What to get the homeowner who has everything? Perhaps a robotic vacuum styled in the fashion of an RC toy will fit the bill. Here at a gdgt event in New York City we happened upon iRobot's Roomba 790, which comes with a touchscreen remote for manually controlling where the bot goes. The controller -- make that the "Wireless Command Center" -- has an interface matching the one on the 790 itself, so there's no second set of menus to master here. In addition to deciding where it moves, you can also schedule daily cleanings or tap a "Clean" button to push the robot into action.Though this isn't the first time iRobot's dabbled in remote-controlled vacuum cleaners, previous models tended to rely on infrared sensors, meaning you could only control the Roomba if it was in your line of sight. This guy, though, uses a proprietary technology that allows you to program that 4pm scrubbing from up to 25 meters away.
As for battery life, it runs on four AA cells, and is rated for three to six months of runtime, depending on how compulsively you plan on cleaning. Interestingly, despite the change in wireless standards, the 790 is compatible with older 700-series Roombas, though it's not as is the controller would be sold separately. If you happen to be the kind of fabulously wealthy family who can afford (and has a need) for multiple Roomba cleaners, you can only pair the remote with one robot at a time anyway. Don't have the budget for a $700 robotic vacuum kit? We've got hands-on photos below and a demo video after the break.
iRobot Roomba 790 with Wireless Command Center hands-onSee all photos
Zach Honig contributed to this report.