10 weird and wonderful gadgets from CES 2018: talking toilets to synthetic snuggles

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Fake Eiffel Towers, Elvis impersonators, high-rollers and low-lifes, Las Vegas is a weird place at the best of times. But when the annual CES tech show rolls into town, it gets a whole lot more strange.

For every life-changing innovation, there’s an eyebrow raising one, as the greatest minds in technology look to outdo each other and draw the attention of the baying, tech hungry crowds. Sometimes good intentions turn into weird products, while other times bad ideas just enjoy an unlikely injection of cash to make them into a reality.

So read on for our picks from the biggest tech show on Earth, as we present 10 gadgets that, while sometimes wonderful, are all undeniably weird.

Got $6,000 burning a hole in your pocket? If the hole burns right through to your colon, you might need a place to unload your loins, and Kohler’s ridiculously high-tech talking toilet, the Numi, might be just what you’ll be looking for. A voice activated loo, it features mood lighting, a foot warmer, music playback, a deodorizer and “advanced bidet functionality” with “pulsate”, “oscillate” and “wave” water spray actions. No wonder the guy in the press shot above can’t stand up.

A Faraday Cage for your floppy bits, Spartan’s silver-lined underwear isn’t necessarily a new concept – many companies have tried making knickers to protect your knackers, as we begin to learn of the potentially harmful effects of spending all day with radiofrequency signals beaming from the phones bouncing nestled next to our privates. But Spartan claims its boxer briefs can block 99 percent of phone and Wi-Fi radiation without looking like an adult diaper, meaning there just might be an audience for them – even if that audience just wears them on their head, instead of a foil hat.

Though it’s weird in concept, this one falls firmly into the “wonderful” category in practice. My Special Aflac is a robot duck, intended to help children undergoing treatment for cancer. By using animated movements, sounds and emojis, it’s believed the duck can help children find the ways to express their feelings around their condition. There’s also the ability to administer “medicine” to the duck in the same way that the cancer sufferers would experience it, helping to normalise it and familiarise the children with what they’re going to have go through. An unlikely, but heart-warming device.

One plucked straight from the “good intentions, weird aftertaste” pile, the Somnox robotic pillow is designed as a therapeutic sleep aid, replicating the sensations of sleeping alongside and snuggling up to a human. Except that what you’re holding is a giant bean-shaped cushion full of sensors and motors, rather than what you actually need – a loving person. Despite potentially genuinely beneficial effects from using it, It might well be the saddest gadget we’ve ever seen.

This entry cheats a bit, as it’s not really a “product” for sale as such, but a show that streaming giant Netflix is looking to promote. It set up a whole fake company, hired a CES stand, and put eerily lifelike “humans” in gross-out plastic bags to promote its new show Altered Carbon. Like a freaky Blade Runner future made real, Netflix’s Psychasec company stand promised immortality, transferring consciousness to synthetic new bodies before death. A little more than the usual iterative upgrades we’re used to seeing at trade shows then, though we’re not sure we’d be any happier if it were actually real… 

At first, we thought this was another sad device to file alongside the Somnox – it’s a speaker that gives the impression that their are other people in your home, creating ambient sound and light as if your house was full of people, even if it’s just you on your lonesome. The reality is a little more ingenious than that sad picture, if you take into account that the Mitipi Kevin (aptly named after Kevin McAllister of the Home Alone series) is designed as a security product. You see, if it looks and sounds as if there’s someone home, your property is going to be far less attractive a target for burglars. You get that, ya filthy animals?

Struggling to shake that post-Christmas weight gain? The Modius headset claims to be able to help you get lean with minimal effort by sending electrical signals to your brain. It specifically targets the hypothalamus, which is said to make you feel less hungry. Early reports from CES are skeptical at best, but with weight loss such a big concern in modern society, there’s sure to be some people willing to try anything.

As we get older, we become increasingly likely to take a tumble – we’re less steady on our feet, our reaction times slow, and our bodies become more brittle. When you fall, you fall hard, and it becomes more and more difficult for our bodies to recover. The Helite Hip’Air may look a bit cumbersome and clumsy, but like some of the other entries on this list, it comes with a good purpose in mind. Worn above the hip like a belt, it features constantly-scanning sensors that are on the lookout for signs of an impending fall – should it recognise them, it’ll near-instantly deploy two airbags, one on either side of your hips, to break the impact. It looks a little silly, but if it means the difference between time in hospital and a lengthy recovery, it could be a really useful, compassionate device.

As a kid, when all you want to do is eat chocolate and play video games, brushing your teeth could feel like such a chore. Why care when these milk teeth are going to drop out anyway, right? But, for anyone who’s ever had to deal with a cavity can attest to, it’s best to get into good brushing habits at an early age. The Magik smart toothbrush turns the whole thing into a fun exercise, making brushing your teeth into an augmented reality game that can be played on an iPhone or iPad. Your little ones will have pearly whites, and they’ll be enjoying themselves while polishing them up, too.

True wireless earbuds are everywhere at CES 2018, buoyed by the success of Apple’s AirPods and the desire for evermore-discreet fitness gadgets. But there’s nothing quite like the Yevo earbuds out there – they’re made from the recycled materials of illegal firearms. It’s all for a good cause, with half the profits going towards gun-control charities and institutions. And, by all accounts, they’re sleekly designed and sound good too. Still, bopping along to your favourite tunes, it’d be hard to shake off the thought of what the recycled metals may have been used for in the past.

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