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7 of the weirdest products we’ve seen at CES 2024

Marketing imagery of the Beatbot AquaSense robot in two angles

Every year, tech brands around the world host events to showcase their latest products and tech they are working on in the background. Bundle all that up into one of the largest consumer tech events of the year, and you get CES. This year’s event is underway at Las Vegas, and the stands are chock-full of cool transparent TVs, cars you can drive with a PlayStation controller, and Samsung’s showcase of where foldable smartphones are headed in the years to come.

Along the sidelines, we also saw several product announcements which companies created because they could, perhaps without even thinking if they should. The result is a wacky assortment of everything from smart cat doors which force the fluffy predators to leave their game night catch outdoors, to creepy yet cute smart projectors which follow you around the house. Here are the 7 weirdest launches from the CES 2024 floor.

Rabbit R1

Programmable AI that gets the job done on every device

In an age of AI and voice assistants, this diminutive new gadget from Rabbit hopes to serve as an intermediary between you and your smartphone, completely eliminating any need to reach for the phone physically. Designed with hardware comparable to an Apple Watch, the R1 has a push-to-talk button, camera, scroll wheel, mics, internal storage and a SIM card slot. All this hardware works in tandem with a custom-built Rabbit OS.

The grand idea is to enable ChatGPT-like interactions which execute commands on connected devices, irrespective of the OS they’re running. For instance, you could train it to perform a tooth-whitening edit in Photoshop, and thereafter just use voice commands to repeat that action on other images you want to edit, all while AI does the heavy lifting. On the one hand, such deployment of AI is independent of APIs and other OS-specific tech, but on the other hand, it could take a lot of work to make the $200 Rabbit R1 work as advertised. If executed right, we believe tech like this could be the stepping stone to direct brain-computer interfaces like Neuralink.

Samsung Ballie

Projector and smart home assistant rolled into one yellow ball

Popular South Korean tech brand Samsung makes a lot more than just smartphones and home appliances. The company grabbed a lot of eyeballs at CES with its new Ballie robot, built to serve as your humble mobile projector. Samsung sure believes that if Google Glass didn’t take off and the Apple Vision Pro is treading unfamiliar territory, there are simpler ways to make a screen go wherever you decide to go.

This iteration of Ballie is a smart projector which can detect your posture and facial angle to auto-adjust the projection for you, Samsung says. A sweet video presentation showed the yellow bot playing a video of birds for a dog, and switching to a projection on the wall for a video call. If that isn’t enough, Ballie doubles up as a smart home control center as well.

We loved how the name Ballie sure sounds like Wall-E, the adorable Pixar movie robot, even though it’s a nod to the bot’s rotund shape. And if you think you’ve seen Ballie before, you aren’t wrong — it was also at CES 2020. This year’s appearance was limited to a video presentation focused on the addition of the smart projector, even though the previous one showed off the robot in the flesh.

Beatbot AquaSense Pro pool robot

A Roomba for your swimming pool

CES 2024 also had its fair share of new brands making a splash with weird products, like the $2,200 pool cleaning robot from Beatbot. Sure, there are hordes of robots which can mop your floors without breaking a sweat, but Beatbot says there aren’t many which help keep your pool clean (at least not smart ones). The AquaSense comes in a Pro and non-pro version, with the former boasting nine motors, two filters, four brushes, and 20-odd sensors powered by AI.

Source: Beatbot

This pool robot will scrub the pool walls, clean the waterline, and the floor of your pool. The brand claims the AI ensures cleaning routines and paths are tailored to your specific pool, just like the dispensers which measure doses of cleaning agents. A 10,000mAh battery promises 9.5 hours of battery life, and it should dock at the surface after every cycle, so you won’t retrieve it from the depths of your pool if it dies there.

As a quality-of-life accessory, it would be hard to cheat something like the Beatbot AquaSense Pro, but you have to be someone with a large enough pool, seeing enough use to warrant a $2,200 expense instead of paying someone to do the job manually.

Samsung Music Frame

Why stop after hiding the TV in plain sight?

Retreating to the dry confines of indoor spaces, there’s nothing that livens up a space like artwork. Samsung turned things up to eleven with The Frame TV, which could pass off as a permanent art installation if you didn’t catch it changing the displayed image. According to the brand, the Music Frame is the next logical step.

As the name suggests, this is a relatively small art installation which is also an incognito speaker. Unlike the Frame TV which can change it at will, the Music Frame displays a static piece of art on the front, quietly concealing a loudspeaker in the back. It makes for the perfect smart home accessory if you’re willing to trade the proven efficacy of soundbars and satellite speakers for a speaker disguised for a cleaner aesthetic. To help its case, the new Music Frame works with SmartThings, and can even provide surround sound when paired with a Samsung TV and soundbar.

Flappie smart catflap

Allows the hunter in, but not the hunted

Smart home tech goes beyond disguise at CES, though, because few creatures can dodge the ferocity of your hungry cat on its nightly prowl, and it’s never a good feeling to wake up to the stench of your cat’s prey from the night prior. Flappie believes the solution lies in smartifying the cat flap installed on your door, transforming it into a biometric authenticator of sorts.

Flappie relies on AI to identify prey such as birds and mice which your fur ball may try to bring home. If prey is detected, the entrance is sealed shut until your cat decides to abandon it. The companion app allows you to remotely control the door, and also gives you insights into your pet’s escapades. This gadget could also fend off other cats and live rodents looking to misuse the catflap on your door.

Given how sly cats are, though, we suspect it’s a matter of time before at least some of them outsmart the Flappie and learn how to drag their prey through. It may be just the thing you need if your orange cat tends to hunt frequently.

Invoxia Minitailz smart pet collar

An Apple Watch for your fluffy friend

While we are on the subject of smart home tech for pets, why stop at denying your cat its prey. If you can wear a fitness tracker, so can your pet, and that’s what the Invoxia Minitailz promises to do. For the low price of $100, you can get insights into the health and well-being of your pets right this second. While conventional veterinary practice is quite accurate, a gadget like this could help detect problems with stamina and vital organs earlier.

We remain skeptical of the Minitailz’s accuracy, but the product has won seven international awards. This rather chunky gadget also doubles up as a GPS tracker, so you can track your pets’ whereabouts if they are ever separated from you. Just remember to keep the device charged and the app subscription active.

Lenovo’s keyboard and mouse prototypes

Fidgeting to stay alive

Sustainability may not be high on your list of priorities when picking up computer peripherals, but Lenovo decided to design a keyboard-mouse combo which doesn’t need to be plugged in to charge. There is a massive caveat — you need to fidget with them enough to keep them going.

You know those wind-up flashlights you can find at hiking supply stores? Lenovo wants you to spend time fidgeting with a similar mechanism to keep your mouse going. It says the prototype works for 30 minutes after a minute of cranking. Unfortunately, it may be one of the CES creations that wasn’t thought through, because the crank shares placement with the charging port on the Apple Magic Mouse. As a result, there’s no reasonable way to use the mouse mid-crank unless you get really creative.

As for the keyboard, it leverages solar panels like the ones you see in calculators, converting visible light back into energy. The panels are mounted on the massive forehead of the keyboard, which doesn’t serve any other purpose. There’s a free-spinning knob on the upper left-hand side, presumably connected to a small DC generator, which recharges the battery when you spin the shaft to fidget that stress away.

While the practicality of such tech may be questionable, the idea has potential. Thankfully, these are just concepts and hopefully, the team at Lenovo polishes the idea implementation to a shining example for the industry, before its public launch.

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