Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2003 / 10 Adar I, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Get a bang out of cleaning with cruise vacuum | Proving that U.S. military technology is good for something other than vaporizing countries we don't like, an electronics company has come out with a vacuum cleaner that resembles a cruise missile.

Upon hearing this, my first thought was undoubtedly much like yours: Why, exactly, do we need a multi-million dollar, infrared-guided household appliance that can blast through a 15-foot-thick concrete bunker in order to suck up a dust bunny?

Wouldn't such an appliance actually create more mess than it removed?

And what about "collateral damage" to other homes on my block?

Would this result in the Homeowners' Association putting yet another reprimand in my file, joining the ones already there for the dilapidated skateboard ramp and the front lawn that looks like the aftermath of an experiment with napalm and Clorox?

It turns out that the cruise vacuum cleaner is actually far less lethal than its name might imply. The thing doesn't even fly, much less explode, unless you load up the bag with dynamite and shoot it with a bazooka or something. Even more disappointing, you can't buy one yet.

Electronics company Samsung has taken out a patent that is an adaptation of the navigation system used by cruise missiles.

(If this is an example of how well the Pentagon protects its military secrets, then it won't be long before Monaco has The Bomb.)

The technology basically consists of a video camera and infrared sensor mounted on top of the vacuum cleaner. The sensor, which can "see" in the dark (and presumably also through swirling dust bunnies and dog hair), compares the image of, say, your living room with a wide-angle photo of your living room that it has in its memory. The vacuum cleaner then, without any human assistance, navigates around the pizza boxes, strewn newspapers and uncollected laundry straight into your den where it blows up your TV.

No, actually I'm making that last part up. (I think.) The vacuum cleaner presumably does actual vacuuming while you sit out by the pool swilling gin and wondering if you can modify your microwave oven to clean your bathroom.

I'm always a little nervous when civilians are given access to military technology since most of the time we just use it to kill each other more gruesomely than we did before. Peaceful applications like the cruise vacuum cleaner give us reason to believe that the trillions of dollars we've spent on national defense was not just money thrown down a rat hole but rather an investment in cleaner rugs for future generations.

Now if someone would come out with a Patriot lawn mower, we would really be on to something.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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