Letter from America.
My eldest child was the lucky recipient of the temporary loan of an ingenious device. It arrived on Tuesday, December 18, 2012, and will not have to be returned until after the New Year. Much like one of those automatic, free-roaming floor vacuum cleaners/wet mops, the gizmo she has use of follows my daughter’s 14-month-old toddler all over the family’s playroom, picks up everything the little mite drops, then puts each item in its proper place. Now, you are probably wondering what this gadget is, so I'll tell you. It's called the RoboGranny. You can find these electronic marvels in a variety of sizes and colors, well padded, sleekly streamlined, or somewhere in between. Each RoboGranny features either retro or contemporary accessories, but all units are guaranteed to remain in the "on" mode until a new battery (or a generous infusion of pomegranate margaritas) is required, a condition easily detected by the user when the unit starts to sputter and whine.
RoboGranny not only picks up toys but also does laundry and cooks, reads bedtime stories to older children, bathes and shampoos kids, combs long wet hair without provoking outrage, dries and styles that hair, then tracks down the perfect hair bow to complement any outfit. RoboGranny also provides wholesome snacks to children of all ages, and stays up late to care for those well-fed (and, with luck, sleeping) tykes while their parents go out for dinner or to a movie. Some RoboGrannies are more domestic than others, but nearly every one of them has a specialty, which it is eager to pass on to the children in its care. The RoboGranny unit my daughter has at her house has made it quite clear that it wants the younger child to add ten words to her vocal repertoire and to address her RoboGranny by name by the time the unit is returned to the factory for program tweaking and improvements (something human grandmothers call “rest and rehabilitation” between visits with their grandchildren).
Among other things, the almost-perfect RoboGranny – after all, no unit is yet perfected – passes on lessons in arts and crafts, riddles, silly songs, rhyming games, helps with homework, gives advice, cuddles, makes funny faces and hilarious noises, is almost never seriously cross, and doles out punishments sparingly.
If the RoboGranny units prove to be anything like the real deal, many will last quite a long time. This means that the ideal RoboGranny will possess the one quality that all who are fortunate enough to possess one – whether those so lucky are aged six or thirty-six – find the most endearing: RoboGrannies LISTEN! This is a particularly important characteristic, as each RoboGranny comes with a disclaimer: “Your RoboGranny’s memory chip will have to be updated periodically to remind the unit that things in your household might not be exactly the same as things were in the household your RoboGranny kept when the unit was a mere RoboMommy.” The process for updating the unit’s memory chip varies with each user but, because RoboGranny’s prime directive is to long for invitations to visit your home often and to stay for lengthy periods of time, most users will discover the process easy to discern and master.
I’ll let you know when the RoboGranny my daughter enjoyed in the latter part of 2012 is ready for wider utilization. So far, that RoboGranny has only two grandchildren to love, but it is programmed to welcome many more.
By Cara Sheridan O’Donnell
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