Digital forks, luggage locators and the weird gadgets of CES 2013
A digital fork, 3D printed customised iPhone cases and global suitcase tracking are a few of the wackier technologies on show at CES 2013 this year – and the event hasn't even formally started yet.
Every year, the massive tech show takes over Las Vegas, and kicks off proceedings with CES Unveiled – a preview event for journalists, bringing together award-winning innovations in one very crowded room.
This year, that room was full off alternative energy sources, fitness tools and the usual waterproofing systems, but some were a little more off the beaten track. Here are four that caught our eye – not so much because we’ve been dreaming of a fork that tracks our chewing habits, but because we can’t believe someone else dreamed it up.
Sculpteo’s bespoke iPhone cases
3D printing was a major trend at last year’s CES, but in 2012 we wondered exactly what the point was of Sculpteo’s 3D printing system. It’s certainly neat to create a 3D model of one’s head, but hardly the killer app that will help the new technology go mainstream.
This year, Sculpteo has a clever idea: iPhone cases. The halls of CES are drowning in iPhone cases, with stand after stand offering everything from sparkly diamante designs to others themed on your favourite local sports team. Instead of searching for the right one to reflect your own personality, Sculpteo lets you create your own bespoke case, choosing the colours, materials and design.
And if, for some reason, you're desperate to create a 3D model of your own head, that’s still an option, with one case on show featuring a cut-out profile of a customer’s face (as pictured at the top of thisblog).
Is this the killer app that will see 3D printing take off? We doubt it, but at $24 and up, it’s much more affordable than the £300 head-shaped vase, and a bit more tasteful, too.
Hapilabs’ digital fork
CES has dedicated an entire section of the show floor to health and fitness gadgets and apps, with most tracking activity in the hopes of encouraging exercise. Hapilabs has taken a different approach, looking to limit food with a digital fork.
The HAPIfork is designed to encourage slow eating – it’s based on the idea that slower eating will cut calories and is easier on the digestive system. Take a bite with the HAPIfork and it registers the motion with an electric loop capacitive sensor. Try to take another bite too soon, within five to seven seconds, and it will vibrate to warn you to slow down.
There’s an app, of course, that tracks progress in slowing down your eating, with the data sent to a smartphone via Bluetooth. A spokesperson for Hapilabs said the fork was dishwasher safe, but at $99 we’d wash it by hand. A spoon is also available.
TrakDot luggage locator
It's not much fun to lose your baggage when travelling, so one firm has created the TrakDot luggage locator. Powered by a pair of standard AA batteries, GlobaTrac's TrakDot is small and light, and can be tucked inside your checked bag. If that bag goes missing, a smartphone app can be used to track it via GPS signal anywhere in the globe. It will also send a text message or email once the suitcase lands on the baggage carousel, so you know exactly when it's available.
The company has its own spectrum to provide the service, and the device stops broadcasting the signal once it's airborne, to avoid causing issues with planes.
It's available this Spring, but at $50 plus a $13 annual subscription, you'll need to really want to keep a close eye on your baggage to invest in TrakDot. More intriguing is the company's plans to make the technology available to OEMs for other low-cost tracking purposes.
Canopy's touch-sensitive iPhone case
We started with an iPhone case and, with suitable apologies, we'll end with one. And it couldn't be more different.
Very simply, the Canopy Sensus makes the rear and the right-hand side of your phone touch-sensitive. You should be asking one very obvious question at this point: why?
One reason given was for reading long web articles, when you might want to rub your finger down the right-hand side of the case rather than touch the screen. Perhaps more compelling, though, are its gaming capabilities.
Canopy argues that, when playing a game, you don’t want your fingers to get in the way of the on-screen action – so you should be touching the back of the screen instead. Also, put the phone into horizontal mode and the top edge can act as button controls.
We’re told the Sensus will go on sale in the US in the summer, with a price of between $50 and $100. At launch, cases will fit the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. And if you're still not convinced it's worth the money, watch this video from Ian Spinelli, Canopy's marketing coordinator.