LAS VEGAS (AP) — A motorized, seatless unicycle, a video game you control with your eyes and a mind-reading headset that serves as a game controller were among the more bizarre gadgets being shown off at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show that ended last week.
Some 3,100 exhibitors and more than 153,000 attendees convened for the show. Although there were plenty of mainstream technologies on display, the show attracted a fair share of offbeat gadgets. Some of the weirdest:
SOLOWHEEL. Picture a unicycle without a frame or saddle, and you have the Solowheel. Add to the picture, footboards that fold out from the wheel. To ride it, you stand on the footboards and straddle the wheel. Lean forward, and the wheel engages a battery-powered electric motor that can send it — and hopefully its rider — zooming along at 10 miles per hour. The wheel has a gyroscope that helps keep the rider upright. In other words, it's like a Segway with only one wheel.
Because of the rechargeable battery, which has a 15- to 20-mile range, the Solowheel weighs 26 pounds. That's as much as a folding bike, but the Solowheel is more compact. It’s sold by Inventist LLC for $1,800. Who's it for? Brave people with a good sense of balance.
FOAM FIGHTERS. Toy companies are eager to link their products with smartphone and tablet games, creating toys that are an amusing blend of virtual and real. Foam Fighters are made of two sheets of thin foam, painted and shaped like World War II fighter planes such as the famous Mitsubishi Zero. Toss them in the air, and they fly like paper airplanes. Better yet, you can attach them to a plastic arm with a suction cup that, in turn, sticks to the back of an iPhone, iPad or Android phone, right next to the camera. The airplane shows up on screen, and if you download a free app, the fighter plane will look like it’s zooming around in war-torn skies, controlled by the movement of the phone or tablet. Foam Fighters go on sale in April. A pack of two, with a stand, will cost $10.
Who's it for: AppGear is aiming at kids, ages 8 to 12, but it could appeal to frustrated fighter pilots of all ages.
HAIER BRAIN WAVE. The Chinese appliance company demonstrated how this wireless mind-reading headset could be used to control a TV set. It holds one sensing pad to the wearer's forehead and another that clips onto an earlobe. The big limitation is that the mind-reading capability (actually just measurement of brain waves) is crude. The set can only be used to sense if the user wants something to go up or down. For any other direction, you need the remote. Haier said it’s developing something that lets the wearer change channels by thinking about it. Who’s it for: No one outside of China, yet. Eventually, this could be a dream come true for the laziest of couch potatoes.
SIGNA POWERTREKK. This New York company showed off an alternative to batteries: a fuel cell the size of a big sandwich, powered by small, light “pucks” of a silicon-based material that produces hydrogen when water is added. The fuel cell is expensive, at $200, but the pucks are cheap, at $12 for three. Each puck will produce the equivalent of six AA batteries of electricity. That means it can charge an iPhone twice, through the included cables.
SiGNa will sell the cell through outdoor retailer REI this spring. Who's it for: Campers, hermits and others who need to go a long time without electricity.
Photo: Photo Courtesy of engadget.com
Haier Brain Wave