Dad Needs a Robot Buddy for Father's Day

Traditional gifts for Dad for Father's Day tend to be things like tools or golf clubs or really ugly ties or misshapen ashtrays but a surprising number of Dads are dreaming of a little robot friend to call their own. They're sitting out on their back porches, enjoying the summer nights, watching the fireflies, and wondering what the heck happened to the flying cars, rocketships, and trusty robots they were promised as kids. You probably can't help so much with the flying cars, as I have yet to hear of a single one. The rocketship trips are still pretty pricey and you have to wait until at least the end of the decade, although you can sign up on the Virgin Galactic website now to get updates. But the helpful robot, that you can swing right here and now.

I suppose you’re wondering what kind of robot I'm talking about. It's a multifunction robot; it can herd children, you can use it as though it were a remote control tank and fight other robots, with a little tinkering you can play music with it, you can dress it up in little costumes for Halloween or just to freak out guests, hack it into a security robot or clean your floors with it.

The official name of the robot is Roomba and it was designed as a vacuum. It cleans carpets and hard floors, and the Discovery, the version I have, goes back to its docking station and recharges when its battery runs low. I have been extremely happy with mine, only wishing I hadn't waited so long to finally get one. It's not terribly loud so I can run it without disturbing anyone and you don't have to move the furniture to use it because it is short enough to zoom under and vacuum everything up. My youngest son likes to get the remote and move the Roomba around and he volunteered to be in charge of it, emptying its dirt collector (it doesn't use vacuum bags) and cleaning its brushes when they get clogged (we have two cats.) Pre-robot it was pretty rare for anyone to volunteer to clean the floors.

If you'd prefer to make your Dad a robot it's hard to go wrong with a great papercraft robot like Red Robot #C-63. Designed by Mike Hungerford and based on a character from a webcomic, Red comes with extra expressions so your Dad can change his robot's mood to match his own. If you visit this site you can download the images and instructions to make a really snazzy Martian tripod a la War of the Worlds or a fun little version of R2D2. If you're feeling really adventurous, at the same site you can find what you need to build a flying saucer and a fearsome robot called Gort from the film The Day the Earth Stood Still.

This week our new feature, one sentence reviews, brings us this review (and possibly challenge) of The Princess Bride from Six Fingers, "Where can you see Andre the Giant together with the guy from My Dinner with Andre?" Shiny Pebble has this to say about Ninja Gaiden, an action video game, "Very good; but has a learning cliff instead of a learning curve." Have you got a one-sentence review you’d like to submit to Quality Time? Send it in to me at and I'll run the best ones. You don't have to focus on film; you can review books, music, or anything else that fits a family entertainment format.