Are you ready to talk to your toilet? Or cuddle with a robot?
There are tech titans here battling to control our computers, TVs and smart homes. But our favourite part is the thousands of other companies that gather to launch something new.
While these ideas sometimes catch on, like fitness trackers and wireless earbuds, many go nowhere. But the eager attempts are always interesting and often say something about where we’re headed in our relationships with technology.
Here are the most out-there ideas that caught our attention:
1. Kohler Numi, an Internet-connected toilet
You can now ask Alexa to flush. Kohler’s latest high-end toilet connects to the Internet and responds to voice commands. Beyond flushing, you can ask Amazon’s Alexa (as well as Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri) to lift the seat or activate your favourite bidet spray configuration. There’s no microphone on the toilet itself, but there are speakers to play your favourite tunes. Plus, it keeps track of water usage.
2. Somnox, a robot you can cuddle with
This bot just wants to cuddle. Somnox is a bed companion that simulates human breathing. When you hug the robot, the rising and falling sensation subconsciously calms you down and helps you get to sleep faster, say its makers.
Somnox can also make the soothing sounds of heartbeats, lullabies and guided meditation, which you activate from an app. Best part: It doesn’t ever snore.
3. Modius, a headband to help you lose weight
Pack on a few pounds? Modius has built a headset that stimulates your vestibular nerve, which runs behind your ear and into your brain. You use Modius by attaching a pad to your skin, which has a wire that runs up to the headband. The electric current, Modius says, stimulates the part of the brain that controls your appetite.
It’s meant to be an extra boost to supplement your weight-loss plan. Brain-zapping technology is still somewhat unproven, but several companies claim it can help everything from concentration to pain relief.
4. Foldimate and Laundroid, robots that fold your laundry
These competing robots tackle one of the week’s most arduous chores. Foldimate’s promises to fold a load of laundry in 4 minutes, but asks you to feed each piece in, individually. The much pricier Laundroid folds from a drawer of clothes but takes much longer. Sadly, neither can tackle socks or sheets yet. Those still must be done by hand.
5. Dell XPS 13, a woven-glass laptop
Dell’s 2018 refresh of its popular XPS 13 line uses an extra-hardy white glass fibre weave finish that resists the most devilish stains and yellowing over time. We attacked one with a black Sharpie permanent marker, and it eventually came out (with a bit of elbow grease). At a time when lots of other companies are making cloth-covered gadgets, Dell gets a high-five for recognizing that road warriors really want a laptop that stands up to abuse.