The oddest inventions of 2016
Some ideas are ahead of their time, some might have to wait an eternity. We're not entirely sure which camp the following fearless forays into the realm of invention fit into, but they definitely get our nod for being among the quirkiest and in many cases, puzzling, gadgets to come to our attention in 2016.
Propose a toast
As if all the beeps, boings and flashes we endure from inanimate objects trying to tell us how to live out our days aren't enough, now toast is getting on on the act. The Toasteroid works in conjunction with a smartphone app to burn reminders, emojis or even the weather into your toast, or even lets you send a message to a friend by way of semi-burned bread. The Toasteroid ran a successful crowdfunding campaign back in August and is scheduled to pop-up late in 2017.
Walking in a new dimension
It may look odd, but it's much easier than climbing stairs, and it doesn't take up much space or guzzle power like elevators do. Rombaout Labs "Vertical Walking" device uses a system of upright rails, pulleys and a gripping system to allow a user to move between floors. The only problem with this contraption may be convincing people that it's actually a good idea, and getting them to give it a try.
Pour it all out
The brainchild of two graduate students from the University of Tokyo and Hosei University, Otopot is definitely the oddest take on a voice recording device we've seen, but it's also quite compelling. To record a message you simply lift the lid, say your piece, and replace it when you're done. Your words are then replayed to whoever removes the lid and to erase the message, you just pour your voice away like water.
A bicycle with a twist
Take a regular looking single-speed bicycle, chop it in half, then join it back together using a hinge mechanism that allows you to throw the wheels wildly out of alignment with one another. That's essentially what you get with the Trocadero Fixie. We're yet to work out a practical purpose for this odd-ball invention, but it's right up there on the pointless fun register.
After several millennia of nodding off, you'd think we would have this sleep caper sorted out by now. Apparently not – at least, that's the take away from the NodPod "head hammock." The NodPod consists of a chin-friendly slab of memory foam attached to some cords that allow you to strap your head to a chair and sleep upright. It may not look all that comfortable, but it does have the potential to ward off neck pain and save fellow passengers from unsolicited drool attacks on long-haul flights.
A prickly poncho for pooches
Safety gear is rarely the height of fashion, and the CoyoteVest proves this trend carries over to the animal world. With its metal spikes and brightly-colored porcupine-like quills sprouting from stab-resistant Kevlar, the vest looks like the kind of outfit Fido might wear to a punk gig or a rave. Factor in the optional "CoyoteZapper" accessory that delivers an electric shock through two conductive strips along the side and you've got an outfit that will not only help fend off attacks from other dogs or coyotes, but might also give the wearer some kind of complex.
Adding some levitating components is an easy way to give a new spin to an existing product – a levitating lightbulb made our corresponding list last year. It's usually a simple matter of embedding a couple of magnets here and there, but Mag-Lev Audio faced a tougher task in creating the First Levitating Turntable. To accommodate the different spin speeds of different vinyl, a combination of magnets and electromagnetic coils, proprietary software and built-in sensors was required. But whether or not this added complexity will result in an audible difference to a standard non-levitating turntable is probably secondary to the visual wow factor.
Hanging around the water
Kicking back in a hammock and bobbing along on the water are both pretty relaxing ways to spend some time, so why not combine the two? Because it's hard enough to get in and out of a hammock on dry land? Because you shouldn't run the risk of dozing off as the MelloShip cruises on autopilot for up to two miles on a pre-determined route? Because the MelloShip crowdfunding campaign failed to reach its goal and you'll have to build your own or opt for an alternative like the Hammocraft? Pshaw! Where's your pioneering solar-powered motorized hammock boat spirit?
Distrust springs eternal
When we first covered it in April, we pegged the Smartress as being close to winning gold in the "most ridiculous idea" stakes, and in the subsequent months nothing has changed our minds. With an array of sensors that form a "lover detection system" built into it, the mattress will send an alert to your smartphone whenever it detects suspicious activity taking place upon it. Being targeted at couples with obvious trust issues in relationships that are more than likely headed for the scrapheap, the Smartress is probably the ideal bedding option for this Prenuptial House that splits in two when the owners break up.
A Christmas complication
Christmas is already a pretty complicated time of year, with gifts to find, meals to prepare and families to entertain, but a group of software developers from Scandiweb has taken things to the next level for the lighting of a Christmas tree in Riga, Latvia. The group constructed the largest Rube Goldberg machine ever built (think the Mouse Trap board game or Honda's The Cog commercial), which went through 412 steps and took almost 15 minutes from the push of the button to the tree lighting up like, well, a Christmas tree.
So what gets your vote for the wackiest invention of the year? Let us know by posting a comment below.
Darren Quick and Noel McKeegan