Competition in a Vacuum

Competition in a Vacuum

The team at iRobot has a new Roomba, the 980, out just as more rivals nip at its heels.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

New Vacuum Bot on the Block

New Vacuum Bot on the Block

Not content to let upstarts get in on the vacuum industry, Bissell has a robot of its own for automated room cleaning.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

A Time to Remember

A Time to Remember

What Watch has a different approach to smartwatches: keep it simple. With the push of one button, its Stop The Time watch logs the day and time of significant moments. The watches look analog, practically old school, but use electronic paper to display the new pips on when a moment was marked.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Diary of Memories

Diary of Memories

The connected app, called What Now, records the location of the moment marked by the Stop The Time watch. The wearer can add further details and photos by using a phone or tablet. The moments can be shared with others across social media. What Watch plans to open a store in the fall in Brooklyn.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Snow Speeder

Snow Speeder

Timbersled is a more mechanically involved offering that basically turns a dirt bike into a snowmobile. The conversion can be done by a dealer or at home by folks with the tools, skill and time to do it themselves. A ski replaces the front wheel and the track system is installed in the rear.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Healthy Step Forward

Healthy Step Forward

Digitsole is an activity tracker that can also warm up the wearer’s feet. By slipping them inside footwear, they can record the usual measures such as footsteps taken and calories burned.

For the chillier months, users can turn up different levels of heat from the soles. (Will make its mass retail debut in October.)

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Working Towards a Better Ride

Working Towards a Better Ride

BeastBikes rolled out its forthcoming cycling performance tracker called SpeedForce, which attaches to handlebars, along with tiny sensors on the pedals and wheel spokes.

SpeedForce is scheduled to start an Indiegogo campaign later in October. Techstars-R/GA Accelerator-alum Hammerhead, based in New York, makes similar devices, which gives directions for a chosen bike route and tracks performance with a related app.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Video Editors for Hire

Video Editors for Hire

Vidmob is an app that gathers up video clips, from smartphones and other sources, chosen by the user, and then sends a request to a community of professionals for bids to edit the footage together. (It is comparable to TaskRabbit, which also lets people outsource jobs, but this service is strictly about video editing services.)

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Avengers Assemble

Avengers Assemble

Hasbro’s Playmation Marvel’s Avengers Starter Pack game, which goes on sale in October, puts the power of Iron Man’s repulsor beams in the hands of fans who want to fight supervillains.

Figures based on Marvel characters have sensors that react to the actions of the person wearing the armband. The initial set comes with Captain America and the Red Skull. We shall see if Marvel and Disney finally get around to putting the Black Widow in a lineup of toys.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Xconomy New York — 

Competition can be seen as an intense form of flattery—and in the world of consumer electronics, clones and copycats of popular products are almost inevitable.

There was plenty to see at this week’s Pepcom Holiday Spectacular in New York, from Marvel’s Avengers fighting villains to a smartwatch with old-school style (see slideshow above).

IRobot brought out its new Roomba 980, which got its wide retail release on Thursday and is priced at $899. The latest model of the floor-vacuuming robot has new internal sensors and a camera to map and clean an entire level of a dwelling, with some pit stops to recharge along the way.

According to the iRobot representatives at the show, the Roomba 980 has double the cleaning performance of the prior versions. Earlier editions of the Roomba used external “lighthouses” to guide them from one room to the next; the new model is guided by its mapping feature. IRobot, based in Bedford, MA, also introduced its first app, letting people name their robots and schedule cleanings.

Just as the company was shining up its latest bot, a rival emerged on the horizon.

On the other side of the event hall, Bissell, a veteran maker of vacuum cleaners, hit back with its entry in this fight: the SmartClean Robot Vacuum, which is available online. A wider retail release is due later this month.

Bissell’s bot is priced at $299, which the reps at the show said makes it more accessible for consumers. It does not map rooms like the latest Roomba, but it has a navigation system to follow a cleaning pattern. Based on what the reps said, it can handle a couple of rooms. Cleaning an entire level of a house sounded outside of its performance capacity, though.

There are many rival robot vacuums in the market or on their way from companies such as Neato, Samsung, and Dyson. IRobot has been leaning heavily on its line of Roomba vacuums, and apparently will try to diversify a bit with a possible robotic lawnmower. In the meantime, the company’s Roomba 980 will be bumping into more and more competitors also out to clean up households.