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"Robot" once meant "slave". Nowadays it's used for any person-like machine; apparently the Robot Uprising already happened in fictionland. So it can be a bit surprising when an otherwise futuristic robot's primary purpose is something mundane, like cleaning or assembling automobiles, even though that's exactly what they do in Real Life. (In case it wasn't clear, the Roomba is a small robotic vacuum cleaner.)

This kind of robot can help to set the work on the hard end of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness. It's likely to be found in Mundane Dogmatic stories.

Compare and Contrast Mecha Mook, Robot Buddy, and Robot Maid.

Examples of In the Future We Still Have Roombas include:


  • General Motor's Superbowl robot nightmare commercial.

Anime and Manga

  • Gundam Seed:
    • Birdy.
    • A small robot called Haro has appeared in multiple series.
  • Leeron uses these in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
  • In Outlaw Star, the title ship is full of little canister-shaped robots that do repairs and minor labor, and which act as extensions of the ship's AI. The crew paints faces on them.
  • In Mobile Police Patlabor, Labors are piloted mecha used mainly for construction work. Because they can also be used for destructive criminal purposes, the police had to develop their own fighting version.

Comic Books


  • Star Wars has several:
    • The little mouse robot in the hallway of the Death Star. Perhaps also the larger one seen in Palpatine's entrance.
    • The even smaller one in Revenge of the Sith.
    • The Pit Droids in the podrace segment of The Phantom Menace
  • The Fifth Element has the cleaning robots that instantly jump into action in Zorg's office.
  • Several in WALL-E. Nearly every non human character is one of these.
  • In Idiocracy, a floor cleaning robot is shown repeatedly banging into a wall announcing "Your floor is now clean!" over and over. Given the putrid condition of the floor everywhere but where the robot is, it had been at this for a long time.
  • In the Iron Man movies, Tony has robotic arm things to help him out when he is inventing, in his garage/lab, one of which he calls "butter-fingers". They seem to get in the way more than help him though and at one point he threatened to donate one to a city college.
  • Batteries Not Included has self-replicating Mechanical Lifeforms.
  • Most robots from Runaway are designed for one basic, tedious function, although they're not always very good at their tasks. The main character is a policeman whose chief duty is shutting down menial robots that malfunction.


  • Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge. The Robotnik (robot hotel) has a luggage robot (with tentacles to grab bags) that sings a little song to every guest who arrives. It also has bellboy robots to show guests to their rooms.
  • Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" was about the collapse of a house still being run by mini robots long after humanity had died.

Live-Action TV

Manhwa and Korean Animation

Tabletop Games

  • In Traveller, the adventure "Research Station Gamma" has maintenance (cleaning) robots.
  • In Engine Heart, the Roomba is You!!
  • In Paranoia, scrubots are one of the most common types of bot.
  • In Mortasheen, Succoom the living Vaccum cleaner is a Mons version of this trope.

Video Games

  • In one level of Perfect Dark, Joanna must follow little cleaning robots to get into secret passages that only open for them.
  • Much like Perfect Dark example above, one level of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey has Zoe sneaking into a corporate headquarters by following cleaning bots through passages that open for them.
  • In the Interactive Fiction version of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, two cleaner robots on the Vogon ship make it rather more difficult than it probably should be to get a Babelfish out of the vending machine.

Web Comics


Hannelore: I think the Roomba people are wondering about that, too.

  • In Freefall, next to robots like humanoid universal servants and autonomous VTOL earthmovers capable of working in space, there are many robots fulfilling this role, such as carnivorous waffle irons and, yes, roombas. Hardware-wise those seem to be little different from the early varieties except support for integrated AI, audio interface and network. But since interstellar shipping isn't cheap and easy enough to haul parts for unimportant appliances, and all AI manufactured on Jean are sapient, things got a little weird.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Adam Jensen has a roomba in his office, earlier games have cleaning robots roaming around.

Western Animation

  • Bionicle features Fire Drones in Legends of Metru Nui.
  • In Futurama, Bender lampshades this by complaining about small robots cleaning up the trash at a not-baseball game (after he throws some trash).
    • Bender himself was designed to bend girders to precise tolerances (even if he has some other capabilities). For that matter, a lot of other robots seem to be designed for a specific purpose and appear overqualified for it.
  • Helper from The Venture Brothers.
  • Tarantulas in Beast Wars has little arachnoid robots that fulfill any number of menial roles such as serving as flashlights, lugging equipment around, and putting Tarantulas back together when necessary.
  • Dexters Laboratory has dozens of helper robots working for Dexter. Two of them even got an A Day in The Spotlight episode.
  • Johnny Test: the many varieties of robots Susan and Mary create.
  • In Robotix, the title robots were piloted mecha originally used for construction and the like. After a catastrophe, the main characters end up getting their minds permanently transferred into them.

Real Life