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Hover Hoover’s new gadget over your laundry, and it will tell you how to clean it

Left to our own devices, it’s pretty easy for us rubes to ruin our clothes. Even if your washing machine won’t let you use hot water for your delicates, that doesn’t stop you from tossing something frilly in with your sturdy cottons. Hoover’s washing machine with TED, introduced at IFA 2016, is a smart appliance that knows what type of clothes it’s washing and recommends an appropriate cycle.

It doesn’t exactly do this all by itself. TED stands for textile expert detector, and it’s actually a separate little device from the washer itself. You can magnetically attach it to the machine. It’s about as long and wide as an iPhone 6, but curves out into a fairly bulky handheld gadget. Both the washer and TED are in prototype form right now, but Hoover says it should be due out next year on the European market.

Here’s how it works. You take the TED and lay it on your shirt, sweater, on pants. It detects the fabric – linen, cotton, and so on – and then the accompanying app tells you what cycle to wash your clothes in. If it detects you scanned linen, cotton and polyester, for example, it suggests you wash it as a mixed load. It offers other tips, too, like a recommendation that you not exceed half the machine’s capacity.

The app is also supposed to pull data from you calendar and other apps. If you brought your toddler to a restaurant, it will ask if you want an extra stain boost for this particular wash. That might be a little more information than you want to give up to your washer, though.

The idea of TED sounds good to us, but it also sounds like a lot of work. If you could easily scan your tees as you tossed them in – almost like a barcode – that might be a little more useful. What we’re really waiting for is for the machine itself to sense all the articles of clothing that we threw inside in a clump. That way we’ll get an alert before we accidentally shrink our favorite sweater.

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