HHH: Ghastly Gadgets

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Not that long ago, gadgets were something we associated with a far-flung future straight out of science fiction. We imagined people in this distant time using special mechanical pocket-sized devices to perform their daily tasks, like wrist-watches with two-way tv/radio, or handheld computer scanners that could reveal the secret information embedded all around us.

And then it actually happened… The Age of Gadgets arrived.

I recently discovered a video clip from a 1947 French satirical film which predicted smartphones and the way we would use them.

Animated gif of 1947 footage of people on trains and walking around, staring down at small rectangular devices they hold in their hands.

People are shown walking around, never looking up from watching the tiny screens on their devices. This was a ridiculous, laughable scene at the time, played for comedy, but looking at it seventy years later, we don’t even bat an eye; it looks pretty normal to us.

Animated gif of 1947 footage of people staring down at small rectangular devices they hold in their hands, running into each other and almost getting hit by a car.

I feel like the people of 1947 were making fun of us futuristic folks from the 21st century, and I suppose the truth is, we deserve it.

Animated gif of 1947 footage of close-up of imagined handheld device. Its screen only takes up the top half of the rectangle.
The filmmakers couldn’t quite visualize how amazing the smartphone would turn out to be.

From Apple’s AirPods to myriad massage guns to Ring doorbell cameras to foldable phones to wireless charging pads to FitBits to smart-toothbrushes, gadgets are ubiquitous these days. But that doesn’t mean they can’t continue to surprise us with their almost supernatural capabilities.

Just in time for Halloween, I’m taking you on a terrifying tour of 13 diabolical devices designed to dumbfound and delight you.

Animated gif of black & white skeleton and the words "Prepare to be Scared!" zoom in.

Today’s Highlights: Ghastly Gadgets!

1) Interactive mirrors

Photo of a woman pressing a menu item on her interactive mirror.
Photo of a woman seeing a preview of her outfit in an interactive mirror.

Personally, I’m spooked by the idea that my mirror will start showing me reflections of things that aren’t already in the room, but I’ll have to get used to it. These smart mirrors can have touch-screen menus with familiar apps such as weather, stock market, news headlines—you name it.  Don’t bother trying anything on when you’re not sure what to wear; the mirror will show you previews of what your outfits will look like on your actual body. Whether it will confirm you’re the fairest in the land remains to be seen.

2) Digital frame with famous painting subscription

Photo of digital frame showing high-res image of Van Gogh's Starry, Starry Night, with superimposed info about the piece.

Sign up for a special subscription and you can get high-definition digital reproductions of famous works of art streamed straight to this fancy frame in your home. It’s like a personal magic art museum.

3) Polaroid Lab

Photo of Polaroid Lab device

Send your digital photos on a smartphone app to this little “desktop darkroom” which will process and print them as physical Polaroid pictures. We so often see things that convert the physical or analog into digital, but sometimes it’s refreshing to see the reverse. I miss the immediacy and tangibility of the Polaroid picture. The only thing I miss, however, with this gadget is you don’t have to shake the photo to get it developed.

Animated gif of dancers shaking a polaroid picture from the music video for the song "Hey Ya" by Andre 3000.
You know what to do.

4) Digital tattoo machine

Photo of Prinker S device with smartphone showing app with digital tattoo design next to woman's arm with printed design.

Another digital-to-analog device is this temporary tattoo printer called Prinker S hat lets you use a smartphone app to select a design or customize your own—then place it on your skin to physically print it where you want.

5) Face printer

Close-up of mans' face showing device scanning dark spot on skin.

And there’s this printer (opte) that can sense any dark spots on your skin and apply pigment over them. I feel like this gets us one step closer to Star Trek’s medical tricorder.

Animated gif showing clip from Star Trek The Next Generation where Riker is getting a cut healed by Dr. Crusher's medical tri-corder.

6) Text reader gadget

Illustration showing the OrCam Reader scanning a block of text with audio wave symbols emanating from it.

The OrCam Read device can be pointed at a block of text and will then begin reading it aloud. Great for people with reading difficulties such as dyslexia or reading fatigue.

7) Bosch Home Connect Fridge

Phot of smart fridge interior camera

This smart fridge from Bosch uses cameras to identify the food you’re keeping cool and suggests recipes based on the inventory of ingredients you have on hand. This would make me want to stock up on a hodge-podge of interesting things just to see what my attentive, invisible fridge chef thinks up for me.

8) Self-cleaning and self-purifying water bottles

Diagram that shows the various parts inside the self-cleaning bottle

I admit it, I am pretty lazy at times. But that’s no excuse for not cleaning my water bottle in between uses. This gadget has a built-in invisible servant who does the job for you. It also ensures your water’s purified. I would welcome such a device into my life.

Animated gif of a clip from the film Fantasia showing Mickey Mouse leading a walking broom carrying two wash buckets towards a part of a castle to clean.

9) Self-sealing and self-changing trash cans

Animation that shows the trash can device self-sealing and self-changing.

Also welcome is this trash can called townew which allows one to never have to risk touching gross trash more than one has to. It won a “2020 Innovation Award” from the recent Consumer Electronic Show (CES), and I can see why.

Animated gif of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street looking disgruntled.
Oscar would disapprove.

10) Smart oven

Photo of the Amazon smart oven

This smart oven by Amazon is a 4-in-1 microwave, convection oven, food warmer, and air fryer with 30+ built-in presets. It’s integrated with voice-activated Alexa and has a “temperature probe” so it knows when your food is cooked the way you like it. No need to search in vain for the tiny printed instructions hidden somewhere on the box of your microwaveable food. Just scan certain packaged foods, and this smart oven will know how to cook them automatically. Now what I want to know is, does it bake “smart cookies”?

11) Smart garden

Photo of the Click And Grow countertop garden system.

Speaking of “smart,” this gadget, Click And Grow, is described as a “zero effort,” plug-and-pay, “set it and forget it” countertop garden system that uses Smart Soil inspired by NASA technology.

12) Throwable microphone

Animated gif of people at a table during a meeting. The camera pans as a participant in the foreground throws a blue ball to a person in the back.

This is an oldie, but a goodie: a throwable microphone (Qball). It’s a fun way to integrate technology in a playful and kinetic way, and helps ensure that participants in your in-person meetings don’t all talk at once.

13) Invisible keyboard

ANimated gif of someone's hands typing on a table with no keyboard in front of a smart phone.

Finally, my vote for the spookiest, ghastliest gadget is this keyboard that isn’t even there! SelfieType tracks your fingers using the front-facing selfie camera on your phone or tablet. The keyboard uses artificial intelligence (AI) to sense your tapping fingers and figure out what you’re pantomime typing.

Do you have a favorite “Ghastly Gadget”? Share in the comments!

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