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Shows & Panels
'Smart' potty or dumb idea? Wacky gadgets at CES
Thursday - 1/10/2013, 12:49am EST
By RYAN NAKASHIMA and BARBARA ORTUTAY
The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Some of the weirdest gadgets at the International CES show are designed to solve problems you never knew you had. Are you eating too fast? A digital fork will let you know. Is your toddler having trouble sitting still on the potty? Let the iPotty come to the rescue. Are you bored driving to work in a four-wheeled vehicle? Climb inside a 1,600-pound mechanical spider for your morning commute.
Of course, not all of the prototypes introduced at the annual gadget show will succeed in the marketplace. But the innovators who shop their wares here are fearless when it comes to pitching new gizmos, be they flashy, catchy or just plain odd.
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.
Says lead singer and bassist Lemmy Kilmister, explaining his creative input: "I just said make them louder than everybody else's. So that's the only criteria, 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 a Swedish company, Krusell International AB.
WHO IT'S FOR: People who don't care about their hearing or of the sanity of person sitting next to them on the subway. According to Kilmister, the headphones are ideal for Motorhead fans. "Their hearing is already damaged, 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 may quirks and comic difficulties.
For one, the company's demonstrator Hongzhao Guo said the system doesn't work that well when viewers wear eyeglasses. (That kind of defeats the purpose of TV, no?) But it turns out, 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 further down the TV screen.
WHO IT'S FOR: People too lazy to move their arms.
"It's easy to do," Guo said, taking the reporter's place at the demonstration. He later said the device needs to be recalibrated for each person. It worked fine for him, but the TV is definitely not ready for prime-time.
_PARROT FLOWER POWER
A company named after a bird wants to make life easier for your 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 _ hopefully _ watch your plant thrive.
"It basically is a Bluetooth smart low-energy sensor. It senses light, sunlight, temperature, moisture and soil as well as fertilizer in the soil. You can use it either indoors or outdoors," said Peter George, vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas at Parrot. The device will be available sometime this year, the company said.
WHOT 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. Called HAPIfork, it's a fork with a fat handle containing electronics and a battery. A motion sensor knows when you are lifting 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.