Mop with a mind of its own

A couple of years ago, gadget freaks everywhere fell in love with iRobot's Roomba "artificially intelligent" vacuum cleaner. As cute as the little sucker was, however, it wasn't a whole lot more effective than a toddler with a DustBuster. It would roll around haphazardly inhaling grit, occasionally changing course when it bumped into a wall. Plus, it had a tendency to hang up on errant speaker wires and rugs with fringe.

The latest janitorial offering from iRobot, the Scooba Floor Washing Robot, stands a better chance of becoming a useful member of the family. Rather than going toe to toe with state-of-the-art vacuum cleaners like Dyson, the Scooba takes aim at lower-tech remedies, like a mop and elbow grease. It sprays a cleaning solution, scrubs the floor, then vacuums the dirt into a tank for disposal. The liquid cleaner, devised by Clorox, is said to be safe on most floor surfaces, including tile, vinyl, and sealed wood.

Microwave settings made simple

At a time when most microwaves are getting more and more confusing to operate, Salton uses technology to keep it simple. The Beyond microwave already knows how to cook 4,000 products sold at most supermarkets. Just wave the scanning wand over the bar code of your favorite frozen chicken dinner, and the correct cooking times and power levels pop up. Not just convenient for grown-ups who want to get their meal on, it also might prevent you from having to play "Is something burning?" when the kids fix themselves popcorn.

Of course, there's a chance that your favorite microwavable treat is not in the Beyond's database. That's why you can teach it new tricks. Just press the "Learn" button, scan the bar code, then enter the appropriate cooking settings. From then on, every time you scan that bar code, the microwave will automatically plug in the settings.

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