This year's tagline at CES was "Yep, the impossible just happened." This phrase appeared below pictures of people with their mouths agape. And while that's not the worst marketing pitch we've seen, the reality is that for some products, you could replace "impossible" with "ridiculous." Occasionally, we weren't saying 'Whoa' so much as 'Yipes.'
Here are some of the bad -- or at least questionable -- ideas we stumbled across at CES 2017. And we offer our proposed marketing slogans to prove it.
This isn't Oombrella's first dance at the CES rodeo. It debuted last year and caused us to raise our eyebrows then, too. It's a "connected" umbrella that sends alerts to your smartphone so you don't forget to take it along when rain is on the way. Oombrella's makers scoff at weather reports which are often wrong and say that their Oombrella measures temperature, humidity, and light levels for a hyper-local forecast. That sounds great until you realize that you can also get a hyper-local forecast by looking out the window.
On top of that, the Oombrella will retail for a whopping $70 if it ever sees the light of day, or the cloud of storm. That's a lot of green for an umbrella, connected or otherwise, especially considering how often people forget and lose their umbrellas. Oombrella's creators says you can't forget theirs because it'll send you a reminder to your phone if you walk away. But will you always hear that reminder? What if your phone's on mute?
Marketing Slogan: When you don't trust your own eyes, here's an umbrella that confirms it's kinda cloudy out.
Bonus Slogan: The world's first umbrella too expensive to leave the house with.
Nemonic or demonic? This small printer prints one thing and one thing only. It prints post-it notes. So instead of scribbling on a piece of paper, which takes virtually no time, you can now jot your note down on a smartphone, walk within range of the printer, print from your phone, get the freshly minted sticky note off the printer, and put it where you need it.
Nemonic is the perfect way to post reminders (as long as you have a strong enough memory to remember what you're posting in the now lengthy process it will take for your post-it to appear). You might want to jot down a post-it to remind you to print that post-it.
Marketing Slogan: Take 10 times longer to print a post-it.
GeniCan is a small misguided device you attach to your garbage can that reads bar codes of whatever you're throwing out. It then adds them to a grocery list on a smartphone app. If you're throwing out a ketchup bottle, it will automatically add ketchup to your grocery list. The problem is you need to pause the item in front of GeniCan long enough for it to read the bar code, which also means you need to orient the item correctly. This puts a crimp in the heretofore highly honed human skill of throwing crap out. And if there is no bar code (you know, like on an apple) you have to tell GeniCan what it is (it recognizes your voice).
In short, you're going to be spending more time than you want hovering over that garbage can. And this is all assuming you want more of whatever you're throwing out. Maybe you're throwing it out for a reason. Maybe you hate collard greens. But now your husband just got a notification to buy more. Dammit!
Marketing Slogan: If you like hanging around a garbage can, you'll love GeniCan.
Bonus Slogan: Finally, a gadget that'll motivate you not to spill tomato sauce on the lid of your trash (because it'll stop working if you do).
Are you sitting down? Prophix is a camera toothbrush that streams a live feed of the inside of your mouth to your smartphone as your brushing. You can snap pictures of potential problems and show it to your dentist at your next visit, because there's nothing doctors like more than self-diagnosing patients. But unless you're a hypochondriac, do you really want to see the inside of your mouth? That's what dentists are for in the first place, to go where more gentle souls fear to tread.
Don't get us wrong: Unlike some other products in this list, we see there's potential for some real value here. But we are a little wary of the implementation. Perhaps the biggest downside to Prophix is that you're juggling your smartphone above your sink as you try to brush your teeth. Even Cirque du Soleil wouldn't recommend that move.
Marketing Slogan: Prophix: Because water and smartphones mix.
Bonus Slogan: Get that icky dental office feeling by looking at photos of the inside of your mouth at home!
EKKO Smart Mirror
The EKKO Smart Mirror is a mirror that plays songs, podcasts, projects daily headlines, weather updates, and more. It's controlled by gesture so you don't get it smudgy. Now we don't have anything specifically against smart mirrors. We liked the HiMirror Plus, which actually tries to help you improve your skincare. But that's a world away from the EKKO Smart Mirror, which seems intent on distracting you from actually taking care of your hygiene or making yourself presentable. What's more, it costs a whopping $430. (In comparison, the HiMirror Plus costs $190.)
The EKKO Smart Mirror boasts that it remembers personal preferences for each family member. That may be it's biggest negative. If you're competing for bathroom time with family members in the morning before work and school, the last thing you need is a device that keeps you in the bathroom longer. "Get out of there, you little brat!" your sister yells. "No can do, sis. Watching Simpsons re-runs in the mirror."
Marketing Slogan: Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who causes the most family friction of them all?
Griffin Connected Toaster
The Griffin Connected Toaster is a Bluetooth toaster that's controlled by a smartphone app. Enter your preferences and the Griffin Connected Toaster will remember them. Why, it works just like a regular toaster, which also has settings and remembers toast the way you like it, and can be had for $70 less than this $100 toaster. Ultimately, you still have to go up to the toaster and put bread into it. Only now instead of just pressing down on a lever, you have to pull out your smartphone, which... what, you left it on the other side of the room? That wasn't very automated of you, now was it?
Marketing Slogan: Why toast with one device when you can toast with two?
Vinci Smart Headphones
Vinci Smart headphones are more than headphones. They're also a smartphone with Siri-like artifical intelligence, voice recognition, and gesture controls. It even has fitness tracking and a heart rate monitor. Actually, it sounds pretty cool. But that's not going to stop us from making fun of it. That's because the the ear cup has an outward-facing display which does the wearer no good whatsoever -- unless you want your subway passengers to you to know what music you're listening to, who you're calling, or the result of the last question you asked it.
In a world where privacy is at a premium, do you really want to broadcast everything you're doing on the outer screens of your headphones? We didn't think so.
Marketing Slogan: Smart headphones, dumb screens.
Bonus Slogan: The first headphones with Siri-like AI built in (you know, just like any other headphone you connect to your smartphone).
Flying Magic Cleaner
The Flying Magic Cleaner is truly inspired. It's a an air filter attached to the top of a drone. You let it fly around your house and filter your air. What could go wrong? There's nothing safer than letting a drone fly around your room. Will its propellers take a chunk out of your ear while you're watching TV? Or will it gouge out your hand as you open the door? The fun is in the surprise! It'll be totally random when it finally strikes, but strike it will. It's an indoor drone. Sleep lightly, my friend.
Marketing Slogan: The Flaying Magic Cleaner.
The Hair Coach bills itself as the world's first smart hairbrush. It's the result of a collaboration between Kérastase, L'Oréal and Withings. The Hair Coach includes a gyroscope to measure brushing force and speed, an accelerometer to count the number of brush strokes, and a microphone to capture sound waves that tell the brush about the nature of your hair -- frizzy, dry, etc.
Most people would've just looked in the mirror and made the call. But the hair coach takes that simple judgment away from you. The Hair Coach also includes haptic feedback in the handle to guide your brushing technique, which the Hair Coach probably disapproves of. If your confidence wasn't shaken enough, you can check the app for your hair health score. Brace yourself. You probably won't like it.
Marketing Slogan: Shatter what's left of your confidence with this judgmental hair brush.
Denso Vacuum Shoes
Don't read too much into this. The Denso Vacuum Shoes are literally just shoes with vacuums on the bottom. You walk and vacuum at the same time. The vacuum shoes were the winner of a company-wide contest at Denso, a Japanese auto parts manufacturer. The prize was apparently subjecting people to it at CES.
These vacuum shoes look like an accident waiting to happen. They're awkward, bulky, and walking in them appears to be a high-risk activity you should probably advise your insurance company about. You also have to walk heel-to-toe to make the shoes work. Hold your arms out in front of you while doing that and you'll probably be doing a respectable imitation of Frankenstein.
Marketing Slogan: Too lazy to clean but have Olympic-class balance and coordination? We have shoes for you.