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Gadgets in need of problems to solve (...for the moment)

Reuters writer Eric Auchard takes a whack today at sorting out the myriad of new products being shown off in Las Vegas this week at CES. His take? Plenty of new gadgets are simply "in need of problems to solve."

Isn't that always the case with new technology, eh? I'm certainly with Eric on the Talking BBQ Thermometer he calls out.

But for anyone used to cleaning out their house's gutters each fall, the Looj Gutter Cleaner from iRobot seems like an actual step in the direction of becoming a legitimately useful tool. I'd sure be satisfied to never have to clean out a gutter again.

Of course, the Looj still requires you to climb a ladder and control the device as it scurries through your gutters. In my ideal implementation, a gutter-cleaning robot would be entirely human-independent -- perhaps living in a small charging station near a gutter downspout.

In this fantasy, the thing would periodically -- perhaps every two weeks or so during fall --climb up the downspout and go about the process of scouring your gutters. Maybe it can even climb onto your roof to do your other gutters -- not simply the one to which it's attached. Once the job is done, it scurries back down to its charging station, where it will sit in zenlike tranquility until summoned forth again.

An elaborate scenario, I'll give you. Perhaps it's just because after nearly ten years living in an apartment here in Manhattan, the thought of again having to clean gutters fills me with dread -- and makes the idea of some metallic insect crawling around the outside of one's house sound downright appealing.

Auchard also points out the Fire and Waterproof Hard Disk -- a networked hard drive enclosed in a hardened, fire- and waterproof case.

Alas, it's only 160GB, but another valiant effort at solving what's (perhaps) even a more pressing concern than the state of our gutters: data protection.

He also describes the Powramid E-900H from Kreative Power -- a circular power strip configuration.

The idea seems sound, since I always find it such a waste when a mammoth transformer blocked other plugs in a traditional, uh, strip power strip design.

Yet I'm not sure this wider round plug design is the answer, either -- will this fit behind my living room media stand?

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