Compiled ByJohn Teresko Does automation really succeed if freedom from manual drudgery is the only benefit? Dyson, the British maker of washing machines, doesn't think so. The R&D goal for its new Contrarotor automatic washer was to do more than merely improve on other machines. Dyson wanted results that improved on handwashing. To do that, the new design had to surpass the benchmark of 15 minutes of handwashing, which was found to be superior to 67 minutes in conventional machines. Dyson's solution, two counter rotating drums, which emphasize what hands so best -- manipulate and flex the fabrics in the soapy water. Dyson says the front-loading design cuts a typical weekly wash of 31 lb down from 5 hours, 54 minutes, to 2 hours, 18 minutes, saving 3 1/2 hours.