The Coolest, Weirdest Things We Saw at CES 2015

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A sign over the entrance to the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Rick Wilking/Reuters

The ever-chirping chorus of techies at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, hawking their gadgets, services and Wi-Fi-enabled everything, is a vortex of cloying cyber-enthusiasm. Since I am prone to seeing much of this as ridiculous (for example, who wants a $1,200 Walkman?), much of my experience walking around this endless mire of booths was one of consternation. But even this neo-Luddite found a lot of neat things worth sharing. Without further ado, here are my picks, with an emphasis on things that haven’t already gotten a lot of press:

Zuta Labs

Picture a printer roughly the size of several iPhones stacked on top of each other—and moves as it prints. Voilà, you have Zuta Labs’s mobile printer. This device trundles back and forth over paper as it puts down ink. This little guy would make sense to own if you want a printer but don’t have enough space for one, or are constantly on the move. It can now be purchased on the company’s website, after Zuta raised more than $500,000 with a successful Kickstarter campaign.  

Zuta Labs small mobile printer. Zuta Labs’s small mobile printer Douglas Main for Newsweek

Mind Every Garden

Not everybody is good at taking care of plants. To get around that, a little French company called Mind Every Garden has created an automated pot that senses soil moisture and gives the plant a drink when needed. It also will soon release another product, which monitors the electric signals within plant tissue to monitor levels of pollutants like ozone. Company co-founder Franz Ezin says he is working with the city of Paris to deploy the sensors for their pollutant-sensing abilities. The Parrot Company, a completely separate entity, has made an even more advanced smart pot that senses soil nitrogen content and can be programmed, the company claims, to take care of hundreds of different plant species.

Mind Every Garden Mind Every Garden’s green plant-tethered pollution sensor. Douglas Main for Newsweek

Raticator

Rats and mice are a pain. But some people would rather not kill the little animals in a violent manner. Enter Raticator. This California company makes traps that electrocute rodents and kills them in a quick and “humane” manner, says company president Robert Noe. The floor of the Raticator is made of metal, and when a mouse or rat walks in, an infrared sensor notices its body heat and triggers a flood of current that stops the rodent’s heart and lungs. It also sends out a signal saying that it has done its job, so somebody can retrieve the unmangled carcass.

 

Robert Noe, the president of Raticator Robert Noe, president of Raticator Douglas Main for Newsweek

gTar

Learning to play the guitar isn’t easy. California-based gTar has created a guitar with real strings overlaying a fretboard with glowing LEDs that show players where to put their fingers. It can load hundreds of popular songs by connecting to a smartphone and then shows you how to play along. You can also select a level of difficulty, increasing it as you improve.

Flir

This company has built a $249 infrared camera that connects to smartphones. The device can “see” heat by sensing infrared radiation and also has a second visible camera to distinguish writing and other surface details not typically visible with infrared cameras. Why would you want one? It has many potential uses, explains spokesman Keith Metz-Porozni, such as spotting animals or pets in the dark, or detecting cold air drafts or leaking pipes in walls. It’s also fun to take a thermal portrait of yourself, which the company dubs a “thermie.”

Blast Motion

When I say “jump,” you say “How high?” Blast Motion has created a coin-sized sensor that will tell you exactly how much air you’re getting, whether you’re jumping under your own power or on a skateboard or skis. It also registers how quickly you’re going, your rotation and a whole bunch of other metrics. The sensors can also be used on baseball bats and golf clubs to analyze your swing, and there is a smartphone app to help you correct problems with your game. An accompanying video feature allows users to film, quantify and analyze their jump, swing, running gait or other athletic maneuvers, frame by frame.

Artec Shapify

Ever wanted a miniature sculpture of yourself? Who hasn’t? This company has developed a 3-D scanner that takes a composite image of your body, including fine details such as the color and pattern of your clothing. You can then order a 3-D-printed copy of yourself, in several sizes, which the company calls a “shapie.” Even Barack Obama had a bust of himself made using the company’s technology.

Artec Shapify Camera Booth A 3-D representation of the author after being scanned by Artec’s Shapify camera booth Douglas Main for Newsweek