Even More Robots (with lasers!)
Looks like the Neato Robotics XV-11 is shipping (review sites are getting their preorder units, Amazon lists it as "2-3 weeks" but is taking normal orders.) This is the first real competitor to the Roomba - while iRobot has been doing an excellent job of evolutionary/incremental improvements to their flagship consumer robot, the only really significant change since it came out in 2002 was automatic docking for charge - I now have one unit that runs in my bedroom every single day, and it handles that quite well with minimal attention - the switch from IR to RF for control didn't really do the end-user any good. The XV-11 appears to be going all the way in an attempt to leapfrog it - actually mapping the space, keeping track of what it's done, appearing to follow a plan - basically behaving like a smart robot, instead of a cleverly-dumb one. (Roomba's random walk is effective in simple spaces, and was a clever bit of engineering optimization back when CPU actually cost something... but I have a large, cluttered, "open plan" space that the Roomba generally gets lost in which will be the XV-11's first challenge.)
Of course, one of the secondary advantages of the Roomba was that it encouraged keeping a space uncluttered - but it'd be nice to have that as a choice, rather than a limitation.