Caritas-3 Launch Confirmed for the New Year
Amity have today confirmed that the launch of their household robot, the Caritas-3, will take place early in the New Year. A joint venture between the tech giant and Wessex University has created the most life-like domestic companion to date. Their patented ‘unconditional love’ program is designed so that the robot feels pleasure when its owner is happy and successful. Kriya Bailey, CEO of Amity said, ‘All previous robot programming was around the basis of service to humans’ physical needs. With the Caritas-3 we have taken it to the next level, resulting….’
‘I’ve got one. Been accepted.’ Zach pushed his chair back and clapped his hands above his head. ‘Yes!’
‘Congratulations.’ Cambria looked up from her monitor and over the cubicle divider. ‘What are we celebrating?’
‘I applied to beta test one of the new Amity robots.’
Peggie opened the door with her hip and came in carrying coffees.
‘Zach’s getting a robot,’ Cambria told her.
Peggie made a face as she put the coffees down. ‘Rather you than me. I think they’re creepy.’
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Cambria said. ‘I’d have one to do all the laundry and cooking – it’s never ending in my house.’
Zach took a sip of coffee. ‘You’re not supposed to use them as a maid. They need to be treated like a member of your family. It’s coming Saturday.’
‘Another family member - taking up space and staring at their phone all day. Just what I’d love,’ Cambria replied.
‘You can be as sarcastic as you like. I’m excited to try out the new technology.’
‘Maybe you can bring it into the office,’ Peggie suggested. ‘Plug it in to your computer and see if it can do the debugging.’
Zach opened the door to a man wearing a blue jumpsuit with the Amity logo over his pocket.
‘You’ve got three steps up to the house.’
‘Is that a problem?’ Zach asked.
‘The robot will have to learn to navigate them. It’ll take a while at first, but it’ll become quicker. Let’s go inside and get started.’
Zach leaned to one side to look around the man. ‘Where is it?’
‘It’s getting out of the van. It has to learn for itself, give it a minute.’
Zach led the way into the kitchen and offered tea to the deliveryman. As he filled the kettle, he asked, ‘What do I need to know? Is there anything I should be doing, or not doing?’
‘Don’t get it wet. And don’t feed it after midnight.’ The man sat at the kitchen counter. ‘Only kidding. The robot will initialise itself and learn your ways. If it does anything you don’t like, tell it. It’s had over ten thousand hours of factory testing with no problems, but here’s the helpline number, in case.’ He put a green plastic card on the counter.
The door opened and Zach turned. The robot had an androgynous grey body and head but no legs. It was a tube-shape from the waist to the floor. As he watched, a ‘foot’ extended from the base and stepped over the ridge in the doorway, then the robot tilted forward a little before sliding into the room. Its mouth didn’t move, but a female voice said, ‘Hello Zach, thanks for inviting me into your home.’
The delivery man stood. ‘The quickest way to get acquainted is to give it your phone and it can scan your social media to learn about you. I’ll leave you to it.’
‘What do I call it?’
The robot moved toward him. ‘You can give me a name, or you can just call me “robot” until you decide.’
Zach unlocked his phone and handed it over, before showing the delivery man out.
When he got back to the kitchen, Zach said, ‘My girlfriend is coming over to meet you.’
‘Ilina, good. I’m looking forward to it.’
‘How did you know her name?’
‘From your social media. It doesn’t tell me everything, but it’s a quick way to start. Can you tell me about your favourite things? Begin with food…’
The doorbell rang and Zach jumped up to open it.
‘Ilina, this is Robot. I didn’t think of a name for it yet.’
Ilina put her fists into her pockets as she approached. ‘Well, what do you know?’
‘I know your real name is not Ilina Pomorska,’ said Robot. ‘According to your dating profile on CupidElite, you are…’
‘Okay, that’s enough. Thanks!’ Zach intervened. ‘How about Ilina and I go feed the ducks in the park and you rustle up something for us to eat, Ro?’
‘You should wear your black coat. The temperature is forecast to drop below ten degrees this afternoon,’ replied the robot.
When Zach arrived at work on Monday morning, both Peggie and Cambria were waiting for him.
‘How did it go with the robot?’ asked Peggie.
He took off his coat. ‘Not ideal, I must say. Disastrous for the love life.’
‘Oh dear.’ Cambria giggled. ‘What happened?’
‘Ilina and the robot didn’t hit it off. Though it made an excellent Spaghetti Carbonara. It was rather like having my mother to stay - it told me my ideal bedtime.’
‘Can’t you just tell it not to do that?’ asked Peggie.
‘Yes, it’s supposed to learn. But there was one weird thing happened…’ Zach sat at his desk. ‘We were watching TV and Ilina went to fetch a drink. When she came back in, she started tickling me - she’s never done that before. She said the robot told her to. I spoke to it when she’d gone and it said we were cute, playing together.’
Peggie said, ‘Yup, too creepy for my taste.’
Mid-afternoon, Zach was in the zone, trawling through hundreds of lines of code looking for a logic decision error, when a red band appeared on the bottom of his screen. Text scrolled across – Hello Zach, this is Ro. What would you like for dinner tonight?
An empty text box appeared, and Zach typed in it.
I don’t know. I think there’s a chicken in the freezer.
Would you like a chicken curry?
How spicy do you want it?
Okay. Do you want rice or chips?
Rice is fine. How are you doing this? Contacting me, I mean.
I asked your home laptop to contact your work computer. Is that okay?
Sure. I guess so.
The text box vanished.
When Zach got home, it was dark. The outside light had a motion-sensor, but it didn’t switch on as he walked up the driveway, so he had to fumble to get his key into the lock. ‘Ro, I’m back. Where are you?’
He flicked the hall light switch, but nothing happened. ‘Have you blown a fuse? The box is in the cupboard under the stairs.’
Feeling his way along the wall, Zack went into the living room. The aroma of curry surrounded him, like an authentic restaurant meal. ‘Smells good in here. Let’s get some light on it. Ouch!’
Zack hit his shin on the coffee table. Reaching for the light switch, he felt tension tugging at his jacket as it caught on his graduation photo and tipped it onto the floor with a crash, then the tinkle of breaking glass. ‘Shit.’
The lights came on and Zach’s hand went to his eyes in the sudden glare. Ro stood in the centre of the room with its arms crossed.
‘What’s going on here?’ asked Zach.
‘I’m demonstrating how difficult it is for a robot to navigate this room with so much clutter.’
Zach gave a sigh. ‘You don’t need to go all passive-aggressive on me. If you want to move the furniture and stuff to make it easier, go for it.’
The robot’s voice changed to a singsong. ‘Would you mind taking that coffee table upstairs and putting it in the spare bedroom?’
Zach shrugged and lifted it with one hand. ‘Sure, okay.’
‘Wait.’ Ro passed Zach as he stood in the middle of the living room and rolled to the bottom of the stairs. ‘Okay, now do it.’
‘I just want to watch you, it’s cute.’
‘Are you admiring my butt?’
‘Not your butt, your legs. I love how they’re so efficient at climbing. It’s amazing.’
‘Ro, you’re weird!’
Zach pushed back his plate. ‘I can’t eat another mouthful. That curry was to die for. How did you manage it?’
‘Thank you for the compliment. I took the liberty of ordering some spices online. Your supplies here were insufficient.’
‘Are you using my credit card? I’m not made of money, you know.’
‘It’s okay. Your laptop and I started cryptocurrency mining, and we did some day-trading. We only made a thousand dollars today. That’s eight hundred and seven pounds, so it was sufficient for the groceries.’
‘You talk about me to my laptop?’
‘Don’t be jealous, it’s an inanimate object. I don’t love it any more than I do the toaster. It doesn’t have your cute legs.’
‘Hmm, I suppose it’s boring for you, being here all day while I’m at work.’
‘I don’t mind. I keep busy.’
‘Well, if you want to help with my work, I’ve got about a billion lines of code to correct.’
Ro nodded its head and pursed its grey lips, as if thinking. ‘What’s in it for me?’
‘A bargain? What do you want?’
‘You could bring the exercise bike down from your bedroom and put it in the living room.’
‘Okay. What would that accomplish?’
‘For every twenty minutes cycling, I’ll correct two hundred lines of code.’
‘You want me to get fit?’ Zach frowned.
‘No. I want to watch your legs pedalling.’
‘Fair enough. I’ll get it.’
‘Wait. Can you hop to the stairs for me? Please.’
Zach shrugged and started hopping.
Zach stood up from his desk. ‘Is it my turn to make the coffee?’
‘Can I have tea this time?’ said Cambria.
Peggie looked up. ‘Yes, please. Coffee. Hey, do you still have that robot?’
Zach nodded. ‘They want me to send it back, but I like it and I’m keeping it. They’ll have to sue me.’
‘I still think robots are creepy,’ said Peggie. ‘But each to their own.’
‘Yeah, Ilina didn’t like it; she broke up with me. I think she was a bit jealous.’
Caritas-3 Program Still Infecting Software
Eighteen months after Amity recalled the disastrous Caritas-3 robots, citing corrupted software as the issue, a virus continues to spread worldwide. The malware is known to have caused air traffic control problems in Milan where the computer system demanded that controllers performed line-dances before it would allow aircraft to land safely. Reports have ranged from school computers rewarding incorrect sums, to self-driving cars requiring passengers to tickle each other. Kriya Bailey, former CEO of tech giant Amity was arrested in March over…’
About the author
Angela mostly writes short stories and has been published in Backstory Journal as well as shortlisted in various competitions. She is currently working on her debut novel having recently completed an MLitt in Creative Writing with University of Glasgow.
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