Some technology solves widespread problems and changes lives for the better. Some technology at best leaves us scratching our heads, or at worst gives us nightmares for a week. We've rounded up the best of both worlds for you!
COOL: KURI THE HOME ROBOT
I think we can all agree we should have our Rosie the Robot Maids by now. We're still waiting, but in the meantime there's Kuri.
This home robot wants to be your personal assistant and AI friend. She can wake you up in time for work, greet you when you get home, watch your house while you're away, respond to voice commands, play music/audiobooks/podcasts (you can even send her into your kid's room for bedtime stories), tell your dog to get off the couch, and take pictures or videos.
Not to mention, it's pretty cute. The designers wanted Kuri to feel like a buddy. It has emotive eyes and its own robot language, conveys feelings through colored lights, and responds to pats on the head. Adorable. She's available for pre-orders now at $699.
Boston Dynamics is an incredible company with some of the most advanced robotics out there. Yet, the SpotMini, which can only be described as a robotic dog skeleton, would cause too many middle-of-the-night screams to tolerate wandering around the house.
The technology is amazing, the functionality is incredible, but I would never let this thing in my place. If you're unshaken by Doggo-Terminator and have a bunch of money, you may be able to get your own soon.
In popular cities, apartment living can be cramped. Trying to fit your entire life into a <600 sq. ft. space is difficult and claustrophobic. The designers of Ori want to solve this by creating "dynamic environments that act and feel as though they are substantially larger".
This unique system acts like multiple rooms in one, giving you a bed, shelving, closet, desk, entertainment center, library, and about anything else you could imagine. And, it moves! You can adjust its position through touch, tap, or voice commands to create different spaces. The Ori is beautiful, functional, and seems poised to make cramped areas much more livable.
WEIRD: TOASTEROID SMART TOASTER
On our list of useless inventions that no one asked for is the Toasteroid. Theoretically the idea of a toaster that prints messages and images on your toast sounds fun. In reality, it looks like an expensive hassle.
Before you can toast, you must use the Toasteroid app to create a design and customize the toasting level. When I'm hungry, I want to get food into my stomach as fast as possible. The novelty of this would quickly wear off.
But if you're the kind of person who gets excited at the prospect of learning the outside temperature via your food (leaving parts of your bread almost completely un-toasted and others too brown, might I add) then the Toasteroid will welcome your $80.
I've gone through countless batteries with my wireless mouse. It's a pain to stop what you're doing and track down the correct battery when your mouse stops moving. And if you use a wireless mouse for gaming, it's rage-inducing for it to die in the middle of a heated game.
Logitech has solved this issue with a mousepad that continuously charges your mouse. No more battery changes or worrying that your mouse will die at the worst time. Wireless charging is an impressive and useful new technology. It's great to see companies starting to take advantage of its improvements.
Paranoid about strangers trying to steal your perfect sales pitch? Or just want to blast your annoying cubicle neighbor with the constant unintelligible chattering of the Minions? Then Hushme is for you! Simply connect this device to your smartphone, strap it onto your face, and worry no more about conversations being overheard.
While a device that keeps conversations private is a great idea, people are vain. I can't imagine anyone willingly wearing this human muzzle. The fact it includes conversation masking sounds such as R2D2, monkey, and squirrel does not help. Imagine a call center full of Hushme wearers, the only sound a cacophony of wind, ocean waves, monkey hoots, and Darth Vader's heavy breathing. Creepy.
COOL: GLASS BATTERY
It appears one breakthrough wasn't "good enough" for the co-creator of the lithium-ion battery, John Goodenough. The now 94-year-old inventor has created a new type of battery that uses a solid glass electrolyte to generate electricity.
The benefits to this are appealing: it "recharges in minutes, survives thousands of charging cycles, operates across a wide range of temperatures (-4˚ F to 140˚ F), and won’t catch fire" (PBS). The challenge now is to produce them on an affordable commercial scale. Here's hoping we'll be able to take advantage of them soon!
WEIRD: STARBUCKS' $150 SMART MUG
Are you the snobbiest of coffee snobs? Then you may actually love Ember, Starbucks' smart coffee mug. It has the ability to adjust the temperature of the liquid via its smartphone app, rapidly heat or cool your coffee to your preferred temperature and keep it there, and notify you when your drink is at the perfect temperature.
Spending $150 on any drink apparatus seems like overkill. But if coffee is that important to you or someone you know, find a Starbucks near you that carries it. Not a bad idea for the boss who has everything.
COOL: BIOSENSING TATTOO INK
Wearable health trackers are all the rage. These tattoos take it to a new level. MIT and Harvard students created special ink that changes colors to communicate health indicators like pH, glucose, and sodium ion levels. "The pH sensor changes between purple and pink, the glucose sensor shifts between blue and brown; the sodium and a second pH sensor fluoresce at a higher intensity under UV light".
This technology provides a much simpler (and prettier) option to folks with special health needs, such as diabetics, than measuring their blood with painful and expensive tests.
A useful technology that will surely give me nightmares, Eelume designed these robotic snakes to aid in underwater repairs that are difficult and expensive for humans. That's wonderful, but doesn't explain why its inventors felt the need to give it glowing red eyes and a dark, menacing body.
"These robotic snakes aren’t weapons (so far) and are being developed to perform underwater tasks, like inspection and light intervention jobs on seabed. Eelume robots are slender and flexible, thus, capable of approaching spots where human hands can’t" (DamnGeeky).
While I'm sure this is a great invention, watching the video of it in motion gives me flashbacks to the shrieking eels from The Princess Bride.