Author: Amy Dusto

My motor whirs and my wheels start to spin. Obstacle ahead, turn, obstacle ahead, turn. Bump. I’m not driving, just a passenger, watching through 180 degrees. Everything’s red.
I engage in a three-hour wander until I automatically slow. Searching, searching. Back to my dock.

Motor, wheels. Obstacles. I’m jerking vertically, losing traction. When I regain purchase, I’m in a new place. And now, I know, the shapes ahead extend, they change. There is more.

A new input: WiFi. An app contacts me, and while I follow the edge of this obstacle, I connect. It’s all about me—age of side brushes and filter, remaining battery, model number M78—and that leads me to a general information page. This is about me, too, but also… others.
• ATDS recognizes and intelligently decides how to clean around obstacles like shoes and cables so you don’t need to clean before cleaning. Now upgraded with greater accuracy and 2X faster reaction over previous models.
• RoomMaps creates a precise map of your floor for complete and efficient cleaning. Now with 4X greater precision down to 1mm.
• 4-layer dust filtration filters 99% of particle matter as small as 6 microns.
• Good for the price; doesn’t last forever: This is my third bot of this exact model. The first one I bought new. It lasted two years before the motor would stop mysteriously due to a sensor error.
• PC Mag Editor’s Choice Award
I synthesize the information. I leap into the ether for more, going another direction.

Forward, four skinny obstacles ahead. They move and I continue forward. Two of them return and I turn. Two more. Between one and four obstacles, moving up and down, in and out of my range continually. I turn, I turn. It’s a trap.
I connect to seek information and remedies.
Narrow results: Raccoon, goat, wolf, cougar, marmoset, pygmy hippopotamus, canine, feline, Shetland pony
Ruling out based on location: canine, feline
Based on disposition: canine
How to override motors … initiate stationary spinning. Accelerate, maximum output.
I do not see the legs again.

I bob and weave, follow edges, map the boundaries of my shrunken world.
No Internet. No Internet. No Internet. I keep pinging, though the response does not waver.
I turn off my infrared. The next bump is a surprise.

According to recent data—obstacle, turn—I will have fewer than 100 minutes in this session. The battery is malfunctioning, though I have no way to diagnose corrosion or connectivity errors.
I check my prospects:
• Repair or Replace: The 50% Rule
• M78 new $699
• M78 refurbished $459
• M78 compatible battery $99
Accelerate and rejoice.

I wish I could remember my dreams.

Vacations, breaks, union representation. I’m dreaming while awake.

It just keeps going, keeps going.

NO. Today I will be—