Every now and then, an invention comes along that makes us wonder how we ever lived without it – but those are in the minority. For every iPhone there are a thousand slurp-cancelling forks, and like every year, 2018 had its fair share of out-of-the-box ideas. New Atlas rounds up the weirdest and wackiest inventions that left us scratching our heads this year.
If the vehicle designer from Tron tried to get into the last mile commute game, the RidRoid CanguRo might be the end result. This self-driving electric scooter can get you from the car to the office or lecture hall in style – if your idea of style means coasting along at 6 mph (10 km/h) in an unflattering position like you're riding a tricycle. With a suite of sensors and some AI smarts onboard, it can also follow you like a creepy robotic puppy or meet you at a specific place and time. Uber probably won't lose much sleep over it though.
Putting the "art" in artificial gill
The looming threat of climate change may force mass migrations of humans inland, as rising sea levels wipe out coastal cities. But rather than find ways to reduce our carbon footprint, some people suggest we steer into the skid and just find ways to live underwater instead.
Amphibio is the answer one Japanese design team came up with. This lightweight, 3D-printable vest is supposed to act like an artificial gill, letting the wearer breathe underwater – in theory, anyway. In practice, the designer freely admits it can't process enough water fast enough to keep a diver alive and wouldn't work more than a few feet down, so you'll just have to wear it as a really ugly vest instead.
Don't drop the soap
Soap is notoriously slippery and, while it's far from the world's most urgent problem, there must be something we can do about it. Tetra Soap has come to the rescue, with its angular tetrapod shape giving you something easier to grip. But while it might solve one problem, others will probably rear their heads – namely, it looks a bit pointy to be rubbing all over your body. Maybe we'll just stick to the ol' soap-on-a-rope.
The not-so-mobile "Poolmobile"
Got an old trailer you wish you could trade in for a pool? Well, French artist Benedetto Bufalino might be the person to call. The latest in his series of unconventional aquaria is a trailer that's been gutted and converted into a swimming pool – although it's probably too heavy to actually move when it's full. We'll add this one to the ever-growing list of jokes from The Simpsons that somehow became real things.
Segway goes full ACME
Segways have been among the dorkiest ways to get around for a solid 15 years now, but in its efforts to stay relevant, the company this year unveiled a whole new way to hurt yourself. Drift W1 is a pair of self-balancing e-Skates that look less like a practical way to get around and more like the footwear of choice for chasing the Road Runner through the desert.
Put a Lyd on it
Sometimes first-world problems need high tech solutions. In this case, the problem in question is the fiddliness of opening the "port" on a reusable drink bottle lid every time you take a sip, and leaving it open could be messy. The over-engineered solution? A lid that only opens when it senses that your lips are touching it. To cap it all off, the name comes from the "take a normal word and spell it wrong" school of thought: the Lyd.
Hitting the nail on the head
"Weirdest" inventions often implies bad ideas, but this one is something we'd actually be delighted to find under our Christmas tree this year. Engineer Michael Young's design for a nail-dispensing hammer is nothing short of genius. Nails are loaded into a chamber in the head, then the first strike drives it into the surface. After that, you just hammer away as normal to finish the job. Unfortunately, it's just a prototype at the moment, so maybe we'll have to remind Santa next year.
Picture this: you're just about to leave for a party and you suddenly remember the champaign has been sitting out, getting warm. What do you do? The obvious answer is you hitch the hootch to the roof of your car with Blitzen, an aluminum rail designed just for this incredibly specific scenario. Of course, the effectiveness depends on how cold it is outside and how far you're driving, but what else are you going to do, stick your drinks in a cooler?
Advertising is at best seen as a necessary evil, but there's no doubt that it all gets a bit overwhelming at times. Sadly ad-blockers don't work in the real world, but the next best thing might be the IRL Glasses. Inspired by the 80s sci-fi/horror classic They Live!, the IRL Glasses are polarized in a way that makes LCD and LED screens appear blank, so The Man can't tell you what to wear or drink or think. The specs don't block OLED or AMOLED yet, though, which is what the majority of digital billboards use, but if nothing else they work fine as a pair of 80s-chic sunglasses.
Another round, BARTender!
Roombas are fine at their job, but they aren't exactly party robots. Beer brewer Stella Artois might be able to help liven them up with the Bartending Automated Robotic Technology (BART). That "technology" is basically just a Plexiglass table that fits on top of a robot vacuum, allowing it to serve drinks while it bashes endlessly into the walls and tries to squeeze under the couch.
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