Go, gadget, go!

The most exciting personal devices of 2006 are wireless, tiny, and occasionally even useful
By MITCH KRPATA  |  May 1, 2006

We’re inching ever closer to the technological utopia so keenly envisioned on The Jetsons. Folks today conduct business with the push of a few buttons; life’s necessities are available on demand; and robots cater to our every whim. While we’re still waiting for the flying cars to arrive (What the hell, people?!), here are the gadgets you’ll be begging for this year.

Motorola H5 Miniblue Bluetooth HeadsetIn your ear
A man’s cell phone might be the only item in his life that he’d prefer to be as small as possible. Models like the Motorola SLVR are starting to look like something out of a science-fiction movie. Well, now there’s a Bluetooth headset to match. Set to be released in the first half of this year, the Motorola H5 Miniblue Bluetooth Headset fits entirely within your ear, just like Grandpa’s hearing aid. The company says it measures its dimensions in millimeters, and it’s not being disingenuous. The whole thing weighs a quarter of an ounce. For frequent talkers, this is the most unobtrusive and comfortable hands-free solution yet. For the rest of us, expect even more uncomfortable moments when we pass somebody on Boylston and think they’re talking to themselves like a crazy person.

ScoobaRoomba gets wet
The Roomba, developed by Burlington-based iRobot, quickly became a cultural touchstone, and has even been parodied on Saturday Night Live (“It cleans my business. My lady business. And I like that”). The sentient little vacuum cleaner had one major drawback, however: it just couldn’t quite take care of those caked-on messes. The Roomba’s new counterpart, the Scooba, acts as a mop to the Roomba’s vacuum. Scooba constantly monitors its surroundings, readjusting its behavior dozens of times per second. All you need to do is fill it with cleaning solution — a Clorox-brand cleaner is the official liquid, but iRobot says you can also use a mixture of vinegar and water. At $399, the Scooba is a bit pricier than the Roomba, but imagine never having to deal with your nacho-cheese-encrusted kitchen floor again. What’s that worth?

Zen Vision: MiPod Challenger
Competitors have been scrambling for years to match the iPod’s quality — not to mention grab a slice of that sweet, sweet market share — but it seems Creative Labs may have come closest with the Creative Zen Vision: M player. Not just a 30-GB MP3 player, the Zen Vision also provides higher-quality video than the iPod does, displaying more than 250,000 colors compared with the iPod’s 65,000. Plus, the Zen Vision is compatible with Microsoft Outlook’s calendar function, and it has voice recording. Judging by its rapturous reception at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, it seems that the $300 portable might finally be the first serious challenger to iPod’s throne.

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