passages that only open for them.
  • A Hat in Time: Hat Kid’s spaceship has "Rumbi", a small purple roomba. According to his description in the manual (written by Hat Kid herself):
    My trusty robot vaccuum! He's very responsible and cleans my spaceship! + is my unwilling transport service.
  • In the Interactive Fiction version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984), 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.
  • Kara of Detroit: Become Human is a housekeeping android, and one of the duties assigned to her in her first chapter is to vacuum the living room. Accomplishing this amounts to activating her owner's Roomba-esque hovering vacuum and letting it run its course.
  • Roombo: First Blood is a black comedy PC game best described as "Home Alone, but Kevin is a bloodthirsty sentient Roomba." Given the task of defending your family's hi-tech home against a number of burglars, you achieve this by largely luring them into traps made by hacking household appliances, sucking up and wielding the occasional kitchen knife, and launching charge attacks once the Roomba has powered up enough on the burglars' blood. Having successfully defended your home and sprayed blood everywhere in the process, you then earn extra points by cleaning up as much as possible in one minute, while cheery music plays in the background and the Roomba zooms around with a ^_^ face on its display.
  • Warframe, of all things, gets in on this with the 'Domestik Drone', a Corpus Robot that can be found roving about the Corpus Gas city, cleaning up filth. You can buy one for your ship, if you want to.
  • Destiny 2: Some surviving Golden Age facilities have roomba-like cleaning robots roaming the halls, such as the Titan arcology or the Deep Stone Crypt on Europa. The ones in the Deep Stone Crypt are not only large enough to ride, they’re propelled by thrusters for some reason.

  • 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...

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
    • The Moon Farmer has three beautiful robot daughters. One, The Crushinator, is basically just a truck on treads with, at most, vaguely feminine features. Apparently this makes her exceedingly beautiful by robot standards, and she once hooked up with Bender.
    • Amy has a sentient alarm clock robot. She also once hooked up with Bender.
    • Vending machines are also fully sentient robots. Again, one hooked up with Bender. And they had a child.
    • And Scruffy the Janitor has a sentient, non-anthropomorphic mop bucket. It doesn't mop the floors itself; it appears to just let the mopper know that it is full. And it has a crush on Scruffy.
    • And of course, when all the robots rebel and putting an end to the rebellion involves Fry having to get Mom's bra from a ceiling fan. Roll with it. Even the fan is a fully sentient robot, with the ability to speak, think, and with far more movement capabilities than a fan would ever need.
      Fan: Ah ha-ha! Fan beats man!
      Fry: Urrrgh!!! Is anything not a robot?!
      Lamp: I'm not a robot.
  • H.E.L.P.eR. 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.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): In The Future We Will Still Have Roombas


Zorg's cleaning robots

The cleaning robots that instantly jump into action in Zorg's office.

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