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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 11:07 GMT
CES reveals cool, clean gadgets
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website in Las Vegas

Amid hundreds of copycat products on the show floor at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a few stood out as trying out something new, as the BBC News website's Alfred Hermida found out.

IROBOT SCOOBA

Scooba cleaning robot, BBC
Robots can now scrub floors as well as vacuum the carpet
The idea of using robots to do the housework has been around for a while. The Roomba vacuum cleaner bot from iRobot has been on sale for three years.

It used sensors to work its way around the home and scoop up dirt. The company has reportedly sold 1.2 million of them since launch.

Now the iRobot has created the Scooba to clean the places its earlier robot cannot reach.

The machine is designed to take the place of the mop and bucket. Fill it up with detergent and it will automatically wash, scrub dry the floor.

"Liquid and electronics, that's hard," said iRobot's Nancy Dussault. "But it's nothing compared to figuring out how to get around."

"The other thing is that is really hard is moving on a wet surface."

But it only takes a bit of carpet to stop the Scooba in its tracks. The robot can only handle hard floor surfaces, so if it wanders near a carpet, it will either turn away or come to a halt.

The Scooba is due to go on sale shortly in the US.

KODAK EASYSHARE V570

Kodak Easyshare V570, AP
The V570's two lenses combine to give a better zoom
Most people might think that one lens is more than enough for taking snapshots of the family holiday.

But Kodak is betting that, at least for some, two lenses will be better than one with its EasyShare V570.

The point and shoot digital camera comes with a wide-angle lens and a regular lens. They combine to make a 5x zoom that is flush with the camera case.

This is done by combining a 2x digital zoom on the wide angled lens and a 3x one on the regular lens.

"It uses one lens to get to a certain range and then switches to another," said Kodak's Mark Cook.

Kodak also believes that people will be interested in taking panoramic shots, so the V570 has a nifty function to stitch three photos together inside the camera.

Like most mid-level equivalents, the V570 is a five mega-pixel camera. It comes with a measly 32MB of internal memory, so most snappers will be looking to invest in a SD memory card.

SLING MEDIA SLINGBOX

Slingbox, Sling Media
TV goes mobile with the Slingbox
Imagine if could watch your favourite programmes from anywhere, so long as you were connected to the internet.

TV fans in the US can already do this with the Slingbox and the company behind the gizmo, Sling Media, is now testing a PAL version for the UK that should debut this year.

The Slingbox connects to a TV set-top box and then redirects the signal to any computer over the internet.

The box attracted a lot of attention at CES, where much of the talk was about being able to watch video anywhere and on any screen.

Tech giants like Microsoft and Intel have been pushing the idea of media centre PCs.

But Sling Media says the advantage of its device is simplicity.

"Our experience is very TV-like," said Jeremy Toeman of Sling Media. "The Slingbox is like a microwave. You are not rebooting it or checking the software on it like a PC."

The company has just developed software that lets people watch TV from a Windows mobile or PDA, which is due to be released later this year.

It is also expected to release a Slingbox that works with Apple Macs next week.

COOLIT XBOX 360 WATER-COOLING SYSTEM

Xbox cooling unit, BBC
Now you and your Xbox 360 can chill as you play
Microsoft's Xbox 360 is a mighty gaming machine, but that power comes at a price and that is heat.

Just after its launch in November, gamers started noticing that the brick-sized power supply could heat up and possibly crash the console.

This is when a bunch of engineers at CoolIT Systems in Canada decided to try to apply their expertise in making liquid-cooling systems for computer chips to Microsoft's machine.

At CES, CoolIT showed off a modified Xbox 360 with coolant running over the computer and graphics chips, and an external fan to suck out the hot air.

"When we put it in the box, since it runs so much cooler, it uses less electricity," said CoolIT's Geoff Lyon.

"This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our technology."

The Canadian company does not plan to sell the system to the public, as it requires opening up the 360 and performing the equivalent of heart surgery on the box.

Instead it aims to make the technology available in the summer through specialist console modification outlets.

POWERSQUID

Powersquid, BBC
The Powersquid helps to hide cable spaghetti
Everyone has faced the problem of having lots of leads plugged into the mains, making for an ugly, and potentially dangerous, sight.

For gadget lovers, this can be a big problem, so many of those visiting CES where enamoured by the Flexity PowerSquid.

It is a surge protector that provides six flexible squid-like arms to plug into.

And while cord extensions could not be described as sexy, the PowerSquid makes an effort with a white look and curved lines.

"It meets a huge unmet demand," said Andy Welt of Newpoint, which makes the gizmo for sale in the US.

"There a lot of interest in this product from around the world," he said, so the company is looking to develop the product for Europe.




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