We all know someone who's a little gadget crazy. She was the first in line for the iPhone -- because she camped out at the Apple store. He bribed his son or daughter with energy drinks and extra allowance to sit up for hours waiting for the PS3, and has done unspeakable acts to get his hands on a Wii Fit. These people spend their weekends at places like the Home Depot, Brookstone and Sharper Image to fill their homes with really neat-looking stuff that doesn't have much purpose. Their spouses would probably tell you that the obsessive gadget blogging is taking the romance out of life.
You know the type.
This person has spent a lot of time and money making home a more interesting place. So, hypothetically, if he or she were your neighbor, what might you come across in a tour of their abode? Well, we've got a list of 10 possibilities.
Some of these contraptions lack purpose. Some of them automatically do things that we take for granted or could easily do ourselves. Some of them are just there to add a little pizzazz to an otherwise ordinary existence. And some are downright useful.
Glowing Fruit Bowl
So, you're touring your gadget-loving neighbor's home, and first stop is the kitchen. Your eye wanders past several undoubtedly expensive but rather sensible innovations -- for example, energy-efficient slide-out freezers. But something else piques your interest -- a subtle blue glow emanating from the countertop. There sits a sleek-looking bowl with what looks like a white faucet overtop, except the faucet is pouring out blue light instead of water. Fruit of every shape sits in the bowl, basking in the glow.
What you've spied is the BLUE bowl, a product created through a collaboration among Turkish designers Ahmet Bektes, Koray Gelmez and Eda Kose. The bowl is not only stylish, but the blue ring of light actually keeps your fruit fresh longer. For all of you who buy fruit you fail to eat soon enough, this invention is your friend.
The device sheds UV blue wavelength light over the top and around the sides of the bowl. UV light waves have been proven to inactivate certain types of bacteria, like E. Coli and salmonella, in addition to ethylene gas, a gas that speeds up the rotting process. [source: Science Direct]. By clearing off this bacteria, the BLUE bowl keeps your produce safe and fresh for longer.
The device can be plugged in or recharged. It's not currently in production, but the BLUE Bowl has been creating buzz on the Web [source: Yanko Designs].
Up next, a houseplant that grins.
As you wander through your home gadget tour, you feel you're being watched -- not by paintings on the walls with eyes but by houseplants. One plant to your left smiles at you and bats its eyelashes, another glares, and a third begs for water.
The Pet Plant, designed by Junyi Heo, makes knowing when to water your plant as easy as knowing when your dog is hungry. Optical sensors in the planter measure the soil temperature, moisture levels and light levels, and then the device displays a digital facial expression based on the plant's needs.
How is your plant feeling today? Is it angry at you for neglect? Is it feeling happy? Is it about to die? Now you'll know, just by looking at the digital face.
The pot connects to a USB cable that can download your plant's statistics -- soil moisture levels, light levels, temperature and near-death experiences -- into your computer, which helps you to keep track of its progress. Not only that, but it can tell when you've watered too much and siphons the extra water into a standby dish. Overall, the Digital Pot is a recipe not only for happy, healthy plants, but also friendly home décor (well…as long as you water the plants) [source: Yanko Design].
Next up, a balcony that's as convenient as a roll-away bed.
Next on your home tour, your tech-savvy neighbor stops at a window, pushes it open and prepares to step outside. Before you can shout "Don't jump!" you notice that with the push of a button, the window has folded into a balcony. The balcony comfortably holds a small furniture set and the both of you. As you sip drinks and watch the world go by, your neighbor explains that, in Sweden, historical building ordinances prevent landlords from putting balconies into their apartments. The invention of the fold-out balcony gives homeowners the luxury of a balcony without breaking city ordinance.
The balcony is a heavy-duty window frame made of steel and aluminum and installed into a window space. A motorized leverage system lowers the balcony in a controlled manner with the help of reinforced steel bars. The award-winning Bloomframe folding balcony was set to begin production in early 2008. It can be customized to most windows and is available in a range of colors [source: Hofman Dujardin Architecten].
On the coming page, we'll take a look at a coffee table that puts on a light show.
Interactive Coffee Table
Stepping back in from the balcony (as your neighbor folds it up), you notice yet another blue glow, this time coming from the coffee table. Your neighbor sets the drink tray on the coffee table, and the surface lights up, surrounding the tray with bright, twinkling white lights. As the tray is taken away, the lights fade to a dull blue and twinkle subtly. Then the cat jumps on the table, and everywhere the cat steps, the table lights up, following the creature's every move.
The coffee table is called the Wave, and it uses LED lights to interact with whatever is placed on or near the table's surface. LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are bright white lights that don't use a filament (the little wire inside a bulb) like incandescent light bulbs. Instead, they have a phosphor coating that creates a white light. The coffee table lights up using circuitry and optical sensors that can read pressure and light changes when something is placed near them. The Wave is powered by a cord that is easily hidden and needs no programming or upkeep.
Not only is this coffee table attractive and responsive, it's environmentally friendly. It uses sustainable, non-formaldehyde plywood from American Maple, is finished with a water-based lacquer and uses only 35 watts of energy when fully lighted. Most of the time it's dormant, using even less energy. Depending on your table-top and shipping preferences, the coffee table can cost anywhere from $1,795 to $2,340.
On the next page, we'll tour a bathroom that has a spine.
: The Swiss Army Bathroom
The refreshing balcony beverages have taken a toll, and you excuse yourself to the bathroom. But this is no ordinary lavatory. A contraption that reminds you of a giant Swiss Army knife stands in for toilet, sink and shower. From the bottom, a sink swivels out, revealing the toilet beneath (which stays in place and empties into the connected plumbing). Storage bins slide out next, and two shower heads are revealed. The bathroom itself is one big tiled room with a drain in the center, allowing you to swivel the showerhead into any position you prefer.
The Vertebrae bathroom unit was designed to fit into small urban apartments, maximizing living space. Featured in the Sony House of Tomorrow in London, it's for sale today. It comes in a wide range of colors and costs about $15,000 (not too bad considering the amount of money room renovations cost). It can be put into a corner and takes up very little space, considering it includes so many bathroom fixtures [source: Design Odyssey].
Up next, we'll encounter a toilet lid that closes on its own accord.
During your bathroom visit, the toilet lid rises to greet you. Nervously, you sit down. After you finish your business, a warm spray from behind surprises you and you think, "Is this France?" More surprisingly, however, the toilet then flushes itself and lowers its own lid. Bewildered, you take a closer look and notice that the toilet has a special seat attachment.
This toilet seat attachment is the Washlet S400. Designed by Toto, it only works with select Toto toilets (included here with the Vertebrae only for story-telling purposes). The Washlet is controlled by a wall-mounted remote control and can be set to work automatically. The innovative toilet raises and lowers the toilet lid (ending spats between you and your spouse), flushes automatically and acts as a bidet, spraying a warm stream of water onto the user for ultimate cleanliness. Toto products are not available online, but the Washlet can be found at retail stores across the U.S. and Canada for about $1,890 [source: European Sink Atlanta].
On the next page, we'll meet two statuesque dogs that bark to a beat.
Woofer Speaker System
As you leave the bathroom, you notice music is playing. In the living room, you find two white German shepherds -- without their heads. They issue booming thuds synchronized with the bass notes over the speaker system.
These Woofer Speakers -- pun intended -- function as any other woofer speakers would, except their dog statue design is suited for a hunting lodge, rec room or pop art studio. Each order comes in sets of two in either black or white for $1,479.00 (free shipping to U.S. and Canada). Designed by Sander Mulder, the Woofers are made from polyester and contain 180-watt speakers [source: Generate].
If you're worried about indoor pollution, you may want to purchase the next item on our list for your home.
Musical Home Oxygen Bar
You finally find your neighbor -- he's relaxing in the master bedroom with his eyes closed. Soothing music is coming from somewhere, and you notice that your neighbor is breathing rather deeply from what looks like a microphone headset and is wearing a silly grin.
Remember the oxygen bar craze -- people gathering together to breathe in oxygen? Well, now you can have that experience in the comfort of your own home. The Zadro Oxygen bar comes with built-in soothing sounds and allows you to add your own essential oils to enhance your aromatherapy oxygen experience. The oxygen comes from a small compressor (which doubles as a speaker) that can easily sit out of sight on the floor while you relax in a chair. It hooks up to an oxygen-emitting tube that sends the air up to your nostrils. Essential oils can be added to the oxygen filter to "flavor" the air for you. This product retails for $299. Not to be used for medical purposes, the product has a silent motor that compresses the oxygen and removes extra moisture. Breathe deeply and enjoy the effects of clean, pure oxygen.
Next, we'll learn how you can email friends from your backyard pool.
Your neighbor leads you out back to the pool, then jumps in the water, pulls onto a float, and declares it's time to send out for pizza -- via the Internet. The float is equipped with a personal computer.
The Pool PC was designed and invented by Barry Lai Yin Lock for the NextGen PC Design Competition. It's not yet on the market, but this waterproof PC is feasible, made from low-density (floatable) waterproof plastics and solar-powered, which abolishes the need to plug in. While most computers need a fan to keep the processing unit cool, this PC uses the pool water it's floating on to cool it, instead. The touchable user interface eliminates the need for a keyboard, which would create air pockets and places for water to seep in. It includes a GPS device (in case you get lost at sea), Bluetooth wireless and Internet access. Not only that, but it includes a stretchable attachment so that it can fit to any size of pool ring or inner tube.
If you believe in the health benefits of magnets, you'll want to relax on our number one home invention.
Your neighbor climbs out of the pool and gestures to a reclining lawn chair that looks like it belongs in the movie "The Matrix." In other words, it levitates.
Shown at the Sony House of the Future in London, the Hoverit Recliner is no ordinary chair. Hand-built using clear plastics and powerful repelling magnets, the Hoverit Lounger chair floats from its base. The chair and the base incorporate magnets of opposing poles to push the chair upwards. Some people believe magnets have health benefits, like weight loss and muscle contouring, which gives this chair added value.
But beware. The chair comes with some standard warnings: Keep it away from computers, credit cards and other cards with magnetic strips, cell phones, and large metallic objects -- you really don't want the spatula and grill flying at you while you're trying to relax. People with pacemakers should also steer clear of the chair in case of magnetic pulse interference. Televisions and other screens with cathode ray tubes may also be shorted out by the lounger.
That said, this chair may need its own clean-room. But who cares? You're trying to relax, so abandon your cell phone. Not as soothing is the price. The chair will set you back $11,716, plus shipping. Only 2,000 loungers are in production, making it a collector's item.
Have these inventions tickled your fancy? Then browse the links on the next page for information on other intriguing gadgets.
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More Great Links
- Science Direct. "Modeling the inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica on raspberries and strawberries resulting from exposure to ozone or pulsed UV-light." July 24, 2008.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T8J-4PFDDGP-2&_user=10&_coverDate=04%2F30%2F2008&_alid=704944441&_rdoc=15&_fmt=summary&_orig=search&_cdi=5088&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_ct=9979&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=d6fc90d72451cbcac813111fe19ea12b
- Yanko Design. "Fresh By A Ring of Blue Light." July 12, 2008. http://www.yankodesign.com/index.php/2008/05/13/fresh-by-a-ring-of-blue-light/
- Yanko Design. "Plants Tell You What They Want." July 12, 2008. http://www.yankodesign.com/index.php/2008/05/28/plants-tell-you-what-they-want/"
- Hofman Dujardin. "Bloomframe Foldout Balcony." July 24, 2008. http://www.hofmandujardin.nl/pdf/Bloomframe-pressrelease.pdf
- Because We Can. "Interactive LED Coffee Table." July 12, 2008. https://www.becausewecan.org/shop/LED_Coffee_Table_The_Wave
- Toolbase.org. "LED Lighting." July 24, 2008. http://www.toolbase.org/Technology-Inventory/Electrical-Electronics/white-LED-lighting
- Design Odyssey. "Vertebrae." July 12, 2008. http://www.designodyssey.co.uk/product.php
- Generate. "Woofer Speaker System." July 12, 2008. http://www.gnr8.biz/product_info.php?products_id=626
- Zadro Online. "Tranquil Sounds Oxygen Bar." July 12, 2008. http://zadro.biz/product_info.php?products_id=329
- NextGen PC Design Competition. "The PC of the Swim-Rings." July 12, 2008. http://www.nextgendesigncomp.com/entrydetail.aspx?id=894
- Hoverit. "Hoverit - Changing the Rules of Conventional Furniture." July 12, 2008. http://www.hoverit.co.uk/index.html