The Neato XV-11 is a newer high-tech entry into a product category entirely dominated by Roomba for the past several years. Rather than randomly vacuuming an area, this "smarter" robotic vacuum actually maps out your room and furniture, and then chooses an efficient path for cleaning the area.
The Neato robotic vacuum can run an hour before automatically returning to the base station to charge, and can be programmed to vacuum different rooms at different times of day, the kids rooms while they are at school, the dining room after dinner, the living room after everyone goes to bed, etc.
By visually mapping the location of walls, furnutire, stairs, etc, and then scanning before it enters an area, the Neato product avoids getting stuck like the Roomba sometimes can, plus it can vacuum to within one-inch of any edge (without even touching the wallks, let alone bumping off of them like the Roomba does). The XV-11 also follows a pattern similar to the one you use when you mow your lawn when it vacuums, so you don't end up with the spiralized wheel marks you get with the Roomba.
In our demonstration, the Neato product had no problem navigating over cords, and could vacuum varying thickness of carpet as well as hardwood floors.
As good as the features are, as an also-ran, Neato's market success will have more to do staying ahead in product innovation and remaining price competitive. We are told that soon, Neato will have a complete line of home cleaning robots, and based upon this first offering, we are interested in seeing what they are going to do next.