By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Floor care manufacturers continue to raise the bar for product launches by bringing out new cleaning systems, enhancing the features of more traditional products, and, in the case of Electrolux, stepping into the future with a robotic vacuum cleaner.
The latter, dubbed Trilobite for the similarity of its shape to the prehistoric sea creature, is being touted as the world's first automatic vacuum. Introduced in Sweden last month, and expected here sometime this year, the $1,400 robovac uses sonar to navigate through the house and two motors to propel it at a top speed of 0.4 meters per second. Special magnetic strips, placed near stairs or across doorways, contain the Trilobite within specific areas.
The unit, which is about 5 inches high and 14 inches across, avoids collisions by calculating a new path when obstacles are detected by the sonar system. An independent suspension allows the Trilobite to roll over cables and the edges of rugs, and two additional motors drive the roller and the fan.
The machine is powered by rechargeable batteries, and automatically returns to a charging station when the battery levels are low.
A more conventional approach to floor care comes from the Dirt Devil division of Royal Appliance Mfg. Co., which has begun shipping a new, fully-featured Platinum Force line of bagless uprights, carpet shampooers and hand vacs.
The 12-amp HEPA filter upright dispenses with vacuum bag and belt replacement thanks to an easy-to-empty dirt container and permanent cogged belt. The unit also features a unique Perma Filter for trapping fine dirt particles.
Unique to the shampooer is a proprietary agitation system whose dual revolving brushes rotate in opposite directions to clean every side of the carpet fiber. In addition, the unit features two inlet nozzles that provide twice the suction power of conventional carpet shampooers.
All three products feature "wishbone" handles and sleek, contemporary styling, and carry suggested retails of $229 for the upright and shampooer, and $49 for the hand vac.
Meanwhile, Maytag's Hoover division has unveiled a versatile, three-in-one Floor Mate cleaner that vacuums, washes and dries a wide range of hard-floor surfaces, including vinyl, ceramic, stone, laminates and sealed hardwoods.
The unit — which represents the first fruits of a strategic alliance between Hoover and household cleaning product maker Reckitt Benckiser — is designed for use with specially formulated concentrates of Reckitt's Lysol brand disinfectant and Old English brand wood cleaner. Eight-ounce bottles of both formulas will be packed with each cleaner.
Floor Mate features separate one-quart solution tanks for clean and dirty water to ensure that only clean water, mixed with cleaning solution, is applied to the floor. The mixture is dispensed by a trigger handle, and is spread by six rotating "Soft Touch" brushes that gently scrub the surface to remove heavy soil and stubborn marks. A wet/dry petal lowers a squeegee for wet pickup and retracts it for removal of dry debris, and the unit's soft-tread wheels were designed to help prevent marring.
Suggested retails for the Floor Mate itself range between $199.99 to $249.99 for the H3000 model. Shipments began last month, with wider distribution slated for this quarter. Hoover plans to hawk it with TV spots, infomercials and print ads under the tagline "It takes the work out of housework."
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