Freaky Clean: Mini Robots Scrub Your House
New conceptual designs for home cleaners employ robotic flies and gel-covered balls.
New conceptual designs for home cleaners employ robotic flies and gel-covered balls.
Tony Anderson / Getty Images
It's springtime. Time to open the windows, clean under the couch, dust the bookcases, untangle those cords and tackle that file cabinet. We've assembled ten products to help you do all of the above and more. Organize, neaten and simplify. And while you're at it, make the world a little cleaner and greener.
Dotz: $6.99 to $7.99 That catastrophe of cords around your desk or behind your entertainment center is really cramping your ability to get organized. Dotz are an effective and colorful way of containing cords while adding some personality to your space. They work well for identifying what cord goes to what gadget. If too many cords isn’t your problem but extremely long ones are, check out the wraps that collect and keep long cords in one neatly and colorfully rolled package.
System Mechanic Professional: $69.95 In the true spirit of spring cleaning, this super-sprucing software cleans up all the random files, extraneous shortcuts and messy registry junk cluttering your computer. It also automatically repairs errors, prevents security vulnerabilities and optimizes your system for quicker startups, speedier Internet and peak performance offline. The professional version adds antivirus, antispyware, secure online backup, file retrieval and serious data scrubbing. Both the Standard and Pro versions get you a whole home license and one year of service, including continuous Tune-Up Definitions, upgrades and unlimited support. Additional years of service are about $30 a clip.
UV Cellphone Sanitizer: $49.95 How many times a day does your face touch a toilet seat, the bottom of a shoe or a mobile phone? That's right, the latter has just as many germs and bacteria lurking as do the former two. It's time to drop that cellular cesspool into the UV Cell Phone Sanitizer. In less than 5 minutes, it renders 99% of all the lingering yucky microorganisms harmless -- thus rendering you with peace of mind. For size reasons, it works better on candy bar-shaped phones vs. flip phones (which tend to be thicker). But it works fine on the exposed surfaces of a variety of other small devices and accessories, such as Bluetooth ear sets.
Nelson Email Organizer Pro 5: $49.95 It's time to tidy up what may be the most unruly area in your world: your Outlook inbox. NEO Pro automatically organizes your email for you, helping you file, view and act on messages within the context their timing, status, attachments and correspondents. The software creates virtual folders that give you multiple ways to find what you want. Furthermore, you can file, find and categorize entire conversation threads. To top it off, you can maximize your time management by adding personal notes to messages, assigning rules and taking advantage of their online email training. Make no mistake, the email efficiency you gain through these toolbars, panes and other features will save you time...and contribute to your long-term sanity.
Scooba 390: $499.99 The thing about mopping your floor the traditional way -- or taking a bath, for that matter -- is that you're spreading around dirty water to "clean." The just-released iRobot Scooba 390 separates the dirty water from the clean, only applying fresh solution. It uses a four-stage process to prep, wash, scrub and squeegee up to 425 square feet of tile, vinyl, marble, slate, stone, linoleum and sealed hardwood floor per tankful. Improving over previous models, it's got extended battery life and -- good news -- doesn't require pre-sweeping or vacuuming. Over 60 times a second, it selects from dozens of robotic behaviors as to how to best cover every area at least three times, resulting in 98 percent less common household bacteria than you previously had.
The Toddy Smart Cloth: $9.99 According to our personal field research, the average 15-month old child -- with only 10 fingers and 14 waking hours -- is somehow able to place approximately 387,000 fingerprints amongst a healthy variety of TV, component, phone, tablet, watch, computer and e-reader screens. Rather than continually chasing after her with a spritzer and dust rag, we wised up and started using this dual-sided gadget cleaning cloth. Okay, every cloth has two sides. But these are different. The plush microfiber takes care of the heavy smudges, while the silk microfiber is for fine buffing. They absorb dust and oils, without damaging your screens (as sprays can). Plus, they've got an antimicrobial covering, are washable and come in a swell variety of snazzy colors and patterns.
DYMO Label Manager 500TS: $199.99 Nothing screams "organized" more than nicely labeled items neatly arranged in your home. Whether it’s in the office, pantry or shoe riddled closet, the DYMO Label Manager 500TS can make labels so attractive, they will distract from the clutter that lurks within. The full color touch screen label maker has editing and formatting features, resolutions up to 300 dpi and a faster printer. The included software is Mac/PC compatible and allows users to add flashier graphics to labels and upload them straight to the printer for label making on the go.
Dyson D39 or D41: $499.99 and $599.99 Having a trusty helper during this time of the cleaning season is vital to a spotless home. Luckily, the Dyson DC39 Animal canister vacuum can follow you around without bumping into anything to slow you down. The newest addition to the Dyson family has a low center of gravity that makes it easier to pull and an articulating chassis to make tight turns. The vacuum is lightweight, but packs a punch with its Radial Root Cyclone technology, it catches dust and hair you didn’t even know was there. If you aren’t crazy about a tag-a-long vacuum buddy, the equally strong DC41 Animal is an upright vac that cuts corners in a good way, making no place safe for dust bunnies.
Gazelle.com Clearing clutter isn’t just about tossing out ill-fitting outfits and old paperwork. Our need for the newest device has also prompted us to clear out our gadget drawers as well. Instead of donating or chancing it on Craigslist, check out Gazelle. The site buys slightly used and fairly recent devices like that iPad 2, which now pales in comparison to the new one. Potential sellers can visit the site, pick their device and go through a quick survey to determine how much it’s worth depending on condition. If you like what’s quoted, Gazelle will send you a box and prepaid shipping, it’s then evaluated and payment is sent. Devices are usually refurbished or recycled.
Honeywell HEPAClean 3-in-1 Air Purifier: $249.99 By now, you've scrubbed, vacuumed and organized your heart out, but what about the air? Airborne particles and volatile organic compounds can takeover a home, but an air purifier like the HEPAClean 3-in-1 Tower Air Purifier from Honeywell can zap all of those harmful particles and allergens with almost no disruptive sound. The HEPA and carbon zeolite filter catch pet dander, pollen and smoke, as well as other odors and freshens up a stuffy room quickly. The purifier has ultraviolet light technology that rids the air of certain fungi, mold spores, bacteria and viruses, which will finally get rid of what’s still lingering from this past season's cold epidemic. ANALYSIS: Cheese-Inspired Plastic Wrap Cleans Itself
Anyone who knows what dust looks like has probably wished for some bee-like helpers who could just zip around the house to make it magically clean. Or perhaps gel that rolls around, collects all the dirt, and returns to a container. Designers are on it.
New conceptual designs are emerging that make the Roomba look old school and the Jetsons feel more archaic than ever. One is a cleaning system called Mab that involves hundreds of tiny robots that fly around the house. Another, called Jell Balls, involves gel-covered balls that emerge from a special container. The designs are part of an annual Electrolux Design Lab contest that challenged students worldwide to come up with inventions for “inspired urban living.”
In the Effortless Cleaning category — the other two are Natural Air and Social Cooking — semifinalists include Colombian industrial design student Adrian Perez Zapata’s Mab concept. He describes the automated cleaning system as consisting of hundreds of mini-robots that will clean all surfaces. Mab would work with an in-home network and an initial charge. It scans the home and sends mini robots to do autonomous cleaning runs in “fast,” “normal” or “exhaustive” modes, using water and cleaning agents as they go.
Another semifinalist of note comes from Korean Samaung Art and Design Institute student Juan Lee. He describes the Jell Balls design as a new cleaner appliance that hoovers up all the dust using the principle of gel surface tension. The main robotic appliance would contain eight small, round robotic gel balls that roll out of the main body, collect dirt and return to the main body where the dust is deposited in a bag. Lee thinks this could work well on damp problem areas in the bathroom and kitchen.
I’m fully aware that these concepts are out there and unlikely to be on the store shelves any time soon. But they both contain very real elements. As PopSci’s Colin Lecher pointed out, the balls and the gel already exist, and so does a similar remote-controlled robotic ball called Sphero. As insane as Mab’s swarm cleaner sounds, IEEE Spectrum’s Evan Ackerman mentioned the Robobees project under way at Harvard.
Next month the contest finalists will be chosen, with a top prize of 5,000 euros (nearly $6,700) and a six-month paid internship at an Electrolux Global Design Center. Wonder if the winner will be required to do any cleaning around the place. Hey, it’s just some extra motivation to make a working prototype.
Image: The conceptual Mab automated cleaning system employs miniature flying robots. Credit: Adrian Perez Zapata via Electrolux Design Lab