CES 2020’s most bizarre and useless gizmos

Author: Thomas Halter

Every year, the Consumer Electronics Show, aka CES, takes place in Las Vegas, offering tech companies a stage to present their vision of the future. Between prototypes of future revolutionary products and new technologies that ambition to change our lives, the showcase is also an opportunity for the public to discover gadgets of much more debatable interest! Here is a sample of these unusual and weird products.

Sero: a TV to watch your smartphone videos

It was bound to happen: probably tired of unsuccessfully reprimanding heretics filming their holidays with their phones upright, Samsung engineers decided to tackle the problem from a new angle. Literally. Thanks to the Samsung Sero, you no longer have to deal with these unsightly black bars on the sides of the screen.

The Korean giant’s new TV rotates in a few seconds to give you the best possible vertical view of your friends’ Instagram and TikTok stories. The device can also be paired with your iOS or Android phone. It’s all very nice, but I was promised flying cars, and I’m still driving on asphalt like it’s 1953.

“It’s a revolution…” (Well, it’s actually a quarter of a revolution but you get the idea.)

RollBot, the TP valet

We’ve all been through this: nature calls very urgently, so much so that you don’t realise there’s no toilet paper until it’s too late to do anything about it. Pride prevents you from requesting any help from your fellow humans, and you decide you’re just going to die right there à la Elvis. Except now you can rely on RollBot – and he won’t tell anyone. (Hopefully).

This teddy bear-faced robot on wheels, created by toilet paper brand Charmin (!), has got your (lower) back: just use the mobile app and RollBot will roll to your help bearing the lifesaving TP roll. Which is yet another great excuse to always bring your phone to the bathroom.

No caption can make this more ridiculous than it already is. (Is this actually an homage to Rick & Morty?)

Please note, in all seriousness, that Charmin has also created a device that tells you if the previous user’s stink is still poisoning the air (NO GO) or if you can breathe normally while doing your business (GO), as well as a VIP portable toilet for festivals equipped with an Oculus Rift, allowing you to not miss a minute of your favourite band’s show, because that’s what the world needs, of course.

Prinker, the temporary tattoo printer

If you’ve always been jealous of your friends’ tattoos but cannot stand to even look at a needle without fainting, Korean start-up Prinker has got you covered. Thanks to its portable printer, soberly named Prinker S, you can now adorn your skin with pretty (well, hum) designs without submitting yourself to endless minutes of torture.

Select a design from the catalogue, or create your own artwork, slide the device to where you want your mistake to appear on your body, and that’s it! Using a special ink, you can now inscribe the name of your loved one across your chest. And if they ever decide to leave you – which they should since you’ve Prinkered their name in Comic Sans on your forehead – no need to worry: these tattoos will naturally vanish after a few days.

This lady apparently has an astronomy exam tomorrow.

Moxie, the showerhead/wireless speaker

Waterproof Bluetooth speakers that play your favourite music in the shower are nothing new. But Kohler has taken the concept a step further with a shower head that incorporates a rechargeable speaker right in its centre. The American brand also provides a version that features Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa. Convenient for making your playlist without having to fiddle with buttons when you’ve got soap all over your eyelids (try not to get any in your mouth when requesting Céline Dion’s My Heart Will Go On to start your day fresh and dandy).

The future is fascinating.

Y-Brush, the 10-second toothbrush

If you’re always in a hurry and consider brushing your teeth too time-consuming a chore, the Y-Brush from French company FasTeesH allows you to do it in just ten seconds. Thanks to infrasound-based technology, you no longer need to sweep the brush all over your teeth like a caveman. Simply slide the device into your mouth and “chew” on it during five seconds for the top, then another five seconds for the bottom, and voilà! In record time, your teeth are clean, and your breath is fresh (maybe – I don’t know you that well). Icing on the cake: the Y-Brush doesn’t require any special toothpaste to work, so you can keep using your favourite brand. Isn’t life just great?

Why brush your teeth when you can use a giant mouthguard that might make your amalgams go full popcorn?

URGOnight, the headband that helps you sleep better

Chronic insomnia has unfortunately become one of today’s major scourges. The fault lies with stress, the omnipresence of screens, poor lifestyle, or lousy neighbours. To help you sleep well, the French engineers behind URGOnight are launching a headband that trains your brain to sleep better. Simple exercises (three twenty-minute sessions per week) allow the device to analyse your encephalogram, which will help you learn to produce brainwaves that enhance the quality of your sleep. This will undoubtedly seduce the geeks who have so far been insensitive to the charms of conventional meditation.

You’ll sleep like a baby after they put you in an insane asylum for wearing this at work.

MarsCat, the robot cat for people who can’t have pets

What could be sadder than loving cats but being unable to adopt one because of nasty allergies? Well, quite a lot, actually, but it’s still a pity. Fortunately, thanks to Elephant Robotics, you can now enjoy the presence of a tiny feline companion without suffering from constant sneezing fits.

The MarsCat is a cute little robot cat that mimics the behaviour of a real kitty. You can even choose its temperament according to your preferences: energetic or lazy, sociable or shy, enthusiastic or aloof, it’s up to you. And on top of that, it doesn’t shed its hair. Of course, this cybercat will undoubtedly cost you more than antihistamines. But at least your furniture and carpets will be safe.

And just like a real cat, if you look at it straight in the eyes, it will eat your soul.

Now that we’ve had a good laugh with these improbable gadgets, let’s be honest for a minute: it’s extremely unlikely any of these devices will make a significant impact on real people’s lives. They’ll probably end up at the bottom of the recycling bin, along with the countless trivial stuff we’re constantly being showered with. And at Emakina, the technology we love is the one that innovates to improve people’s lives and make the world a better place, one experience at a time. So when we see useless tech junk, we mock it relentlessly (before secretly buying it, because of course we do, sometimes).

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