Best Inventions 2005: Home Runs

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•YOUR TV, ANYWHERE Every so often, a handy gadget comes along and changes our TV habits. In the 1990s WebTV married the Net with the tube, and TiVo famously began freeing us from network schedules. Now comes a new appliance to shift not when you watch your TV but where. Slingbox hooks up to your home set and beams whatever is onscreen to any Web-enabled device loaded with special software. Waiting for a plane in Paris? Use your laptop and the airport's wireless network to watch the local news from back home--or a DVD or an old show saved on your TiVo. You can even change channels. Best feature: no subscription fees.


•FORMFITTING A door that fits like a glove? This one does. Fukuda's Automatic Door, designed in Japan, opens just enough to match the shape of the person or object passing through. The nifty motion-detecting portal saves energy by keeping a door from having to repeatedly open all the way. That helps maintain a stable temperature in a room and can prevent dirt and other materials from being swept inside. In addition to people, the new system can be used for small objects, like packages dropped off at a post office, or for larger things, like a car coming through a garage door.

INVENTOR Rikiya Fukuda AVAILABILITY Prototype only TO LEARN MORE (Japanese only)

•SQUEEGEE CLEAN Scooba, iRobot's follow-up to Roomba, the robotic vacuum, steals a few tricks from its predecessor to tackle a different chore: mopping tile, linoleum or sealed hardwood floors. With each pass, Scooba completes four tasks: it sweeps loose debris, sprays a special Clorox cleaning solution onto the floor, scrubs the surface with a brush and then uses a "squeegee-vac" to suck up the dirty water. Like Roomba, Scooba works around obstacles and has "cliff" sensors that prevent it from falling down stairs. Different sensors keep Scooba off your high-pile carpet.