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By Joel Garreau
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where my sweet navbot at?

Personal GPS-based navigation devices in cars -- the ones that say "In 500 feet turn left" -- are far and away the most abundant machines smart enough to talk to us and sometimes listen. Nonetheless, humans continue to perceive them as surly, dumb or frantic -- especially when the bot realizes you think you're smarter than it is.

Decide you can see the on-ramp straight ahead no matter what it says, and off it goes -- "Make a U-turn! Make a U-turn! Make a U-turn, you idiot! Recalibrating, grumble grumble grumble."

Okay, the "you idiot" and "grumble grumble" part the machine doesn't actually say. But our brains invariably fill it in. One couple in the District have given their navbot a name that rhymes with "the glitch."

The jokes are even more widespread than the devices. Earlier this year, it became a recurring "Prairie Home Companion" motif:

Robot: Keep going straight.

Guy Noir: I know where I'm going. I've driven this way a thousand times.

Robot: Then why am I here? Why have me on? What's the purpose?

Guy Noir: Just shut up and let me drive.

Robot: You never listen to me anyway. Why do I waste my time?

Guy Noir: Just relax, would you? I'm fine.

Robot: What about me?


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