CES is known as a launchpad for all sorts of gadgets, from TVs and phones to electric cars. But in between all the big-name items are dozens of other innovations, some of which are more...let's say interesting...than others. From color-changing cars to a device that lets you communicate with your dog, here are 10 of the weirdest and wackiest things we saw at CES 2022.
No CES would be complete without some sort of animatronic animal. The Maicat, appearing on a Kickstarter campaign near you, is an AI-driven robotic cat that is studded with sensors, will purr and react to pets and touches, and will be able to recognize up to 100 different people. The more you interact with it, the more it will respond to your affections, just like the real thing. Even better: you won’t have to clean its litter box. — Mike Prospero
Billed as the “world’s first emotional LED mask,” it’s probably going to be the world’s last, too. Like Daft Punk run amok, Qudi's full face masks sport an array of 199 LEDs around the eyes and lower face area and, via a smartphone app, lets you program them in any number of patterns and colors. It will also light up green and display a “yes” if you nod, and turn red and display “no” if you shake your head. You can buy the mask now for $289 and provide some great nightmare fuel for anyone who happens to cross your path. — Mike Prospero
BMW iX Flow
Henry Ford famously offered the Model T in any color so long as it was black, but those days are long gone and BMW is taking the opposite approach: the BMW iX Flow can swap between black or white at the touch of a button. How does it do this? It has a triangular wrap covering its body panels, which uses the same E Ink technology that powers e-readers. Ford says the colors could change to help you find the car in a parking lot, or to communicate diagnostic information about the battery — but we just think it would be fun to freak people out as we drove past them in a color-changing car. — Marc McLaren
I have a dog. He’s a chocolate labrador and he’s loving, energetic and very smelly. But he’s not particularly bright. Could technology help him communicate with me? The makers of the FluentPet Connect (opens in new tab) system would say so, and based on the success of their first product I’m inclined to believe them. FluentPet HexTile was launched 18 months ago and has since earned more than $7 million with help from viral videos showing pets learning to “talk” by pressing the colorful buttons to indicate their needs, desires and, who knows, maybe their hopes and dreams.
FluentPet Connect builds on this with upgraded design, audio and functionality, including Bluetooth-enabled HexTiles and a new FluentPet mobile app. It’ll cost $69, with an Expansion HexTile available for another $49, and will start shipping in the spring. — Marc McLaren
Only at CES would you hear the phrase “‘invisible headphones” and not instantly dismiss it as ridiculous. The Noveto N1 is far from ridiculous, though, beaming sound to your ears via ultrasound so that nobody but you can hear it. That’s right — you could be standing in a crowded room listening to death metal/Beethoven (delete as appropriate) and those around you would only hear a whisper. It even has facial tracking, so you can move your head without it breaking. We don’t know how much it will cost or when it will be released, and we haven’t yet heard it with our own ears — but it’s definitely one of CES 2022’s breakout stars. — Marc McLaren
Cyberpower PC Kinetic case
As our colleague described it, “the Cyberpower PC Kinetic case looks like something out of a David Cronenberg movie: a facsimile of a living thing, warped beyond recognition, but just familiar enough to be unsettling.” Rather than traditional vents, the Kinetic case has a series of 18 brone prisms that open and close algorithmically to control airflow through the computer case. You have to see it to believe it. There’s no price listed yet, but Cyberpower says it’s coming soon. — Mike Prospero
Ible Airvida E1
If you’d told me in 2019 that a) portable air purifiers worn around the neck would be a thing and b) it wouldn’t even be a weird thing, due to a global pandemic, I’d have walked away muttering something about the dangers of drugs. But here we are, with the Ible Airvida E1 — not just a portable air purifier, but one that’s also a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. And it’s a product that actually makes great sense in 2022. After all, having access to properly purified air has never been more vital, but portable air purifiers do still tend to attract some odd looks. Combining them with headphones solves that problem, making them look far more ordinary while also protecting you from stray virus particles. We don’t expect them to make our best headphones list, mind you. — Marc McLaren
We’ve heard of — and experienced — plenty of instances where we talk about some random product, and then all the sudden it shows up on our phone or somewhere else. Could our phones be eavesdropping on us? Depending on your level of paranoia, the Pozio Cradle might be the perfect gadget for you. While the Pozio cradle is charging your phone (via a Qi wireless charger), it’s also emitting some sort of signal that prevents your phone’s microphones from picking up anything. The company has previously released a similar device for the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot; the smartphone cradle ($119) is available now for purchase. — Mike Prospero
Watching our feathered friends has become a bigger hobby during lockdown; there’s something escapist about watching something fly free when we’re trapped in our homes. The Bird Buddy adds a tech angle to the traditional birdfeeder by placing a wireless camera right in front; more than that, it will automatically take photos of all birds who come to the feeder, and an AI is trained to recognize more than 1,000 species. A built-in microphone also lets you hear their tweets, though we’re pretty sure squirrels will decimate this thing in no time. You can pre-order the Bird Buddy now for $199, but it won’t ship until June. — Mike Prospero
Let’s face it: Ever since the iPhone launched, smartphone design has become a bit boring. Just about every phone nowadays is a rectangular slab. For those who aren’t square pegs, there’s the Cyrclephone, a — you guessed it — circular phone. Packed inside this ovoid is a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, dual 13 MP cameras, and an 800 x 800-pixel display. Its software is a bit dated, as it runs Android 10 and only has an LTE radio. But who cares, because it’s a circle! Even crazier — the Cyrclephone has dual SIM card slots, a removable battery and not one, but two headphone jacks. Take that, Apple! — Mike Prospero