Zamboni drivers: robots are coming for you

With a simple and monotonous task to handle, the only surprising part is why these machines aren’t in mass circulation already.


From the “What Took So Long?” department comes news that a robot Zamboni has been invented. Paul Van Eijl, a resident of Winona, Minnesota, has come up with a system called the Ice Jet, which uses GPS coordinates to control multiple machines. The robot system can clear an ice rink in about a minute or so, according to the Winona Daily News.

“It’s really doing the same thing,” Van Eijl said. “You’re just basically making it eight times as efficient.” His co-engineer Kevin Christ summarized the Ice Jet’s benefits succinctly: “Quicker, faster, cheaper.”

The fact that a robot zamboni exists isn’t surprising, and it’ll be equally logical when arenas each rush out to buy one. The only puzzling thing is why they aren’t already in mass circulation.

While some hockey fans are nostalgic about Zambonis and their drivers – and even lamenting their upcoming extinction – the tasks they perform are incredibly simple and monotonous, which are exactly the sorts of things robots designed for.

Clearing a rink by driving around in ovals is not that different from what robot vacuums have been doing for years. It’s a wonder no one had thought of trying a Roomba out on an ice surface out till now.

Now if only somebody could invent a robot to handle the other boring and monotonous part of hockey games: the post-game interviews.

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