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Charlie Crist, noted fan of fans, shares thoughts on robot air conditioners

Charlie Crist examines a portable hand fan given to him before he voted early in St. Petersburg in 2014.  "It's nice to be cool." said Crist. SCOTT KEELER   |   TIMES
Charlie Crist examines a portable hand fan given to him before he voted early in St. Petersburg in 2014. "It's nice to be cool." said Crist. SCOTT KEELER | TIMES
Published Jul. 1, 2016

No figure in American politics is more associated with personal cooling devices than the former governor of this sweaty state.

With that in mind, we have a treat for Charlie Crist.

Scientists are hard at work advancing the technology that cools us. As the Washington Post reported this week, engineers at the University of Maryland are developing a robot they're calling RoCo, short for Roving Comforter, which they're hoping will sense when a person is too hot and spring into action. The prototype looks like a upended vacuum cleaner rolling over to blast a dose of chilled air from its face hole. The target sales price is $60.

PLAY IT COOL: Yes, please! This robot follows you around and blasts you with air conditioning

Scientists believe RoCo could help curb energy consumption. Why air condition the whole house when you could air condition the one person who's home?

When we started wondering who would be the market for such a robot, only one person came to mind: Crist, a St. Petersburg native who is currently running for Congress against U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

He's used portable fans to keep sweat-free throughout his career. He kept one under the lectern at the Capitol during his entire tenure as governor. He borrowed one from the web staff when he visited the Times offices. And he caused a nationally-televised uproar when he brought one along to a debate with Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

We decided to give Crist a call to get his thoughts on the RoCo, and ask him how he prefers to stay cool these days.

Would you use a personal robot that followed you and kept you cool?

Sure. Who doesn't want to be cool? That sounds like it might be a little pricey compared to a fan though, I really have no idea what something like that would go for.

I believe it cost the University of Maryland about $2.5 million to develop.

Well, that is certainly out of my range.

As a guy who thinks about keeping cool, do you have any thoughts on what kind of features a device like that should have?

Just that, if it works as well as A.C. does, it would be a great thing to have.

In the car, are you an air conditioning or a windows down kind of guy?

Oh, if it's summer, it's definitely air conditioning. Always air conditioning.

How about at home? Do you and Mrs. Crist ever disagree on what temperature to set the thermostat to?

No, we pretty much agree on the temperature, fortunately. That's pretty important, actually.

Ceiling fan or light fixture?

Ceiling fan, for sure, definitely.

Oscillating fan or non-oscillating?

Um, probably not oscillating. It's best to get very direct air if you can.

Have you ever used one of your fans to do that thing where you make your voice sound like a cool robot?

No, I haven't ever done that.

I really recommend trying that one.


Any specific beverage you recommend for keeping cool in the Florida heat?

Oh gosh, ice water is pretty good. Lemonade. Oh, you know what's really good is an Icee. Yes, definitely an Icee.

Would you ever use one of those Asian hand fans?

Um, I really haven't, no.

It's time to go to bed. Fan on or off?

Definitely has to be on. Well, unless it keeps the power bill down.

Yes, the power bill can get pretty high in the summer.

Unbelievable, it's unbelievable.

At a restaurant, outside on the patio, or inside in the A.C.?

It depends on the time of day. I really love the fresh air, so after sunset, outside even in the summer is nice.

Have you ever been truly disappointed in a fan?

No, I don't think I have. I've been lucky.

Is part of being cool, keeping cool?

Sure it is. I think so. It's all about being comfortable. Being comfortable makes a big difference in a lot of things. Who doesn't want to be comfortable?

Contact Christopher Spata at Follow @SpataTimes.