Take a walk on tech's wild side with some of the strangest, most original, and most bizarre gadgets you've ever seen. We've got vacuums for your lawn, swimwear that can charge your iPod, and grenades that don't explode but still go boom.
Grassy Charging Station
Think Geek has a great little solution that organizes your gadgets and brings a little bit of green into your office. The Grassy Lawn Charging Station uses soft artificial grass to cushion your camera, smartphone, or iPod while they're charging. The cables sit underneath the grass in a hidden compartment, and all you need to do is run your extension cord into the base of the charging station. Get it from Think Geek for $25.
No, that's not a 9mm handgun you're looking at, but a 16mm still-image camera. The Japanese-based Doryu Camera Company made the Doryu 2-16 from 1954 to 1956, according to Camerapedia. The Doryu 2-16 was apparently a police-issue device in Japan, and to make it seem even more like a gun, you'd load the camera with magnesium bullet cartridges and then just point, aim, and fire. The magnesium cartridge wouldn't discharge out the "nozzle," but come out the top and act as a flash for the camera; it would also make a large bang in the process. Very cool design, but something tells me you wouldn't want to be snapping pics near any national monuments with this thing.
Doryu 2-16 models are now extremely rare and valuable. In 2001, one specimen sold for close to $25,000 at Christie's auction house in London.
Control Your PlayStation With Massage
Does your significant other complain that you pay too much attention to video games and not enough to him or her? Why not take care of your digital and physical worlds at once with the Massage Me video game controller? Massage Me is a soft, flexible vest with a video game controller built into the back that translates massage moves into video-game commands. The thing is, you can't buy Massage Me off the shelves. Instead, Massage Me creators Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson would love to see people making their own Massage Me vests at home. So if you're the adventurous type, check out this handy online do-it-yourself guide showing you how to make the Massage Me vest, plus a custom cable and plug to connect the vest to the machine, and how to hack the PSOne controller.
Massage Me was originally designed to work with a hacked PSOne gamepad, but Perner-Wilson told me the vest will also work with other consoles and games that use the same controllers--some PlayStation 2 games, for example, will work with a PSOne Dual Shock gamepad. The Massage Me creators also say on their Website that you could probably adapt their methods to hack the controllers of other gaming consoles.
You definitely won't go unnoticed with this device strapped to your head. Researchers at the University of Munich Hospital have developed the EyeSeeCam, which lets you control head-mounted cameras just by moving your eyes. A doctor could use this device to film an operation for teaching purposes, or video game developers could use it to create an even more realistic first-person shooter or sports game. The craziest part is that the EyeSeeCam will record video onto almost any laptop with a 6-pin FireWire port.
The EyeSeeCam is currently being sold to the University of Munich Hospital's research partners for 25,000 euros (about $34,000) each. Dr. Erich Schneider, who heads up the EyeSeeCam project, said a smaller version of EyeSeeCam is in the works for other research groups and companies. Schneider wouldn't say how much this version would cost or what it would do, but believes the price tag will be north of 25,000 euros. Though that sounds like a lot, we're told it compares well with classical (and technically much simpler) head-mounted eye trackers.
Another ThinkGeek special, this umbrella comes with an LED shaft to light your way, and will probably scare off any Sith Lords that might be thinking you're an easy target. The LED umbrella sells for $25 and comes in red and blue.
Show up your neighbor's John Deere tractor-style lawnmower with this remote-controlled grass chopper from Husqvarna. Yep, it's like a Roomba for your lawn. The thing is seriously decked out, and Husqvarna says it can take care of your lawn without supervision. The Automower 260ACX has ultrasonic sensors to stop it from smashing into things, and when it needs charging it just heads home to the Automower charging station. If anything does go wrong, your lawnmower can send you a text message to let you know it needs help.
This device sells for about $5300, and is available only in Europe at the moment. No word on when the Automower is heading stateside, but with baseball season ramping up, now might be a good time to take a trip across the pond to get one of these babies for those lazy Sunday afternoons.
Ladies, imagine having a bikini that will show off those abs you've been working on all winter while soaking up enough solar energy to power your iPod Shuffle. The Solar Bikini uses photovoltaic film strips, and a 5-volt regulator manages electrical output. The bikini was created by New York-based multimedia designer and performer Andrew Schneider for the 2006 winter show of the Tisch School's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Schneider's Website says he is also working on a male version called the iDrink that will produce enough power to cool a beer in its own custom-made drink cozy. So far neither swimsuit has hit store shelves.
Ever wonder what the world looks like from your dog's point of view? Now you can travel along with him as he goes about his day chasing cats, sleeping in the backyard, and watering your neighbor's shrubs. ThinkGeek offers the Pet's Eye View Digital Camera for $50, and the device clips onto your pet's collar. It doesn't have video, but you can set the camera to take still images every 1, 5, or 15 minutes. The camera has a maximum capacity of 40 images through its 8MB of non-expandable internal storage. When it's time to take the images off the device, just download them to your computer via a standard USB cord.
Travel in style and ease with a suitcase that has a mind of its own. Anytime you come to an incline like a hill or a ramp, this self-propelled suitcase from Hammacher Schlemmer will power itself up the slope up to a maximum speed of 3 miles per hour. Don't worry about the luggage taking off without you, though: The suitcase powers up only when it is in motion, carrying a minimum of 15 pounds (the maximum is 70.5 pounds), and the handle comes out of the suitcase at an angle of 15 to 35 degrees. This little battery-powered number doesn't come cheap: It's $1300. Check out Hammacher Schlemmer's Website for more details.
Beauty and the Geek Jeans
These pants may be just a concept, but they're also the ultimate in utility wear for any gadget-loving geek. Designed by Erik De Nijs, these pants use wireless USB to connect to your computer. Peripheral devices built into the jeans include a full-size wireless QWERTY keyboard, a wireless mouse that fits into a specially designed back pocket, and built-in speakers at the knee. The stitching for the jeans was inspired by the look of printed circuit boards. De Nijs recently founded a product design company called Nieuwe Heren (loosely translated as ‘new gents') with his business partner Tim Smit. Nieuwe Heren is currently looking for a manufacturer to produce the Beauty and the Geek Jeans. Check out Nieuwe Heren's Website for more design concepts.
LCD Belt Buckle
Turn your pants into a walking movie house with the Egokast LCD screen belt buckle. The device has a 320-by-240-pixel display and supports .mp4, .avi, .jpg, and .bmp files from SD cards, with a maximum 2GB of capacity.
Egokast belt buckles are currently out of stock, but the company says it's launching the next generation--with larger screens and improved functionality--in the next few months. It hasn't locked down an updated price yet, but the original cost $289.
You may know NeuroSky as the (cough) brains behind Mattel's Mind Flex game. Here's the company's latest. The MindSet headphones have a medical-grade brain-wave sensor and can hook up to your computer (PC or Mac) or smartphone through a Bluetooth connection. The device also features noise-canceling technology, an omnidirectional microphone, and playback controls. MindSet comes with a brain-wave visualizer program that displays how you react to different sounds and rhythms. There's also a game called NeuroBoy that challenges you to move objects with your mind. You can grab MindSet for $199 from NeuroSky's online store, along with other MindSet games and educational applications.
Power Pooper Scooper
Tired of picking up after Rover's daily droppings? Do it the easy way with this inventive and battery-powered poop vac that can pick up 150 pieces of waste between charges. The Pet Pooch Power Shovel weighs 4.25 pounds, and its motor spins at 30,000 rpm to get even the toughest waste off your lawn. The waste goes directly into a biodegradable plastic bag, and never touches your hands or the machine. Check out the Pooch Power Shovel in action on the Pet Power Products Website. Warning: This video is rated NSDL (Not Suitable During Lunch).
Add that feeling of efficiency to breakfast with this toaster-printer concept by Swiss-based industrial designer Othmar Muehlebach. Just top-load your toast like you would a stack of inkjet paper, and the toaster takes care of the rest, one slice at a time. Muehlebach won second prize at the Berner Design awards with this creation. This may be only a concept now, but Muehlebach is actively looking for a manufacturer interested in producing the device. So far, Muehlebach tells us, some investors have been wary of the toaster-printer concept because it has been so widely featured on gadget blogs.
This grenade may not explode, but it can still make a lot of noise. Just pull the pin, toss it, wait about 20 seconds, and the grenade lets out an annoying beep that puts your alarm clock to shame. To silence it, hold down the trigger arm or replace the pin. The sonic grenade has three volume settings and is powered by three AAA batteries. Buy it from Firebox for about $15.
It may look like a flip phone, but this device, available from SkyMall, is claimed to kill 99.9 percent of all bacteria and viruses. All you have to do is open up the Nano-UV Disinfection Scanner and wave its nano-UV light over anything that needs disinfecting for 10 seconds. Ideal for combating creepy crawlies that might be hiding in mattresses, pillows, or carpets, according to SkyMall. The gadget costs $60, is just one inch thick, and is powered by two AAA batteries.
Spy Camera Pen
Forget about the shaky hat cam; take covert video recording to a whole new level with a pin-hole video camera disguised as a pen. The device has a built-in lithium battery that you can recharge via any USB port, and it records up to 2GB worth of video. Get it from DealExtreme for only $22--but you also might want to check your local state laws about video recording in public before taking notes with this pen at your next board meeting.
Bug Zapping Racket
Mosquitoes and flies will be invading your house in just a few months, but this summer why not use your bug-swatting time to improve your tennis game? Bug-zapping tennis-style rackets usually take a couple of AA batteries and cost from $10 to $30-plus on Amazon.