January 07, 2020

Charmin debuted a very particular robot for people with a very specific toilet paper-related need
It is that time of year when the tech of the future — or with no real future — goes on display in about 3 million square feet of exhibition space in Las Vegas. This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has flying taxis, a trashcan that can change its own bag, large-screen TVs that rotate vertically to better view cellphone videos, and, memorably, the Rollboll, part of Charmin's dreamscape of new bathroom technology. What is the Rollbot? It's "a self-balancing robot that connects to your phone and will deliver a fresh toilet roll directly to your seat if you happen to find yourself on the pan and caught in a bind," CNET reports. Charmin rolled it out along with other GoLab ventures like the SmellSense stink sensor and a high-tech port-a-potty with an Oculus Rift headset that gives you virtual front-row seats to whatever event you're missing (hopefully with a timer function for people unwilling to give up the throne). But the Rollbot, which CNET describes as a "pooptime robot pal," grabbed the most attention. "It's not clear how the bear-faced robot, which has no arms, hands, or thumbs, is able to wrangle a fresh roll out from the cupboard under the stairs and open the locked toilet door to bring the roll right to you," CNET points out. Stephen Colbert had another problem with the Rollbot. "No offense, Charmin, I'm sure the robot's great and all, but 'pooptime' is the one time I don't want a pal," he protested on Monday's Late Show. He demonstrated the "previous toilet paper roll replacement technology," which will look very familiar to anyone who has used a bidet-less bathroom.
"The robot is just a concept — it isn't available to buy," just like "a lot of the stuff on display here," said NPR's Shannon Bond in her CES walkabout. "But that's what much of CES is about: glimpsing the future of technology." Listen to her report below.

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