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Rumu is the sweet and sad indie game for the smart home era

Commentary: What is life like for a smart robot vacuum with feelings when the humans are gone and AI has become sentient?

Rumu is the story of a smart robot vacuum who just wants to be loved.
Robot House

In the age of the smart home, indie games are turning to intelligent appliances for their next hit. And they may have found it.

Meet Rumu. Rumu is a smart robot vacuum who just wants to be loved. But in the futuristic smart home where Rumu lives, it's pretty clear something strange or quite awful has gone down. The humans are missing, the in-home AI sounds like she's hiding something, and Rumu has to work out what's going on.

Officially launched at the PAX AUS 2017 gaming conference in Melbourne, Australia, this week, Rumu is the debut game from Aussie indie studio Robot House, and it's a delight.

Equal parts sweet and sad, the game has you rolling around the house as Rumu the robot vac, solving puzzles, interacting with other appliances and interfacing with the house's AI while you try to work out what happened to your owners.

The studio showed an early prototype at PAX AUS, but with the title launching by the end of the year, Robot House project lead Ally Mclean says the game has come a long way in building its narrative.

"We had a lot of discussions around the ethics and morality of technology," Mclean told CNET. "It's very inspired by traditional point-and-click adventures like [The Secret of] Monkey Island, but the way you have to twist your brain around is to really think about how you engage with technology on a day-to-day basis."

With puzzles that revolve around resetting passwords or proving you're not a robot, Mclean says the game takes everyday technological tasks and recontextualises them within a "near-futuristic artificially intelligent house."

The Wall-E-like robot vac alone in the cold and artificial house is a good fit for an indie game, and a great way to tell a small story while exploring bigger themes.

We checked out plenty of games on the PAX AUS show floor, but we're really looking forward to this one hitting Steam by the end of 2017. 

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