You don't have to go far to find something weird at CES. And we're not necessarily talking bad weird. Just weird weird. Simple fact is there's a market for everything. Or, rather, the companies here in Las Vegas are hoping there's a market for whatever it is they're selling.
So I gave the Mobile Nations gang a simple task. You have 20 minutes. Bring me back the weirdest thing you can find.
Let's see how we did.
Phil Nickinson — Earthquake speakers
Just like last year, we've been set up with a stage and work area just inside the entrance of South Hall, a cavernous space that feels like it's about a mile long when you're carrying 30 pounds of gear. (It's really about 1,500 feet long, which isn't unimpressive, especially when you consider the number of stories the building itself rises into the air.)
One constant in South Hall is the occasional earthquake that shakes the floor. And the walls. And your eardrums. Your already aching sinuses. Every cell of your body is rattled.
And it turns out that it is an earthquake, in both the literal and figurative sense. We're talking about Earthquake Sound Corp., which is a mere 30 yards or so from our stage. So every now and then, when someone cranks up their monstrous demo subwoofer, YOUFINDYOURSELFTALKINGLIKETHISTOANDWONDERINGIFITWILLEVEREND. A speaker that travels up to 4 inches when cranked is impressive enough — never mind the signal tech that I don't actually understand. I listen to a lot of loud, rumbly music. But this speaker feels like it grabs you from within, drags you down through the depths of Hades for a few rounds and then deposits you back in front of a shiny Vegas casino for more.
And it does this year after year.
- More: Earthquake Sound Corp.
Alex Dobie — WorryFree Gadgets' $33 Android tablets
It's tempting to say there's not a lot of new Android stuff at CES this year. But look hard enough and there plenty to be found, for better or worse. Case in point: WorryFree Gadgets' lineup of... basic... Android devices, which sell for as little as $33 wholesale. And for that money, you get exactly what you'd expect. The entry-level Zeepad 7DRK rocks a 7-inch WVGA panel, an AllWinner BoxChip A12 dual-core CPU, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It is at least running Android 4.4.2 KitKat, so there's that.
Step up to the oddly-named WoPad 7i to get an Intel CPU and 2GB of RAM. Or pick the Flytouch XR to upgrade to an ATM 7029 quad-core chip and 1024x600 display res. And while you're at it, keep in shape with the "Healthy Bracelet," wearable featuring an "LED sereen" (sic) "sports records" and "sleep monitoing" (sic).
Serenity Caldwell — Faupple Watches
I may not have been able to buy a Chinese-made imitation Apple Watch this CES, but seeing and handling them was almost as good. I visited three different companies in CES's Westgate pavilion that were showcasing variations on the Apple Watch and Moto 360, though all declined to sell when I asked after them. "We're not launching until later this year," the first told me, while other booth had parted with its only two "Smart Watch" production samples to Mashable and Gizmodo.
But hey, if you weren't at CES, you may still be able to get your hands on an imitation watch — Texas-based Digital Millenium was at the booth signing a U.S. distribution deal when I dropped by. (That said, the likelihood of those devices actually making it to the States before Apple brings down the banhammer is... a wee bit slim.)
Also: 3D trinkets are almost old hat at CES by this point, but 3D printer manufacturers are still finding new ways to pull people to their booths. This year at Sands and Pepcom: a full 3D-printed band, including drums, guitar, and bass; a 3D-drawn suit jacket; 3D-printed high heels, and 3D-printed kevlar vests.
And one more: 1997 is calling There's a certain amount of nostalgia inherent in a technology show — you can't look forward without looking back — but this is a special brand of it indeed: Utah-based Ekcessories designed their iLounge accessories booth around a "Back to the Future" tech theme, putting its new line of colored cases next to the devices of yesteryear, including an original and functioning Bondi Blue iMac G3. Awww, little buddy. Don't let the wireless tablets scare you. You were very futuristic in 1997.
Andrew Martonik — Fujiiryoki Cyber-Relax FJ-4600
When you wander the depths of the South Hall you're bound to find some interesting things in product categories of all kinds, and today the Fujiiryoki booth had me intrigued. A lineup of these … machines called the Cyber-Relax FJ-6000 were packed with people wanting to try them out.
They're basically just platforms that you stand on and get jiggled around by — and at this booth it was paired with loud top 40 pop music as well. Apparently it helps you relax — for me, it just helped me get a good laugh in today. Who knows, maybe they'll be the best new accessory to pair with your standing desk in 2015.
Derek Kessler — Easy-Doks CR88 multi-charger
If you happen to have 16 tablets that you need to charge, the CR88 by Easy-Doks might just fit that bill. It pipes out 5 volts of 2.1-amp power to 16 USB ports, and thankfully has a built-in surge protector (30+ amps is a lot of power to be drawing through a standard household outlet). But say you have 16 tablets to charge… where do you put them all? In hanging file folders, naturally. And if can be yours for the low low price of $499.99.
Richard Devine — Toshiba Communication Android
Toshiba didn't have anything Android to show off at CES, except, well, this Android. I won't lie, it creeps me out. A lot. But, it managed to draw huge crowds of people to see it in action. Known as the Communication Android — well actually it has a Japanese name, but I can't remember how to spell it — it's supposedly the future of animatronic home assistants.
It talks like a human, it moves largely like a human, and it looks pretty much like a human. That's clearly what Toshiba is going for, but I think I'd be a little more comfortable if it actually looked like a robot. Weird, yes, but still very cool technology in action.