The Most Ridiculous and Weird Tech Gadgets From the Last 25 Years
Not every gadget is a winner. And as it turns out, many of them are complete losers. The massive electronics bonanza known as CES 2023 is in the books, and it featured plenty of weird gadgets of its own, from eye-reading toilets to a cutting board with a screen. But what if we turned back the clock to attend the CES shows of yesteryear?
Over the past 20-plus years, I’ve seen gadgets so amazing that sometimes they seem to exist simply because journalists like me will write about them. But it’s time to call out the truly awful ones, the worst of the worst. Vacuum shoes, toilet paper robots, MP3 gun cases, it’s your time to shine!
The most interesting part of this rogue’s gallery is that some of these products — the Pepe pet dryer, HapiFork and Hushme, to name a few — are still being sold today. That’s right: You blew it, you maniacs!
Dyson Zone Air Purifying Headphones
Nothing unusual here.
It’s not technically a CES product, as it was announced back in 2022, but Dyson was demoing the Zone headphones in Las Vegas during CES 2023. Although the Zone looks like it should be a COVID mask, that’s unfortunately not what it does. According to the Dyson site, development on the Zone began in 2016 as a personal air filter — primarily for pollution — and as such, it was never designed to protect against COVID. What’s more, one critic has claimed that small power-driven fans can even help maximize your chances of catching the coronavirus. CNET’s Katie Collins, who tried it out at Dyson’s UK headquarters, thought it was “too brilliant and weird to ignore.”
Read more: Dyson Zone air-filtering headphones on sale in January for $949
Charmin Rollbot CNET
Computer peripheral maker Razer is the king of creating “see-me” products especially for CES, but toilet tissue brand Charmin made a name for itself with this 2020 entry. That’s right, the year of mass panic buying of toilet paper came a robot that can bring you even more! Coincidence? Yes maybe. The RollBot was never going to be a real product, but we loved/hated it anyway.
Read more: These Charmin robots make us wonder: Is pooping the next frontier of technology?
Kolibree smart toothbrush
Kolibree’s new connected toothbrush tracks users’ activity, helping them brush as effectively as they can.
Remember when we had to wash our hands for 20 seconds while singing songs to ourselves? The same methodology applies to brushing your teeth, but why should you use your brain and lips as a toothbrush? There have been many smart toothbrushes over the years, but today I’m choosing the Kolibree. All was well 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
The highest protection of the Taser MP3 holder
In the 2000s, the iPod became such a cultural phenomenon that every company rushed to create its own MP3 player. This culminated in what is one of the dumbest CES products in recent memory: the Tazer MP3 holster. Imagine trying to not only charge your case, but also connect it via USB to your computer to fill it with 1GB of tunes.
Read more: What every Taser needs: A holster that plays music
Pepe Pet Dryer
Pepe is a dryer for your dogs and cats.
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 hot air currents. This torturer/dryer combo would set you back $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 dry run of its life
Throughout history, there have been so many tools 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), with the idea that you’ll be less likely to overeat. Personally, I eat my meals like I’m in prison, so do your best, HapiFork. I’ll eat with my hands if I have to! You are not my boss!
Read more: Choking on your food? Set the brakes with HapiFork
Quiet in stealth mode.
Hushme is literally a “dumb” product — it’s designed to make its user silent to other people in the vicinity. It turned out to be useful on the job sites, but… if a co-worker gave me one of these, they’d better be wearing vacuum shoes so they could clean up the trodden bits with glee.
Read more: Hushme may be the weirdest yet most useful wireless headphones ever created
Make room for Belty, a smart pant hold-up device that slims or expands to accommodate subtle changes in your waistline. It’s not a joke.
The original Belty was a prototype smart belt with a motor in it that adjusted whether you just ate or sat down. Impractical as hell, but kind of cool? While there’s a newer model, also called the Belty, this one is even weirder — it doesn’t have the automatic size, but it does have a power bank charger in the buckle. OK, two things. Not only do I not want a potentially unstable assembly next to my parts, but I also don’t want to plug a bunch of equipment in there.
Read more: Meet Belty, the hilarious but surprisingly popular CES show stealer, is revealed
Sean Captain, formerly of PC Advisor, models the Xybernaut Poma. Via seancaptain.com.
First shown at CES 1998, the Hitachi Xybernaut wearable computer was a terrifying idea long before Google Glass was a glimmer in Babak Parviz’s eye. The Windows CE-based Xybernaut Poma offered a 128MHz RISC processor and 32MB of RAM for the low price of $1,499, plus attached to your arm, face and belt!
Read more: Hitachi Fashionable Wearable PC
Denso vacuum shoes
The shoes. You wear them. They wear out, you buy more. But that’s not exciting now, is it? They need things in them — phones, rockets, rollers, and…vacuums? There are so many puns I could even make about the name Denso Vacuum Shoes, but the fact that they existed at all was the biggest joke of all.
Read more: Vacuum shoes show up at CES because why not