Of all the things we expected to see on display at CES in Las Vegas, a garbage can was not one of them. Nonetheless, amongst the tablet computers, 3D camcorders and iPhone apps, there sat the simplehuman sensor can. Like some other “touchless” garbage cans, its built-in sensor detects when someone is nearby, causing the can to obligingly open its lid. What makes it special – perhaps – is the company’s claim that the can’s “multi-sense” technology can adapt to what the user is doing.

The stainless steel sensor can starts off in Ready mode, with its sensor’s trigger zone focused directly above the lid. This is said to limit incidences of it being triggered simply by people walking past, while still working well when users reach in with garbage. Once that initial reach-in has caused the lid to open, the can then goes into Task mode, extending its trigger zone higher to better detect user activity – this reportedly keeps it from closing before the user has finished dumping their whatever into it.

When you want to spend a little more quality time with your garbage, such as when changing the bag, it goes into Stay-Open mode. This mode is initiated by at least three seconds of continuous user activity, after which point the lid will stay open for 30 seconds regardless of what’s going on around it.

Should users wish to manually override the motorized lid and jam it down or yank it open by hand, a clutch mechanism allows them to do so without wrecking the motor.

The sensor can also incorporates carbon filters, for absorbing nasty odors.

It runs on six C-cell batteries, which the company claims could last for up to a year of use. An optional AC adapter is said to be on the way.

The simplehuman sensor can sells for an ungarbage-can-like US$225 for the 40L/10.5 US gallon model, or $275 for the 55L/14.5 US gallon version. The odorsorb charcoal inserts cost $5.99 each, and can reportedly be recharged by being left to sit in the sunlight.