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Strange but true: Six gadgets that make you wonder what the point is

CES 2017 had it all - from the LoveBox to the smart sommelier, and Bluetooth in a bottle to underwear unplugged

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 10:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 10:21am

There are gadgets which, once you’ve seen them, seem like they might be really useful.  And others which just make you wonder, why? Crowdfunding campaigns are full of them – and there was also no shortage at CES 2017, the world’s largest consumer electronics show held in Las Vegas, US, in January.

You just never know whether that bright idea will flop or fly, so in the interests of objectivity we’ve hunted down some of the strangest. You decide.

1. The LoveBox. A loved-up couple from France have put romance into a Wi-fi-connected decorative box. When a love note arrives from your paramour, the red heart attached to the box actually, physically flutters. Private messages from your assigned person can be sent from anywhere in the world, via the mobile companion app.

LoveBox is made out of solid beechwood, so it looks stylish on your desk or bedside table.  No one else need know what’s inside – so, your secret is safe. It’s made in Saint-Amour (yes, really, that is France's love village, say the engaged couple who invented the device) and sells for US$120. 

2. Connected tea. Now we all know there’s an art to making the perfect cup of tea. But one connoisseur gets technology involved to take the guesswork out of each brew. 

The founder of 42tea - an entrepreneur again from France - developed what he calls the IoTea (internet of tea), a smart cube connected to a smartphone app which you pop into the pot. Depending on the tea chosen, it indicates the right dosage of tea and water, the right temperature for the water, and the right infusion time. The aim is to provide the drinker with a highly personalised taste experience. Launching this year, the device will cost US$55 and packs of premium teas will start from US$99. 

Smart sommelier. No need now to trust your nose when it comes to pairing wine with food, or serving your prized vintage at the correct temperature.  D-Vine Connect, the wine-tasting gadget French start-up 10-vins does all that or you. It comes with an embedded tablet which acts as a virtual sommelier imparting wine info, giving recommendations and managing your cellar.

A new application for the internet of things, this invention responsibly doles out a measured glass size – so no surreptitious swilling – and dispenses it disconcertingly, via a test tube-looking device. D-Vine Connect is slated for release in 2018, targeting the hospitality and consumer markets.

3. DIY spectacles. Fancy being your own optometrist?  EyeQue lets you take an eye test in the privacy of your own home. The idea is that it’s affordable. But while the device might provide some data, it doesn’t check eye health – as its promoters at CES 2017 were at pains to point out.

The technology uses the pocket- sized Miniscope (US$29.99) which pairs with a smartphone app – you can take this advice to your eye doctor, or use it to order online prescription glasses. EyeQue was a CES 2017 innovation award winner.

4. Bluetooth in a bottle. You drink when you’re thirsty, right? Not according to health advice. On the premise that people should consume more water than their bodies dictate, a Chinese company has developed a smart sports bottle, called the Moikit  A sensor on the top calculates daily consumption, and compares that to the hydration levels recommended by the companion smartphone app.

Its built-in light changes colour, so users can keep track of their consumption goals easily. The latest-version Moikit is launching in March for US$69.

5. Underwear unplugged. The matter of male virility led two dudes to parade around CES 2017 in their underwear. The Spartan Boxer Brief is a hi-tech male undergarment that blocks over 99 per cent of all cellphone and Wi-fi radiation. It was invented in response to studies that show men who keep phones in their pocket experience a strong reduction in fertility, as well as a potential increase in the risk of developing testicle cancer.

“We did this by incorporating pure silver fibres in the boxer, bringing to underwear the same advanced technology used in space suits,” one of the models explained. “This also makes Spartan boxers anti-bacterial, so they stay fresh and odourless at the end of the day.” The founders of the French start-up believe such garments – still at seed funding stage - will be mainstream by 2025. “We aim at becoming the worldwide leader in this market.”