Category Archives: video

Kärcher FC5 Hard Floor Cleaner Review



Kärcher’s bright yellow products will be well-known to many and the brand’s almost synonymous with pressure washers: on any given Sunday, cars up and down the nation will be getting a clean aided by a Kärcher. Over the past few years, the company has been trying to increase its market with a range of household cleaning products and last year, the Window Vac seemed to be everywhere.

This year, it’s the turn of the floors and here we have the Kärcher FC5 hard floor cleaner. Hard floors are very much en vogue at the moment but keeping them clean involves dry vacuuming followed by wet mopping or steam cleaning. The FC5 is designed to get round this problem by combining elements of an upright vacuum cleaner with a wet floor cleaner. Let’s take closer look….and for those wondering, even geeks need to keep their houses clean.

The Kärcher FC5 arrives in substantial cardboard box, but it’s not as long as it could be as “some assembly is required”. Simply, the upper part of the handle needs to be slotted into the body of the cleaner. It’s straightforward and only needs a good shove to click it into place. Once together, the FC5 looks the business with a smooth aluminium handle extending out of a the obligatory yellow body. The unit is hefty enough at around 5 kg but it’s not unwieldy. The design won a Red Dot Award in 2017.

Taking a tour round the hard floor cleaner reveals most of FC5’s features. Starting at the top, there’s a rubberised handle with a power switch just within thumb’s reach. Slightly lower down is the power cable – 7m – which is coiled round two hooks. The lower hook rotates to quick release the cable which is handy when getting started. On the front of the cleaner body is the tall thin clean water reservoir and round the back is a stubbier dirty water container. At the bottom, are two fluffy rollers which spin when the cleaner is in action, giving the floor a good scrubbing.

The way the FC5 works is to suck water and detergent from the front reservoir, pour it onto the rollers, scrub the floor with the spinning damp rollers and then vacuum the now grubby water and debris up into back container. Sounds perfect and in practice, works well too.

Turning on the FC5 for the first time can be a little surprising as the rollers can get a bit of a grip on the floor and pull the cleaner away from you. It’s a bit little a powered lawn mower but not nearly as strong. Once mastered, the FC5 can be easily manoeuvred around the place and there’s a bit of tilt-n-swivel action. Tilting the handle to the left or right will turn the roller head in the same direction so you can kind of curve past things and into corners. The FC5 is noisy like a vacuum too – there’s no gentle gurgle of steam here.

Removing both water containers is easy enough – push down on the top and give the container a yank out. Filling the clean water reservoir is easy but it’s hard to see and use the “max” marker, especially as you’re filling the container nearly horizontal and you have to tilt it vertically to check on the water level. I found that one fill was enough to clean a hallway (solid wood), a kitchen (tile), a bathroom (tile) and a playroom (laminate) with a little left over. For reference, my house is about 100 sq. m on the ground floor.

After cleaning, the floor surface is left slightly damp but it dries within minutes. It’s much drier than it would be using a mop but it’s probably on a par with a steam cleaner.

The dirty water container comes in two pieces – there’s an inner structure which is designed to catch solid material like fluff, hair and squashed peas, and this comes out so that this stuff can be put in the bin. The grubby water can then be poured down the sink without worrying about blockages. Although it’s a little disgusting, you can see all the dirt that the FC5 has picked up. I don’t think of having a dirty house – there’s no pets, only two children who are fairly good at taking their shoes off at the front door – but I was still surprised at how dirty the water was.

The FC5 comes with a black plastic stand (or “cleaning station” according to Kärcher) which can be used both when the cleaner is resting under the stairs or in the utility room, and when cleaning is underway. If the stand isn’t used, the FC5 falls over – it won’t stand on its own. The base is also used to pre-wet the rollers for a quick cleaning start.

Talking about the rollers, or SmartRollers as styled by Kärcher, they easily unscrew for cleaning and drying. It’s very simple and as long as the blue roller matches the blue axle (and the green roller, the green axle), it’s impossible to go wrong.

In use over the past few weeks, I liked the Kärcher FC5. The pull from the rollers was an initial surprise but I was comfortable moving the cleaner around after a few minutes. It copes well with the different floor surfaces and after whizzing round the hard floors, I could see the dirt in the sucked up water. The FC5 handles fluff, hair, sand (Moon Sand), grit and other relatively small pieces of debris (Play Doh). It’s not a vacuum cleaner though, so larger items like stones, packaging and sweet wrappers are going to stay on the floor.

I have mixed feelings about the base that the FC5 needs to stay upright. I can kind of understand the need for pre-wetting the rollers but having to keep the base handy just to stand it up is a little annoying. If you can clean your whole house in one go, you’ll be fine; those of us who have to stop and move furniture will always be wanting the stand close to hand, only to find it’s on the other side of the room.

Priced at GB£239, the Kärcher FC5 isn’t cheap. In comparison, popular steam mops cost around a quarter of that, and you’re still going to need a proper vacuum cleaner. However the real benefit of the FC5 is the overall time saving of not having to vacuum before cleaning – you only need to go over the surface once with the FC5 and it’s job done. Definitely worth considering in homes with several hard floored rooms.

The Kärcher FC5 is available direct from Kärcher and other good retailers.

Unboxing and in action videos below.

This post was done as part of The Insiders UK Kärcher campaign.


Real and Virtual Play Combine with Sam’s Curious Cars



Learning is best done when fun and what’s more fun than play? Sam’s Curious Cars fall right into this sweet spot and Todd gets an interactive demo from Joachim.

Sam Labs have created a series of component-based toys (think chassis, wheels, motors) that can be built up to make a vehicle – in this instance a car. The components are compatible with Lego bricks, so builders can really express themselves.

Once constructed, the car can be controlled by other components, like a switch for power and a slide for left and right. The car can also be controlled by an app and for advanced learners, the cars behaviour can be built up using control blocks in the app. It’s designed to introduce some of the key concepts of programming without actually having to code.

There’s a series of six different sets, priced from US$99 and the Curious Cars are $199. Additional sensors and motors can be bought separately. Available now from the Sam Labs shop and other good retailers.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Owlet Smart Sock for Sleeping Babies at CES



The technology to measure physiology is becoming commonplace: any smart watch worthy of the name can record heart rate. The trick now is to incorporate these sensors into other useful gadgets. A good example here is the Owlet Smart Sock which brings reassurance to parents that their baby is sleeping normally.

The Owlet Smart Sock monitors a baby’s heart rate and blood oxygen, alerting parents or carers if either measurement causes concern. The Owlet Smart Sock system has three components; the smart sock or bootie which is worn by the baby on its foot, a monitoring unit and the companion app. The bootie communicates with the monitoring unit via Bluetooth and if there is a problem, parents are notified by visual and audible alerts on the Owlet unit and smartphone(s).

The app is available for both iOS and Android but check compatibility before buying.

The Owlet Smart Sock is available now for $249 direct from Owlet.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Bitdefender BOX Protects the Smart Home at CES



With the arrival of the Internet of Things, installing antivirus software on a PC isn’t going address malware lurking on a smart home control unit. A different approach is needed and Bitdefender’s BOX might be the solution. Dan talks to Todd about what Box offers over traditional security products.

The Bitdefender Box is a small hardware device which is connected into a free port on the main router – it’s similar in size to the control units for SmartThings or Hue. Once configured via Bitdefender’s Central Account or the companion smartphone app, it monitors the network traffic for suspicious activity. Box provides several layers of security over and above standard antivirus with everything from URL filtering to anomaly detection.

Bitdefender Box is available now for US$129 in the first year, with an annual subscription of $99. The next gen Box is expected in the summer, priced at $199. Box is currently only available in the USA.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Razer’s Project Valerie Triple Screen Laptop at CES



One of the best things about motor shows are the preposterous concept cars that will never see the light of day and serve only to showcase the manufacturer’s technology. Razer are verging into this territory with a bonkers triple 4K screen laptop, codenamed Project Valerie, where the three screens combine to give a whopping resolution of 11520 x 2160. And get this….the screens will automatically expand and collapse – so cool. Aimed at the (very) serious gamer or esports player, it’s totally awesome and no doubt will have a price tag to match when (if?) it goes on sale.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Get the Zzzzs in with Witti at CES



Witti are reasonably well-known for their Beddi collection of stylish bedside clocks and lights which both help the sleeper doze off and wake them gently in the morning. Expanding their product portfolio, Witti is introducing Sleepi and Todd finds out from Alfred what it can offer snoozers.

Sleepi is a sleep monitoring system, comprising of a bedside light and clock, a sleep tracker that goes under the mattress and the obligatory smartphone app. The app tracks sleep and wakefulness, providing a report in the morning. What makes Sleepi different is that it works with smart homes to figure out what interrupted the sleep, e.g. the room was too hot, and then adjust the temperature automatically. That’s smart.

A Kickstarter launch is planned for Sleepi, with shipping towards the end of 2017. Expected retail price around US$149.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Flir Duo Flies with Autel at CES



Flir created a minor sensation few years ago with the Flir One thermal imaging attachment for smartphones costing only a few hundred bucks. Building on this, Flir have launched the Duo, a dual sensor compact camera designed to be carried by drones. John gives Todd a quick demo of the new Duo and see if you can spot the GNC cameraman.

The Flir Duo combines both visible light and thermal sensors into a single camera which can be carried by any drone that attaches GoPro cameras.  The visible resolution is full HD at 1920 x 1080, whereas the thermal camera is only 160 x 120. This might seem poor but the resolution of thermal imaging tends to be much lower. Flir has a nice trick called MSX blending where the visible and thermal images are combined to give more detailed pictures. There’s a demo here.

There a two versions, the Duo and Duo R, with the latter providing calibrated radiometric temperature measurements, i.e. it can tell accurately how hot an object is. The Duo is priced at US$999 and the Duo R is $1,299. Available now.

Flir have partnered with drone makers Autel Robotics and paired their Duo with the X-Star Premium drone for an all-in-one package including customised flight software. Oddly the package appears to be available only to US military and no word on price.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Craft Beer at Home with iGulu at CES



Fancy a beer? Me too, but I’ve never brewed my own, though his might change with the iGulu automated home brewing system. Todd looks for some refreshment in the hot halls of tech.

Winning a CES Innovation Honoree award, the iGulu machine brews a beer from ingredients to fresh beverage in anything from seven days to a couple of weeks, depending the receipe. Everything is done in the iGulu, from initial mixing and mashing to the fermentation and pour, with sensors ensuring that the final product is perfect. There are receipes for everything from lagers to stouts and the process can be tweaked via the iGulu app to suit personal taste. There’s a small screen to control and check on progress of the brew. I’m feeling thirsty….

The iGulu is available for pre-order via Indiegogo starting from US$550, with an expected final retail price of US$800.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Smart Running with FeetMe Sport at CES



Step counters and activity trackers are ten-a-penny, but what if the tracker could show you how you run, not just how far you run? It’s now a reality with smart insoles from FeetMe. Todd finds out more from CTO Andrey Mostovov and sprinter Taylor Pegram.

FeetMe’s athletic smart insoles, FeetMe Sport, constantly takes measurements from over thirty pressure sensors, before processing the information in their FeetMe coaching app to show exactly how your feet hit the ground. Imagine being a top athlete and being able to see your stride and steps. The app gives suggestions for improvement and weaknesses are highlighted for attention in the next training session. Unsurprisingly, the FeetMe Sport uses Bluetooth to pass the information on to a nearby smartphone or tablet, giving feedback in the field.

There’s a professional version for healthcare aimed at people who have gait or foot problems, or need post-operative assessment, allowing clinicians to review the data from the insoles.

The FeetMe Sport insoles are on pre-order for US$150.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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TytoCare Telehealth at CES Keeps Sick Kids at Home



Parents around the world will recognise the perennial problem of taking their child to the doctor for relatively minor ailments simply to get prescription or medication. The kid just wants to be wrapped up in bed watching TV but they’ve to be dragged down to the doctor for 2 minute exam to confirm it’s nothing to worry about. TytoCare have a brilliant solution in the shape of the TytoHome telehealth and remote examination kit. Todd finds out more from Dedi Gilad.

The TytoCare system is a hand-sized unit with a small screen which has icons for the body area to be checked – nose, ears, heart, lungs, temperature. The device uses a selection of interchangeable sensors which are shaped appropriately and are plugged into the rear of the unit.

The device combines a number of medical instruments, including

  • a high resolution video and still camera
  • an infrared forehead thermometer
  • an otoscope for the ear
  • stethoscope for the heart and lungs
  • tongue depressor for the mouth and throat

The TytoHome connects via Bluetooth to any smartphone and the complementary app demonstrates and guides the owner in the use of the device. The collected data is either recorded for later review or on online consultation can be started with a healthcare provider, sending data back to the clinician during the discussion.

The TytoHome is expected to retail at US$299 when it comes to market. There are enhanced versions for professional use (TytoPro and TytoClinic).

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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