LAS VEGAS 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:
Toilet training a toddler is no picnic, but iPotty from CTA Digital seeks to make it a little easier by letting parents attach an iPad to it. This way, junior can gape and paw at the iPad while taking care of business in the old-fashioned part of the plastic potty. The device will go on sale in March, first on Amazon.com.
There are potty training apps out there that will reward toddlers for accomplishing the deed. The company is also examining whether the potty’s attachment can be adapted for other types of tablets, beyond the iPad.
“It’s novel to a lot of people, but we’ve gotten great feedback from parents who think it’d be great for training,” CTA product specialist Camilo Gallardo said.
Whom it’s for: Parents at their wit’s end.
An eye-sensing TV
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 many quirks and comic difficulties.
For one, Hongzhao Guo, the company’s demonstrator, said the system doesn’t work that well when viewers wear glasses. (That kind of defeats the purpose of TV, no?) 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 looked, but the cursor was always a bit low. Looking down to see the cursor resulted only in its moving farther down the TV screen.
“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.
Whom it’s for: People too lazy to move their arms.
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 in which it lives. Just stick the y-shaped sensor into your plant’s soil and download the accompanying app, and you should be able to watch your plant thrive.
“It basically is a Bluetooth smart low-energy sensor,” said Peter George, vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas at Parrot. “It senses light, sunlight, temperature, moisture and soil, as well as fertilizer in the soil. You can use it either indoors or outdoors.”
It will be available sometime this year, the company said.
Whom it’s for: Folks without a green thumb.
If you don’t watch what you put in your mouth, this fork will – or at least will try to. 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.
But the fork won’t know how healthy or how big each bite you take will be, so shoveling a plate of arugula will likely be judged as less healthy than slowly putting away a pile of bacon. No word on spoons, yet, or chopsticks.
Whom it’s for: People who eat too fast, or who want company for their “smart” refrigerator and other kitchen gadgets.
Price: HAPILabs is launching a fundraising campaign for the fork in March on the group-fundraising site Kickstarter.com. Participants need to pay $99 to get a fork, which is expected to ship around April or May.