Dyson Intelligent Vacuum Cleaner Is Self-Diagnosing

James Dyson has added a new feature to his vacuum cleaners - they can tell service personnel exactly what the problem is. All you need to do is "phone home" - that is, call the service center.

(You think you've got problems? Here's mine...)

Once you've dialed the phone for it, the machine transmits a binary message to service center engineers, telling them what is wrong and what parts to order. And what's more - this is my favorite - it even states its own serial number. I hate getting down on my hands and knees and examining every square inch of an appliance (are you listening, computer makers?) in order to find the serial number. The helpful appliance even talks about when it was purchased and how long it has been in use. This little household gem is already in use in Japan, and will be available in the UK soon.

One can only hope that this leap into the future will be accomplished without any of the problems that computers and machines have had in science fiction with self-diagnosis. In the following example, the Hal-9000 computer from Arthur C. Clarke's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey makes a very simple diagnosis regarding an anticipated communications failure:

"Sorry to interrupt the festivities," said Hal, "but we have a problem."
"What is it?" Bowman and Poole asked simultaneously.
"I am having difficulty in maintaining contact with Earth. The trouble is in the AE-35 unit. My Fault Prediction Center reports that it may fail within seventy-two hours."
"We'll take care of it," Bowman replied. "Let's see the optical alignment."
"Here it is, Dave. It's still O.K. at the moment..."
"Do you know where the trouble is?" asked Bowman.
"It's intermittent and I can't localize it. But it appears to be in the AE-35 unit."
"What procedure do you suggest?"
"The best thing would be to replace the unit with a spare, so that we can check it over..."
Bowman studied the diagrams for a moment, then whistled.
"You might have told us," he said. "This means going outside the ship."
"I'm sorry," Hal replied. "I assumed you knew that the AE-35 unit was on the antenna mounting."
"I probably did, a year ago. But there are eight thousand subsystems aboard. Anyway, it looks a straightforward job. We only have to unlock a panel and put in a new unit."

Yes, just another straightforward repair job. And we all know how that one turned out. Just hope that you don't wind up talking about your vacuum cleaner like Bowman and Poole did about Hal.

(What do you mean ... you think it's losing it's suction?)

Can you think of any other instances of self-diagnosing robots? Please leave me a comment so I can add it to the article. Also, read the original article at (roughly 98% worksafe) It's Dyson the windbag.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/24/2005)

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