Year after year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) brings us countless new products. A few are splendid. A majority of them simply don’t matter. And a few–a truly horrible few–are terrible wastes of basic human potential that both our ancestors and descendants would be hugely embarrassed by.
Here are my picks for the worst products at CES 2018. (See my favorite picks here.)
In a post-Snowden surveillance society, where all of us are sure our every utterance is being tracked, a vibrator company called Lioness thinks it has a great idea: Artgasm, “a new avante guard [sic] experience . . . that turns sexuality–a topic that is complex, multifaceted, and difficult to discuss–into something beautiful and one of a kind, tailored to each individual and their own, unique experiences.”
In other words, it’s an infographic charting how frequently and aggressively you masturbate with its product. It’s a data visualizer of your most private personal experiences, rendered for the world to see–whether when you inevitably hand your phone to an acquaintance who asks, “what’s that?” or when the company is inevitably hacked. Artgasm stresses pride and self-acceptance around sexuality–which is great! But does that mean we should be recording our sexual habits to help promote a for-profit product?
Takeaway: You should have no shame, but profiteering companies probably should.
A TV That Wants Nothing More Than To Be A Wall
Look, I love giant TVs. One day, I hope to be so wealthy that I can wrap every surface of my home in soft, fluffy, Hulu-streaming pixels. But The Wall, by Samsung, is one of the worst ideas at CES.
This 146-inch display features a new type of LED, called a microLED, that’s probably great for all sorts of engineering reasons. But I don’t care. This thing is a giant TV that, to disappear on your wall, attempts to camouflage itself with cheesy skeuomorphism that looks like an interior decorator’s worst nightmare. It displays a backdrop of fake stone, fake bookshelves, fake vases, and fake books! As if to tell your visitors, “Oh this? This is just my library. Because I read so much. Though yes, I guess it technically might double as Stranger Things binging machine that’s the size of a small car.”
Takeaway: You aren’t fooling anyone, Jane Austen.
For those who cross their fingers that CES will one day destroy itself, there’s hope–in the form of this 8,000-pound robot that moves at the breakneck speed of an electric golf cart.
A company called Furrion showed off a concept it calls “Mech Racing,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Alongside its giant, jungle-gym-looking robot on the show floor, the company showed off a new sizzle reel of the bot trudging slowly–very slowly–across the desert in an apparent race against another bot, presumably for the prize of putting an end to the painfully stupid experiment that is mankind. As I put it to a colleague, when it comes to giant robots, sign me up. But I have no interest in the iterative process that gets us to the point where war is waged between 1,000-foot Pacific Rim creations. But until the moment that you actually build the Megazord, all you’ve got is a dune buggy cage with feet.
Takeaway: Maybe try drone racing instead?
More Dumb Smart Kitchens
Still haven’t ponied up the cash for that iMac? It’s okay. Now you can do better! You can buy a 27-inch computer . . . that can also warm up chicken fingers! Why didn’t Apple think of this first?
The smart kitchen trend was in unparalleled form at this year’s CES. But many of these new appliances seem designed less to help you cook dinner than to help you Instagram your food more readily. We already spend too much time on screens. The kitchen should be an escape from them. And if you need to check a recipe, you already have the perfect invention for that. It’s called your iPhone.
Takeaway: The industry will absolutely not rest until we’re all Skyping our grandmothers from our freezers. And I’m sorry for that.
Kohler’s Weirdly Sexy AI Bathroom
How’s your toilet working? Can you flush with a wave of your hand yet? Does it blow warm air on your toes? No?
At CES Kohler presented an entire smart bathroom, connected by technologies like Amazon Alexa. It allows you to talk to your mirror or shower or sink. And while I would make fun of it, there’s nothing I can say that Kohler didn’t in its own self-promotion: It’s the most romantic commercial about a toilet you’ve ever seen.
Takeaway: Japan is decades ahead of us, but America might be slowly catching on to the whole delightful toilet phenomenon.
The One Cryptocurrency Absolutely Sure To Bankrupt You
Kodak, the 130-year-old photography company that found itself blindsided by the digital revolution, doesn’t want to be caught behind the times again. So it announced its own cryptocurrency standard called KodakCoin. It will, theoretically, be used to pay photographers for their freelance and licensing work.
Most of the internet has laughed at KodakCoin since it was announced. But the joke’s on us: Wall Street loved the idea, and Kodak’s stock price tripled following the announcement.
Takeaway: If you thought we were in a blockchain bubble, you were right. But this whole cryptocurrency trend is far from finished.