LAS VEGAS — From the iPotty for toddlers to the 1,600-pound mechanical spider and the host of glitch-ridden “smart” TVs, the International CES show, held last week, is a forum for gadget makers to take big – and bizarre – chances.
Many of the prototypes introduced at the annual gadget show over the years have failed in the marketplace. But the innovators who shop their wares here are fearless when it comes to pitching new gizmos, many of which are designed to solve problems you didn’t know you had.
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.
“I just said make them louder than everybody else’s,” lead singer and bassist Lemmy Kilmister says. “So that’s the only criterion – and that it should reflect every part of the sound, not just the bass.”
The 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 Krusell International AB, a Swedish company.
Whom it’s for: People who don’t care about their hearing. According to Kilmister, the headphones are ideal for Motorhead fans. “Their hearing is already damaged,” he says. “They better buy these.”
Price: Prices range from $50 to $130.
A 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 many quirks and comic difficulties.
For one, Hongzhao Guo, the company’s demonstrator said the system doesn’t work that well when viewers wear eyeglasses. 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 farther down the TV screen.
Whom it’s for: People too lazy to move their arms.
Parrot flower power
A company named after a bird wants to make life easier for 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 watch your plant thrive.
“It basically is a Bluetooth smart low-energy sensor,” said Peter George, vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas at Parrot. “It senses light, sunlight, temperature, moisture and soil as well as fertilizer in the soil. You can use it either indoors or outdoors.”
The device will be available sometime this year, the company said.
Whom it’s for: “Brown-thumbed” folk and plants with a will to live.
If you don’t watch what you put in your mouth, this fork will – or at least try to. HAPIfork is a fork with a fat handle containing electronics and a battery. A motion sensor detects when you lift 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.
But 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 chopsticks.
Whom it’s for: People who eat too fast, or who want company for their “smart” refrigerator and other kitchen gadgets.
Price: 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.
Toilet 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. The device will go on sale in March, first on Amazon.com.
There are potty training apps out there that will reward toddlers for accomplishing the feat. The company also is 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,” CTA product specialist Camilo Gallardo said.
Whom it’s for: Parents at their wits’ end.