iRobot's Emotional Appeal

Last week my Foolish colleague Rick Munarriz penned an article titled "I Married iRobot" in which he described how iRobot's (Nasdaq: IRBT  ) various robots, including the Roomba and Scooba, make the ideal roommate.

Well, there may be more to this happy marriage than just the robots willingness to do the lion's share of chores around the house. According to a recently released study by Georgia Tech, people are now showing tangible signs of becoming emotionally attached to their robots. They are giving them nicknames, treating them like trusted pets, "Roomba-izing" their homes in order to make them more user-friendly for their robots, and (I'm not making this up) even introducing them to their parents.

All of this, of course, is good news for iRobot. First, if people are emotionally attached to their robot, the study suggests owners are more tolerant of the robot's faults. In other words, if the robot isn't perfectly reliable, people are still willing to stick with it. Their emotional attachment also makes it more likely that they will buy additional robots for either themselves or their friends and family members.

More interestingly, the study found that this growing emotional attachment caused men to get more excited about vacuuming. (Really, that's what the study said, according to this AP article.) The significance of this is that any device that can get men excited about vacuuming is bound to come to the attention of females, and it could be that women may become the main purchasers of robots in the future.

I suppose it's possible that some women will resent anything that vies for their man's emotional affection, but my sense is that today's woman is secure enough in herself to grant her man a robotic mistress that just cleans and mops floors. Heck, women may even be willing to introduce Roomba to their parents.

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