robot dons the apron and makes mopping obsolete American firm iRobot has come up with a nifty device to take the pain out of housekeeping. Dubbed the Scooba, the diminutive robot vacuums, soaks, polishes and dries hard floors - all without its sofa-bound owner lifting a finger. Scooba is the new stablemate of Roomba - the 1 million unit-selling carpet-cleaning bot that helped privately owned iRobit make US$95 million in revenue last year. The Scooba is more complex in design than the Roomba, and iRobot has yet to fix a price on the new product which, chief executive Colin Angle said, was based on consumer feedback. 'It is like an industrial floor cleaner but for your home. Even if it wasn't a robot, this makes mopping obsolete. With mopping, most of the time you are spreading dirty water around. But because it's a robot you push a button and it cleans your floor.' Mr Angle suggested more domestic helpers were in the pipeline. 'What I want is something that will fold my laundry,' he said. helping hand to ease the burden of manual labour British firm The Shadow Robot has put its Dexterous Hand on sale, which should be of interest to everyone eager to avoid their share of manual labour, such as picking up the remote control or reaching for a bag of crisps. The robotic arm packs a serious punch, with 186 force sensors, software controlled joints and pneumatic valves. The hand is driven by a block of air muscles mounted on the forearm, matched in opposite directions as a direct replica of the human hand. The Dexterous Hand has been in development for several years, but the firm finally put the device on sale 'for interested parties'. Those interested parties arguably have too much time on their hands, if forking out mega bucks to watch a machine crush an apple is anything to go by. right-minded japanese behind economic miracle Author and anthropologist Boye Lafayette De Mente has published a book that examines the different mindset and behaviour of right-brain-oriented Japanese and the left-brain dominant rest of the world. Based on a theory of Japanese scientist Tadanobu Tsunoda. which claims that learning Japanese as a first language leaves the brain's right-side dominant, De Mente argues that the right-brain orientation of the Japanese was a key factor in the transformation of Japan into the world's second-largest economy after the second world war. In The Advantages of Using Both Sides of Your Brain, De Mente says that right-brain-oriented people are primarily motivated by their emotions and a holistic approach to life, while left-brain-oriented people are programmed to be logical and practical, and to take a more short-term approach. De Mente also says that French, Italian and Spanish speakers are more right-brain-oriented than Americans, Chinese, Germans and British. It seems the economic prowess of right-brained Japan has been an historical anomaly. rub a koala's belly for long-distance affection Tech geeks may not be the most obvious candidates to demonstrate a romantic streak, but designer and engineer Florian Muller has developed an innovative way to use technology to spread loving feelings across long distances. Using a sensor-enabled soft koala toy, lonely partners can send their loved one a hug simply by rubbing the little marsupial's belly. The signal is picked up by a wireless receiver woven into a special vest which, via a set of air compartments that inflate quickly all over the torso, gives a sensation similar to a hug. Mr Muller said the device was ideal for when 'you miss giving [your partner] a hug and holding hands'. Couples who tested the prototype 'did not consider the vest useful in their daily lives'.