While we get to see some brilliant new tech at CES every year, by far the most fun part is when it veers way left of centre. Here are some of the coolest and craziest gadgets that we saw at CES 2012.
Imagine if you could fit a Segway into one single wheel. That's kind of what you have in Solowheel: a motorised unicycle, with self-balancing technology and small platforms either side for you to stand on as you whoosh down the footpath. It's powered by a Lithium-ion battery, and can travel up to 32km at a top speed of 16km/h.
Then, when you arrive, you can fold the platforms away and carry it like a briefcase — and all for only US$1795! Now if only they'd found away to fill it with milk, so you could churn butter on the go ...
Now here's a workstation fit for a monarch. The Emperor 1510 is a self-contained office pod. The frame tilts back so that you can recline as you work, with a leg rest for putting your feet up, an adjustable keyboard tray, overhead LED lights and a monitor attached overhead, adjustable to the perfect viewing angle.
It looks as swish as heck, and all for just US$6200 — although, if you want to really splash out, you can add manual or motorised controls for the chair, surround-sound speakers, up to two more monitors and custom colours.
If you've ever thought to yourself that skateboarding was just so analog it hurts, Chaotic Moon is here to take away your pain. The mobile-app studio has modified a skateboard with an Xbox 360 Kinect and a Samsung Galaxy 8 tablet with voice-control software — so that you can control the skateboard with voice and motion. Creative Moon even fitted the board with all-terrain wheels for a silky-smooth ride.
Don't get your wallets out quite yet, though; it's still only in the prototype stages.
If you have US$1999 to spare, from MakerBot comes the Replicator: a 3D printer that allows you to print in two colours. Need a new suitcase handle? Bam, you can print one out. What about eggcups? Yep. Anything that's up to a size of 225x145x150mm you can print in plastic.
It's not quite yet available for real, but MakerBot is taking pre-orders if you're keen, with a one-colour model available for US$1749.
MakerBot can't have all of the 3D thunder, though; some of that belongs to Cubify, which came out with The Cube — a 3D printer designed to be played with at home. It can create objects of up to 140x140x140mm in one of 10 colour plastics, and the printer comes with 50 free files. After that, you're on your own.
It's a little more affordable than the Replicator, too, clocking in at just US$1299. Bargain!
This is — well, it's a cordless phone, but it's such a gorgeous design, rooted in the Bakelite phones of the 1950s, that we just couldn't resist.
We love the idea of being able to charge our gadgets while we're, say, out camping in nowheresville. Swedish company myFC had a solution on display on the CES floor: Powertrekk, the hydrogen fuel cell, which converts hydrogen into electricity to power your mobile devices. Just add water! No, really; that's all you need. Or urine. We're not even joking. Bear Grylls would love it. There's more information on how it works at the link above.
The Powertrekk is going for €199, or around AU$245.
It looks like something out of an HR Giger painting, but the Life-Phorm Pro is a whole lot cooler. You can mount your portable devices (tablets, smartphones and cameras) onto the configuration of legs, which can then be shaped to grab onto pretty much anything.
Pre-orders are available now for US$149.99.
See that teensy-tiny little thing at the top of the big, black box? That's an iPhone, and the box is, well, an iPod dock from professional audio-manufacturer Behringer. The massive speaker measures 2.5x1.2m, weighs in at 315kg and contains two 18-inch subwoofers, with a total output of 10,000 watts across the three-way speaker system.
If you think the iNuke Boom might be just the ticket for your next shindig, though, the price tag is equally massive: US$30,000.
This isn't a product per se, but it certainly falls under the definition of "weird". For the closure of Steve Ballmer's Microsoft keynote, Microsoft hired the Las Vegas Mass Choir to sing ... tweets. Real tweets, sent in by real people unrelated to Microsoft. Sung by a gospel choir.
So, yep. That happened.