Some of the weirdest gadgets at the International CES show are designed
to solve problems you never knew you had. Are you eating too fast? A
digital fork will let you know. Is your toddler having trouble sitting
still on the potty? Let the iPotty come to the rescue. Are you bored
driving to work in a four-wheeled vehicle? Climb inside a 1,600-pound
mechanical spider for your morning commute.
Of course, not all of the
prototypes introduced at the annual gadget show will succeed in the
marketplace. But the innovators who shop their wares here are fearless
when it comes to pitching new gizmos, be they flashy, catchy or just
A search for this year's strangest (and perhaps least
useful) electronic devices yielded an extra-loud pair of headphones from
a metal band, an eye-sensing TV that didn't work as intended and more.
Take a look:
Bass-heavy headphones that
borrow the names of hip-hop luminaries like Dr. Dre have become
extremely popular. Rock fans have been left out of the party - until
now. British metal band Motorhead, famous for playing gut-punchingly
loud, is endorsing a line of headphones that "go to eleven" and are
hitting U.S. stores now.
Says lead singer and bassist Lemmy
Kilmister, explaining his creative input: "I just said make them louder
than everybody else's. So that's the only criteria, and that it should
reflect every part of the sound, not just the bass."
Motorheadphone line consists of three over-the-ear headphones and six
in-ear models. The initiative came from a Swedish music-industry
veteran, and distribution and marketing is handled by a Swedish company,
Krusell International AB.
Who it's for
People who don't care
about their hearing or of the sanity of person sitting next to them on
the subway. According to Kilmister, the headphones are ideal for
Motorhead fans. "Their hearing is already damaged, they better buy
Prices range from $50 to $130.
prototype of an eye-sensing TV from Haier didn't quite meet viewers
eye-to-eye. An on-screen cursor is supposed to appear where the viewer
looks to help, say, select a show to watch. Blinking while controlling
the cursor is supposed to result in a click. In our brief time with the
TV, we observed may quirks and comic difficulties.
For one, the
company's demonstrator Hongzhao Guo said the system doesn't work that
well when viewers wear eyeglasses. (That kind of defeats the purpose of
TV, no?) But it turns out, one bespectacled reporter was able to make it
work. But the cursor appeared a couple inches below where the viewer
was looking. This resulted in Guo snapping his fingers to attract the
reporter's eye to certain spots. The reporter dutifully looked, but the
cursor was always a bit low. Looking down to see the cursor only
resulted in it moving further down the TV screen.
Who it's for
People too lazy to move their arms.
easy to do," Guo said, taking the reporter's place at the
demonstration. He later said the device needs to be recalibrated for
each person. It worked fine for him, but the TV is definitely not ready
Parrot flower power
A company named after a
bird wants to make life easier for your plants. A plant sensor called
Flower Power from Paris-based Parrot is designed to update your mobile
device with a wealth of information about the health of your plant and
the environment it lives in. Just stick the y-shaped sensor in your
plant's soil, download the accompanying app and - hopefully - watch your
"It basically is a Bluetooth smart low-energy
sensor. It senses light, sunlight, temperature, moisture and soil as
well as fertilizer in the soil. You can use it either indoors or
outdoors," said Peter George, vice president of sales and marketing for
the Americas at Parrot. The device will be available sometime this year,
the company said.
Who it's for
'Brown-thumbed' folk and plants with a will to live.
you don't watch what you put in your mouth, this fork will - or at
least try to. Called HAPIfork, it's a fork with a fat handle containing
electronics and a battery. A motion sensor knows when you are lifting
the fork to your mouth. If you're eating too fast, the fork will vibrate
as a warning. The company behind it, HapiLabs, believes that using the
fork 60 to 75 times during meals that last 20 to 30 minutes is ideal.
the fork won't know how healthy or how big each bite you take will be,
so shoveling a plate of arugula will likely be judged as less healthy
than slowly putting away a pile of bacon. No word on spoons, yet, or
Who it's for?
People who eat too fast. Those who want company for their "smart" refrigerator and other kitchen gadgets.
HapiLabs is launching a fundraising campaign for the fork in March on
the group-fundraising site Kickstarter.com. Participants need to pay $99
to get a fork, which is expected to ship around April or May.
training a toddler is no picnic, but iPotty from CTA Digital seeks to
make it a little easier by letting parents attach an iPad to it. This
way, junior can gape and paw at the iPad while taking care of business
in the old-fashioned part of the plastic potty. IPotty will go on sale
in March, first on Amazon.com.
There are potty training apps out
there that'll reward toddlers for accomplishing the deed. The company is
also examining whether the potty's attachment can be adapted for other
types of tablets, beyond the iPad.
"It's novel to a lot of people
but we've gotten great feedback from parents who think it'd be great for
training," said CTA product specialist Camilo Gallardo.
Who it's for
Parents at their wit's end.
Mondo spider, Titanboa
pair of giant hydraulic and lithium polymer battery controlled beasts
from Canadian art organization eatART caught some eyes at the show. A
rideable 8-legged creature, Mondo Spider weighs 1,600 pounds and can
crawl forward at about 5 miles per hour on battery power for roughly an
hour. The 1,200-pound Titanoboa slithers along the ground at an as yet
Computer maker Lenovo sponsored the group to show off the inventions at CES.
Patterson, an engineer who volunteers his time to making the gizmos,
said they were made in part to learn more about energy use. One lesson
from the snake is that "side winding," in which the snake corkscrews its
way along the ground, is one of the most efficient ways of moving along
soft ground, like sand.
Titanoboa was made to match the size of a
50-foot long reptile whose fossilized remains were dated 50 million
years ago, when the world was 5 to 6 degrees warmer. The creature was
built "to provoke discussion about climate change," Patterson said.
The original version of Mondo Spider, meanwhile, first appeared at the Burning Man arts gathering in Nevada in 2006.
Who it's for
Your inner child, Burning Man participants, people with extra-large living rooms.
The spider's parts cost $26,000. The Titanoboa costs $70,000. Engineers
provided their time for free and both took "thousands of hours" to
build, Patterson said.
In pics: Best of CES 2013