Every year, CES serves as the launchpad for the most exciting innovations in televisions, audio, computing, home appliances, mobile accessories, robotics, and other technologically-related fields. The reveals of gorgeously massive OLED displays and immersive wireless headphones leave attendees salivating and shoppers anxious to buy them. But historically, it's the most outlandish technology that gets the bulk of attention and becomes fodder for conversation when asked the inevitable question, "what did you see at the show?"
These wild and crazy products usually (though not always) hail from small companies and start-ups. And while some are eventually made into actual, saleable products, others disappear after enjoying their 15 minutes of fame.
Whether the products are useful or just ridiculous is irrelevant. Show-goers just can't help but talk about them. Case in point: remember Charmin's toilet paper delivery robot that stole every headline in 2020? Or the HAPIfork from way back in 2013 that buzzes if you eat too quickly, designed to help with portion control and weight loss?
While this year's event was held entirely virtually due to Covid-19, that didn't stop companies from pitching and presenting truly odd products. And while there were no crowds around booths to draw attention, and it wasn't nearly as compelling without being able to see these wondrous inventions in person, I still managed to pick out a selection of the weirdest and dumbest products of CES 2021.
The AC Hardhat
The AC Hardhat is just as it sounds: a hardhat with air conditioning built in to keep you cool. It sounds really smart, ideal for working on job sites and in construction outdoors during hot and humid weather. It uses Peltier thermoelectric solid-state cooling that produces air to cool down the scalp, which can then help cool your entire body. The hat with the battery weighs about a pound and runs on three AH lithium-ion battery that offers up to two hours of run-time.
The creator, which introduced the AC Cap at last year's CES (a baseball hat with the same cooling features) has good intentions. Without having worked in construction, I can't speak to whether the product might have appeal and is worth the extra weight and likely cost. But what happens when the battery dies? I guess at least you got a couple of hours of cooling before the beads of sweat start dripping down once again.
Nonetheless, while the AC Hardhat might not be a dumb product from CES, it most certainly is a weird one.
Toto Wellness Toilet
Toto, known for a variety of bathroom products, launched a number of new products at CES 2021, including innovations in bidets. But the company really gained attention for its weird and wonderful Wellness Toilet. The concept makes sense: the toilet analyzes your skin and feces after you go number two, then, via the mobile app, delivers recommendations on how to improve your health.
Toto says the smart toilet, which, we'll reiterate, scans your body while you sit and defecate, could hit the market within the next few years. "A wealth of wellness data can be collected from fecal matter," says the company.
We can't make this stuff up.
While there's nothing inherently dumb about the Battpack, it is a pretty weird combination of a portable battery pack for your mobile devices and a secret hideaway for your stash of cannabis. Bring this 10,000mAh charger along to keep your smartphone powered up at all times. Then, press the "Adult Proof" button, and voila! It reveals your secret stash.
You don't only have to keep cannabis in there, of course. You could also use it for credit cards, cash, ID, and other items since the stash area is large and wide enough. But where's the fun in promoting that? The stainless-steel magnetic tray that can secure loose articles so they won't shake around inside is a nice touch.
The Battpack is touted as being ideal for travel, concerts, and music festivals. But it's pretty big, so where would you put it? If in a backpack or purse, why would you need the secret stash area in the first place?
Ampere HydroPower Shower Power Speaker
Who doesn't love singing in the shower? Ampere takes this to the next level with its Shower Power, which fits into any showerhead then syncs with a Bluetooth-enabled device to play music so you can lather up and sing along.
It works by the flow of water from the showerhead spinning an internal impeller inside the device. This is, in turn, connected to a mini generator that charges the battery. Once the water is running, the speaker turns on. When the speaker's battery is fully charged, you can listen to up to 20 hours of tunes with the shower off as well, keeping you entertained while you dry off, brush your teeth, do your hair, or shave.
Get an even more immersive musical experience in the bathroom by pairing the Shower Power with the Droplet mini waterproof speaker.
Shower Power sounds clever, in theory, but why not just stick with a waterproof, portable Bluetooth speaker? There are many to choose from, and this way, you can enjoy music inside the shower (is it really that critical to hear every note while you scrub?) and out.
There's also that small detail of trying to reduce water usage, not encourage more of it. Having convenient music right in the shower will only encourage people to keep showering for one more minute, just until they get to that awesome drumbeat solo in In the Air Tonight instead of conserving water and energy.
I'm a long-time user and proponent of Tile Bluetooth trackers. I can't count how many times I have misplaced my keys and had to use the tracker app to find them. Or, more often, misplaced my phone and used the Tile to make it ring so I can find where I left it. The Findy by Foxsmart has a similar purpose except it's specifically for your eyeglasses.
The tracker is designed to adhere to one side of your eyeglass frames using pre-cut double-sided adhesive strips. The next time you forget where you left your glasses, use the Android or iOS app to sound a buzzer if they are within Bluetooth range (up to about 100 feet.) Forgot them at the office? You can also track the last known location in Google Maps.
As a forgetful person myself, I can totally appreciate gadgets like this that are designed to help you find the phone that is wedged between the couch cushions or the keys you forget in your other jacket pocket. But would anyone really want to stick a Bluetooth tracker to their expensive pair of glasses and have it sit an inch from their face? I'm not so sure about this one.
Ninu SMART Perfume
Apparently, Ninu found the one product category that hadn't been touched by technology and figured it was ripe for re-invention: fragrances. This patent-pending smart perfume is controlled by an AI app. Each tube contains three distinct fragrances, allowing you to choose what to spritz on before you head out based on your mood or occasion, and even mix and match to create your own customized scents. You can not only choose your scent using the handy app but also tone down the smell or add an exotic note if you're headed for a night out on the town.
Using 100% vegan, sustainably sourced ingredients, the perfumes are phthalate, paraben, and sulfate-free. And there are more than a million fragrances from which to choose.
While we commend the company for trying to think sustainably, packing multiple fragrances into one bottle, there's something about the familiar practice of grabbing your favorite bottle of perfume or cologne and spritzing on your signature scent. Most people I know have one favorite perfume or cologne and stick with it. But who knows, maybe these guys are onto something and Ninu represents the future of body sprays.
Samsung Bot Handy
Any adult watching a video demo of an AI robot rolling around a kitchen, loading the dishwasher, and pouring you a glass of wine after a long day at the office will inevitably become giddy like a kid in a candy store. But how many of us would actually have one of these AI bots in our homes?
One of the latest products to join Samsung's Bot Care line of AI robot assistants, the concept product Bot Handy is designed to serve as a literal extra hand in the home. The one-handed, long, and rectangular bot can scoot around while its movable arm and pincers grab items, assisting in various tasks around the house.
Would you trust one of these with your expensive China? Or that vintage bottle of pinot noir you received as a gift? Will Bot Handy uncork the wine, too, or add detergent and run the dishwasher cycle? Probably not.
Products like Bot Handy are wonderful ways to showcase where technology is going and the many fun applications they could be used for in the future. But as much as I'd love to have a Handy Bot in my home (who wouldn't want an extra hand for chores?) this one just isn't realistic. And let's be real: it would probably cost more than hiring an actual person to help out a few times a week anyway.
HairMax Flip 80 Laser Hair Growth Cap
Hair loss is real, and it's inevitable for some. Yet every year at CES, companies promote a host of products that promise to help stimulate new hair growth as if it's a magic solution.
This year, HairMax promises to treat thinning areas and stimulate hair growth with its Laser Cap. It includes 80 medical-grade lasers, delivering laser light energy to hair follicles that purportedly reduce thinning and stimulate fuller hair growth as well as reduce inflammation.
Maybe this product will make a difference to some, even if it's just by making them feel as though their hair is growing in thicker, fuller, and healthier. HairMax claims its seven clinical studies prove an increase in hair count of 129 new hairs per square inch, so there might just be something to it. Nonetheless, I can't help but cringe every time I see one of these hair growth companies at the show.
There's something for everyone
All of these products have one thing in common: they are just plain weird. Then again, so was the Chia Pet and the beer-drinking helmet. And while we might laugh at the idea of having a one-handed robot become our own personal butler, we also laughed at the concept of having an always-on speaker in the home, or a robotic vacuum. And who doesn't have one, or even both, of those nowadays?
Often, true innovation requires weird, out of the box thinking. So, if nothing else, all of these companies should be commended for embracing just that.
Chances are we won't see any of the weirdest and dumbest products of CES 2021 flying off the shelves any time soon. But sometimes, weird and dumb is just what the doctor ordered to help break up the monotony of an otherwise fairly predictable tech event.
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Christine Persaud has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's working on her latest fitness program, binging a new TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets she's reviewing, or spending time with family and friends. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.