The most ridiculous and strange tech gadgets of the last 25 years

The most ridiculous and strange tech gadgets of the last 25 years

The most ridiculous and strange tech gadgets of the last 25 years

Not all gadgets are winners. And it turns out that many of them are complete losers. The massive electronic bonanza known as CES 2023 is on the books and it featured plenty of weird gadgets of its own, from a pee-reading toilet to a chopping board with a screen. But what if we go back and watch the CES shows of yore?

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve seen gadgets so amazing they sometimes seem to exist only because journalists like me write about them. But it’s time to call the most horrible, the worst of the worst. Shoe vacuum cleaners, toilet paper robots, MP3 weapon cases, it’s up to you to shine!

The most interesting part of this rogue gallery is that some of these products – the Pepe Pet Dryer, the HapiFork and the Hushme, to name a few – are still sold today. It’s true: you blew it up, maniacs!

Dyson Zone air purifying headphones

Man wearing helmet and visor

Nothing unusual here.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Not technically a CES product, as was announced in 2022, but Dyson was demonstrating the Zone headphones in Las Vegas during CES 2023. Although the Zone looks like it should be a COVID mask, unfortunately that’s not what he does. According to the Dyson site, development on the Zone began in 2016 as a personal air filter – for pollution, primarily – and as such it was never intended to protect against COVID. Moreover, one reviewer claimed that the gadget’s forced fans might even help maximize your chances of catching the coronavirus. CNET’s Katie Collins, who tried it on at Dyson’s UK headquarters, thought it was “too bright and weird to ignore.”

Read more: Dyson Zone Air Filtering headphones on sale in January for $949

Rollbot Charmin

Charmin RollBot

CBS

Computing peripheral maker Razer is the king of creating “watch me” products specifically for CES, but toilet paper brand Charmin rose to fame for this 2020 entry. That’s right, the year that saw the mass purchase of toilet paper in panic came a robot that could bring you even more! Chance? Yes probably. The RollBot was never going to be a real product, but we loved/hated it anyway.

Read more: These Charmin robots have us wondering: is poo the next technological frontier?

Kolibree smart toothbrush

An iPhone next to a Kolibree toothbrush

Kolibree’s new connected toothbrush tracks users’ activity, helping them brush their teeth in the most efficient way possible.

Kolibree

Remember when we had to wash our hands for 20 seconds in sing songs for ourselves? The same methodology also applies to brushing your teeth, but why should you use your own brain and your own lips as a suction cup? There have been many smart toothbrushes over the years, but today I choose the Kolibree. everything was right fine until the arrival of “the world’s first connected electric toothbrush”. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…

Read more: Kolibree’s connected toothbrush aims for better dental health

MP3 Taser Holster

MP3 Taser Holster

supreme defense

In the 2000s, the iPod has become such a cultural phenomenon that every company rushed to create its own MP3 player. This resulted in what is one of the dumbest CES products in recent memory: the Tazer MP3 case. Imagine trying to not only charge your case, but also connect it via USB to your computer to fill it with 1GB of music.

Read more: What every Taser needs: a case to play music

Pepe Pet Dryer

Pepe Pet Dryer

Pepe is a dryer for your dogs and cats.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Want to find a new way to make your little dog or cat hate you forever? Lock them in a cube prison for 25 minutes (!) and subject them to blasts of hot air. This torture device/dryer combo would have cost you $660, or you could just throw a towel over your wet dog like a normal human.

Read more: At CES 2019, a $660 sauna will give your dog the blow-dry of his life

HapiFork

Hapifork on a plate of food and napkin

CNET

Throughout history, there have been so many gadgets designed to limit normal human behavior, but this one takes the (pan) cake. The HapiFork is another vibrating gadget that tells you to eat your meals more slowly (over 20 minutes), the idea being that you’re less likely to overeat. Personally, I swallow my own meals like I’m in jail, so do your best, HapiFork. I will eat with my hands if necessary! You are not my boss!

Read more: Upsetting your food? Put the brakes on with HapiFork

Hushme

A man with a Hushme on his mouth

Hushme in mask mode.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Hushme is literally a “dumb” product – it’s designed to mute its user to other people in the immediate vicinity. It’s been touted as being useful in the workplace, but…if a co-worker gave me one, he’d better wear vacuum shoes, in order to clean up the happily trampled bits.

Read more: Hushme may be the weirdest and most useful wireless headphones ever

Belt

Belty smart belt in a shop window

Make room for Belty, a smart pant-holding device that slims down or expands to fit granular changes to your waistline. This is not a joke.

Nick Statt/CNET

The original Belty was a prototype smart belt with a motor that adjusted based on whether you had just eaten or were sitting down. Not practical as hell, but kinda cool? Although there is a newer model, also called Belty, this one is even weirder – it doesn’t have auto-sizing, but it does have a power bank charger in the loop. Alright, two things. Not only do I not I want a potentially volatile compound near my stockings, I also don’t want to connect a bunch of devices to it.

Read more: Meet Belty, the ridiculous but weirdly popular CES show-stealer unveiled

Xybernaut Poma

A man models the Xybernaut Poma laptop

Sean Captain, formerly of PC Advisor, models the Xybernaut Poma. Via seancaptain.com.

Captain Sean

First shown at CES 1998, the Hitachi Xybernaut laptop was a terrible idea long before google glasses was even a gleam in Babak Parviz’s eyes. The Windows CE-based Xybernaut Poma offered a 128MHz RISC processor and 32MB of RAM for the low price of $1,499, plus it strapped to your arm, face, and belt!

Read more: Hitachi designs laptops

Denso vacuum shoes

The bottom of a Denso vacuum shoe

Sarah Tew/CNET

Shoes. You wear them. They wear out, you buy more. But that’s not exciting now, is it? They need things in them — telephones, rockets, rollers and… vacuum cleaners? There are so many puns I could do, even just the name of the Denso Vacuum Shoes, but the fact that they existed was the biggest joke of them all.

Read more: Vacuum shoes are showing up at CES because why not?

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