The opportunity for bizarre products is ripe in consumer tech. I love the idea that someone can come up with an idea, however unusual and manage to not only go from ideation to product but convince others to build it, fund it, and buy it. You could go to IFA and see nothing but headphones when it comes to consumer tech, but here’s a few of those that caught my eye at this year’s IFA in Berlin. Simply wacky or with admirable qualities? You decide:
INUPATHY for Dogs
I’m sure most of us are suckers for pet tech — approx. 68 percent of American households (over 85 million) to be exact. And the petcare product market is worth over $4.9 billion. But I am always a little skeptical of any product that aims to measure emotions through biometrics. Inupathy creates wearable tech for dogs to enable their owners to track their heart rate and, as a result, their emotions to improve their well being and quality of life. While all of this information is shared with a corresponding app, a color changing collar claims to show whether your dog is “relaxed,” “excited,” “happy,” “interested,” or “stressed” by a color pattern.
I’m curious as to the scientific validity, I’ve spoken to wearable makers before who have admitted that their color-changing magic ring (for example) can identify a heightened emotion, but not distinguish between fear, anxiety, and excitement. But this product has been tested on over 200 dogs, and if the heart rate variations were tracked with body language, it may be more accurate than first imagined. That said, a book in dog body language may lead to the same conclusions. The company promises the INUPATHY SDK will be available for developers, so I’ll be curious to see how it is used.
I must read too many articles about robot overlords, so when I see a robot with the slogan: “Always with you”— it gives me the creeps. UBTECH, EliQ, Aibo, Jibo, Pepper, Buddy, etc.— all claim to be smart (that’s PR speech for AI-embedded). Some offer little more than an Alexa-embedded experience in a robotic body, while others are embedded with facial recognition technology to get to know each family member and their individual preferences. Some can teach while others can be taught to truly become a member of the family.
Pibo is closer to the Alexa side of the spectrum with less of the bells and whistles that make robots more than cute. However, it’s easy to be critical, but the use of a robot as a conduit to conquer loneliness or social isolation in lieu of more structural solutions is nothing to sniff at. Yet, for those sharing their deepest secrets with an always-on robot, be aware, there might just be someone listening.
Silent Mode Power Mask
Anyone who has flown from Australia to Europe knows the pain of sleep deprivation and the noise of other people. Enter Silent Mode, which is something like a noise-canceling blackout mask with additional built-in audio to count you down to a relaxed state and help you stay there for US$200.
I’m unsure if the fear of being seen in public wearing one of these or the nightmares I might get from seeing people wear these would make this my dream product. It’s a connected relaxation mask with an app that offers the opportunity for meditation, power naps, or improved sleep depending on your preferences.
According to the company, it’s all about breathing and something called CVT (Cardiac Vagal Tone) technology, as they assert:
“It’s now possible to monitor the Vagus Nerve and it’s activity. This is the key to unlocking the body’s natural relaxation mechanism. During our trials, we were able to trigger the CVT level of an athlete in a normal human being just through Breathwork and rest.”
Let’s face it, anyone who suffers jetlag, stress, or sleep deprivation is open to any suggestion. Over 160k was raised on Kickstarter. Yet, for real consumer adoption, it’s probably the kind of product one would like to try before they buy, which is something of a barrier.
It’s a cross between a furry cushion with a rail and a robot for US$149 that responds to stroking. It sounds completely ridiculous until you consider the popularity of early innovator Paro and their US$5000 robotic seal, designed for use in hospital and aged care facilities for people with dementia-related illnesses.
Qoobo offers what the makers call ‘tail therapy.’ When caressed, it waves gently. When rubbed, it swings playfully. And, it occasionally wags just to say hello. To be accurate, it’s not actually IoT, but I wanted to offer a mention, as it’s great to see products catering for aging populations.
In terms of targeting the aging cohort, I was also impressed by DFree toilet timing wearable device, a product that aims to target the problem incontinence. It predicts the need to go before it happens for caregiving and care facilities. DFree is already used by over 2,000 people in Japan and is available to buy or rent (the latter is a clever model when you think about it).
DFree uses ultrasound to monitor how much urine is in your bladder in real-time. The device sends alerts to your phone or tablet when it is time to go to the bathroom. The notifications can be set to allow adequate time to get to the bathroom. I took a look at the app, the commercial option connects to multiple devices, making it highly practical for care facilities. It’s not a product most of us want to think about ever needing, making its existence even more commendable.
Samsung Air Dresser
A closet that cleans and straightens your clothes sounds like something out of The Jetsons. It’s basically an at-home version of dry cleaning with a range of antipollution attributes promised. A JetAir system and Air Hangers surround your clothes with fast-moving air. The Jet Steam system then sanitizes with a range of dryers and filters. I can’t help being reminded of Foldimate’s laundry-folding machines, but this seems a safer bet with a credible brand behind it. Prices weren’t listed at IFA, but I seem to recall US$2000 mentioned.