Vesta, just send me to Mars

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune
Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown -

So the man who’s going to send your kids to Mars first is going to send us a robot nursemaid.

Don’t we live in a wonderful world?

Details are sketchy, but news reports claim that Amazon, maker of the Alexa voice-activated computer, is working on a top-secret (well, not any longer), next-generation home robot. We don’t know yet how the robot will look or what all it can do.

It’s called Vesta, after the Roman goddess of hearth, home and family. Visions of a warm, cozy fireplace and getting fed fat grapes leap about my head.

The robot has been described as Alexa on wheels. It’s supposed to use the technology of driverless cars to follow you around the house and answer your questions via the internet.

But Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos does not dream small. His rocket company, for instance, has stated a goal of sending millions of people into space, including to Mars. You’ve got to suspect that Bezos will not be satisfied merely with some little robot that surfs the web.

We’ve had home robots before. The Atari (remember Atari?) computer-game people made a three-foot snowman-looking robot in 1983, but it couldn’t do anything but walk. Sony followed with a robot dog that could bark. The robot-dog idea croaked about a decade ago.

While shopping last Christmas in a big-box store, I stumbled upon a Roomba robot vacuum display. But the vacuums had sold out. I thought I was on to something. Now, that’s a robot that can actually do something, do some work. More than 20 million robot vacuums have been sold, they say.

You know Bezos wants to do Roomba and Alexa one better.

So here’s dreaming what some sweet day my Vesta robot nursemaid will do for me:

* I get up and Vesta brings my morning juice. I jump in the shower, and Vesta picks up my clothes from the floor, hangs them up and sets out my clothes for the day on my bed.

* Vesta heads out back to feed the dog. As I head for the backyard lounger, Vesta plays my favorite radio program.

* When Vesta sees the mail pass, it retrieves the mail and opens it en route back. It’s mowing day, so Vesta’s rotating blades underneath come in handy. Branch has fallen in the yard? Vesta picks it up and runs it out back to the brush pile.

* The handy TV in Vesta’s belly tunes in to the ball game. Salesperson pulls in the driveway? Vesta’s built-in flame thrower comes in handy. Those are my visions of my dream-girl robot. But all of the bad science-fiction movies tell us that things like this never go our way.

Now here’s probably what will happen instead:

• As soon as the alarm hits 6 a.m. Vesta blares out: “Get up, sleepyhead. What’s wrong with you, lazybones?”

• I ask for biscuits and gravy. Vesta reminds me I’m overweight and brings me prune delight for breakfast.

• I ask for jeans and T-shirt. Vesta blares out that I dress like a bum and brings dress shirt and slacks.

• As I head out back, Vesta speeds in front of the lounger, blares out that no way am I idling the day away doing nothing and fetches the push mower. You need the exercise, Vesta proclaims.

• Vesta accompanies me on a jog. When I start moving slow, a little electric shock steps up my pace.

• Vesta gets the mail, takes a look at my bills and calculates how much I overspent. I get a lecture on greed.

• Vesta will not tune in to the Panthers game because they’re such losers. I need some culturally uplifting programming. It tunes into a symphony orchestra instead.

• While I’m driving Vesta informs me that I’m speeding, following too close, didn’t switch off the turn signal and need to get out of the passing lane.

I’d just as soon have Jeff Bezos send me to Mars.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown Harris Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune