10 Weirdest Tech Gadgets of 2016A paper microscope, a connected umbrella and a smartbelt were just some of the unusual tech products being demonstrated last year.
1. SCiO food scanner
If you ever wished that you had one of the tricorders from "Star Trek," you might be interested in the SCiO food scanner. Its creators describe it as "the world's first molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand." You point it at an object and press the button. The device then sends the object's molecular fingerprint and related information, such as the calories in a type of food, to your smartphone. The company has been showing off its prototypes and expects to ship the consumer version, which costs $249, in March 2017. The food scanner also comes in development and educational versions.
Another science-related project, the Foldscope is a real, working microscope made mostly out of paper. It is small enough to fit in your pocket and costs less than a dollar, making it a good option for education institutions without a lot of financial resources.
The project's Kickstarter funding campaign closes on Dec. 1, 2016, but it has already raised more than six times its goal of $50,000. For a pledge of $20 of more, you can receive your own Foldscope kit complete with storage case, LED light, petri dish, pipettes and more with an estimated delivery date of Aug. 2017.
Mikael Kjellman is a Swedish engineer who likes biking so much that he wanted to do it year-round. To make it easier, he designed a 4-wheel electric "bicycle-car." The PodRide has pedals and an electric motor, a comfy recumbent seat, a cloth cover to protect you from the elements and even a little (very little) room for groceries in the back. It's narrow enough to ride on bike paths and even has studded tires for driving in the snow and ice. It's definitely weird, but also looks like a lot of fun.
The PodRide Indiegogo campaign has exceeded its funding goals. The team hasn't yet released information about when the product will be available for consumers or how much it will cost.
4. Ripple Maker
Latte foam art just got a whole lot easier. The Ripple Maker automates the process of putting pictures in the milk on top of your favorite coffee drink. It doesn't make coffee — it just makes the coffee pretty. The process only takes about 10 seconds, and it can do custom designs created with the Coffee Ripples smartphone app. The app also has a directory of coffee shops and restaurants that have the Ripple Maker machine, as well as a library of designs.
For now, the machine is only available for coffee shops to purchase, and it's not cheap — $1500 plus $100 per month for the service plan.
What if instead of an annoying buzz or loud music and/or bright lights, your alarm clock woke you up with the soothing aroma of croissants, espresso or chocolate? That's the idea behind Sensorwake, the self-described "olfactory alarm clock." It uses special capsules that last for 30 wake-up cycles, and in addition to the scents described above, it also has seaside, toast, peppermint or grass fragrances available.
The Sensorwake was on display at last year's CES show and generated quite a bit of buzz. The alarm clock is currently available for $109, which includes a toast capsule. Additional capsules are $5.45 each with a bundle of seven priced at $136.95.
6. Rocketbook Everlast
The Rocketbook Everlast notebook that looks and feels like real paper, and you write in it with a real Pilot Frixion pen. But it works with a special smartphone app to save anything you write, and the "buttons" at the bottom of the page can send your notes or drawing to a cloud service or your email address. The really amazing part is that the paper wipes completely clean with a bit of wet paper towel, so you can use the notebook over and over again. And its creators swear it feels like real paper — not a whiteboard.
The Kickstarter campaign has already raised more than $320,000 towards a goal of just $26,000, and the campaign doesn't end until January 15, 2017. Products are expected to ship in April of next year.
Another big attention-getter at last year's CES event, the Welt is a smartbelt. It looks like a regular belt, but contains sensors that track your waist size, food intake, steps walked and amount of time sitting. Essentially, it's like a health tracker that you wear around your waist. It connects with a smartphone app and has an estimated 20 days of battery life.
The project is backed by Samsung and also had a Kickstarter campaign that has raised more than $70,000. The campaign ended in October, and product is expected to start shipping next month.
8. Digitsole Smartshoes
Like a few other manufacturers, Digitsole offers a Smartshoe that can tighten itself like the sneakers from the "Back to the Future" movies. But these shoes also have a lot of other features, and Digitsole claims they are the "first connected, interactive, heated and shock absorber shoes with automatic tightening." As you might expect, they track your steps, calories burned and distance traveled, and you can control the heating and tightening from the smartphone app.
The shoes aren't yet available for purchase, but the company demonstrated a prototype at CES 2016. You can buy insoles with very similar capabilities (except the auto tightening) through the company's website.
It's creators describe the Oombrella as a smart, connected umbrella you can't forget. It doesn't just collect data from a weather service, the way smartphone apps do, it actually has a miniature weather station built into the handle to collect data about temperature, pressure, humidity and light. It collects and shares weather data among the Oombrella community to enable hyperlocal, accurate forecasts. It sends alerts before it starts to rain, and it notifies you of its location if you forget it somewhere. It had successful campaigns on Indigogo and Kickstarter to raise funding, but those campaigns are now closed.
The last gadget in our slideshow isn't for adults, it's for young children. The Oliba attaches to stuffed animals so that you can always find them no matter where a toddler might leave them. It connects to a smartphone app that sends push notifications if you get more than 100 feet away from the toy. It also tells stories (including stories recorded by parents or grandparents) and soothes children to sleep with a musical nightlight.
The project is currently accepting pre-orders with anticipated delivery in July 2017.
Every year, aspiring entrepreneurs unveil a host of unusual tech products, and 2016 was no exception. This slideshow highlights ten of the more unique gadgets from the year.
Quite a few of these products are related to one of the hottest trends in technology right now: the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, many of the items featured in this slideshow connect to a mobile app that enables some of their more noteworthy features. Our world is slowly becoming more connected, and that includes our appliances, clothing, toys and other everyday items.
Some of these products are available for purchase now, but more of them are still in development. Some even still have active fundraising campaigns on Kickstarter or Indiegogo where you can contribute if any of these projects captures your imagination.
It's also worth mentioning that quite a few of these products debuted at last year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES). With CES 2017 scheduled for Jan. 5–8 in Las Vegas, a whole new crop of unusual products is just around the corner. Only time will tell if any of the weird gadgets from last year or this year sticks around and becomes successful.