Most, if not all, smart-home products are more a convenience than a necessity. We don't need a light that can be controlled from our smartphone; we don't need a speaker that can listen to us, and then play Kenny G on command.
And yet, some smart-home products feel more frivolous than others. The Alexa-enabled Billy Bass, for example, is something no wood-paneled living room ever needs. It’s pretty ridiculous, but you could be forgiven for buying this $40 toy as a gag gift.
The $500 Altan Giddel robot causes another kind of gagging. This robot's sole purpose is to clean your toilet bowl. While automating this task is a noble goal, once the novelty of seeing a robot scrubbing your john wears off, you're stuck with the realization that you spent half a grand on something that you already do better, faster and cheaper.
The Giddel snaps into a mounting bracket that you install under the toilet seat hinge. The robot comes with three of these brackets, so you'll have to order more if your 10,000-square- foot postmodern McMansion has more commodes than that.
After filling up a small reservoir in the robot with water, you attach the Giddel to your toilet, spray some toilet bowl cleaner in the bowl, and press the big blue cleaning button on the Giddel. It then extends its bristly arm and rotates around the bowl — it also cleans the rim — scrubbing as it goes. It finishes its rounds in about 5 minutes, and makes a half-hearted attempt at shaking excess water off its brush. Once the Giddel is done, you then unhook it from the toilet and place it back in its charging cradle. The robot's scrubbing bristle is detachable, and a second scrubber comes with the unit.
As I watched this robot make its rounds ‘round my toilet, I was struck by the fact that a scrub brush and a paper towel do much faster, and just as thorough job, for much less money.
I also felt a little sad for the robot, destined to spend its life cleaning toilet bowls. Its slightly anthropomorphic face seemed to plead, "How have I been consigned to this fate?"
It would be one thing if the Giddel cleaned your entire toilet, but even after the robot is done, you'll still have to manually wipe down the top, sides, handle and that annoying, nasty area behind the seat. And, when it's all done, and you remove the robot, you're still left holding a brush that's been inside your toilet.
Credit: Altan Giddel