A tiny Roomba for your phone and tablet

Posted at 10:32 PM, Feb 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-08 22:32:09-05

(CNN) — One of the drawbacks of Roombas, the robotic floor cleaning devices that automatically scoot around and suck up dirt, is that they are too big to clean what really matters. They fall off of pets, are miserable at dishes and they do very little for tablet and smartphone maintenance.

A Japanese company is attempting to remedy at least one of those wrongs with a teeny, tiny Roomba-like screen cleaner for mobile devices called the AutoMee S.

The wee gadget, spotted by Engadget is a fun and cheap little invention by Japanese company Takara Tomy.

Drop the AutoMee S onto an iPad and it will buff the finger prints away, wandering around the screen in straight lines, ricocheting of the edges until the entire surface is clean. A sensor detects the edges of the phone or tablet so the device spins around to take another pass instead of wandering off onto your desk and accidentally cleaning unsuspecting pencils and mouse pads.

If you’re in a rush, a microfiber cloth is going to be much faster. It takes four minutes to clean a phone and eight minutes to fully cover a tablet using the AutoMee.

But where’s the fun in that?

The plastic devices run on one AA battery, weighs a little less than 3 ounces, and come in four colors: white, blue, orange and pink. It will retail for 1575 Yen, or nearly $17, when it goes on sale in Japan at the end of March.

Sure, it’s a silly product. But it’s actually an important task.

Phones and tablets are teeming with bacteria such as E. coli that can cause illnesses. Wiping a screen down with a microfiber cloth will get rid of up to 99 percent of those germs.

Using an alcohol-based cleaner is the best way to get all of the bacteria, but it can strip off the oleophobic (oil resistant) coating found on many touchscreen devices. Check the help section for you particular device before going in for a deep clean.