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CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas

CES launches some of the coolest gadgets on the planet. But with more than 3,000 exhibitors this year, not everyone could be a winner.

CES 2013: 9 Cool Gadgets
CES 2013: 9 Cool Gadgets
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could," Jeff Goldblum's character dramatically warned in Jurassic Park, "that they didn't stop to think if they should."

Nearly 20 years later, the same admonishment could be directed at some of the engineers and designers behind the new products recently hawked at CES. There weren't any dinosaurs rampaging through the Las Vegas Convention Center at this year's show -- but if there had been, at least some of the dumbest exhibits might have been trampled into extinction.

Indeed, although the annual tech fest sometimes points toward technology's role in a better future -- or at least a better entertained one -- it also has a legacy of launching bad ideas. Here are five of the most egregious offenders from this year's show.

1. HapiFork.

The HapiFork is an electronic fork that tracks how many mouthfuls of food you consume during a given meal, how many seconds pass between bites, and how long the meal took to complete. Despite wireless connectivity being a big theme at this year's CES, the gadget has to be plugged into a computer via a USB cord before any data can be examined.

Why is this dumb? For one thing, the device has no idea what you're eating. Five mouthfuls of salad or five mouthfuls of chocolate mousse -- it's all the same to HapiFork. For another, it doesn't know whether you're taking big bites or small bites. Filtered cigarettes don't stop carcinogens from reaching a smoker's lungs -- they just compel the smoker to inhale more aggressively. Likewise, it's easy to imagine that a HapiFork user will limit the number of times he brings the fork to his mouth by simply scooping up more food each time. It's a well-intentioned device, sure -- but it's also dumb.

HAPIfork

2. iPotty

The iPotty is a training toilet onto which parents can attach an iPad. Apps are available to persuade their diaper-dependent offspring to wipe and flush. To be fair, more than a few people at CES lit up at the mention of this product -- but this probably has more to do with the fact that toilet training is so challenging as to make any beleaguered parent desperate for help. At least one doctor has already expressed doubt over its effectiveness, and one has to wonder, given the tantrums toddlers throw, whether you want your iPad anywhere near the process. It's terrifyingly easy to imagine a child who sees his first wipe not as a triumph but as an opportunity to apply a defiant smear across the device's screen.

[ See the brighter side of CES 2013: 7 Standout technologies. ]

3. Huawei's Ascend Mate.

A "bigger is better" attitude might work for the CES exhibitors touting TVs, but for smartphones, not so much. Huawei's Ascend Mate, which runs the company's Emotion UI on top of Android, will be one of the heaviest smartphones on the market at almost 200 grams, and with an unnecessarily large 6.1-inch screen, it's beyond unwieldy. You'd better use a headset if you want this phablet, because holding it during a long conversation is likely to give you hand cramps. What's even more off-putting is how little mileage Huawei gets out the superfluous screen real estate. The device's designers were evidently unaware that pixel-dense, Retina-type displays are all the rage, as they gave the Ascend Mate a relatively meager 1280-pixel-by-720-pixel resolution.

4. Panasonic's 4K Tablet.

Credit must be given where it's due: Panasonic's 4K Windows 8 tablet prototype is an impressive piece of engineering. Its 20-inch screen boasts a 3840-pixel-by-2560-pixel resolution for 230 pixels per inch and vivid, compelling images. The device's innards are pretty compelling too, with an Intel i5 processer, NVidia graphics and a 128-GB SSD.

So why it is a dumb idea? First of all, there's not a lot of software optimized for 4K displays. Major vendors have only recently added support for Apple's 2.7K Retina-equipped MacBook Pros. Second, the tablet is huge. As a 3M-style retail display, the gadget, if it ever comes to market, might have some use. But as a portable consumer device, it's way too big to easily handle, let alone haul around. At least all that size means that if a thief tries to steal the tablet from you on the subway, you'll probably be able beat the criminal into submission with it.

5. Lucien Elements iPhone Case

If the machines ever stage a Skynet-style takeover, their motivation will probably be to stop us from making them look stupid at CES. An incredible portion of the convention center's 3.2 million square feet was dedicated to smartphone and tablet cases. The gaudy multitude of blinged-out, Swarovski-covered cases was bad enough -- throwing so many sparkles around the exhibit booths that it's a wonder no one had a seizure -- but the worst offender was the $650 crocodile-skin case from Lucien Elements. Yes, the venue was Las Vegas, so a certain amount of excess is to be expected. But paying more for a case than for the iPhone itself? That's just dumb.

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Gadgety
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Gadgety,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 12:57:44 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
This article was the dumbest out of CES2013.
Good Guy
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Good Guy,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 9:02:31 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
+1
Mika Vasquez
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Mika Vasquez,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 9:03:14 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
I AGREE!
sorli
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sorli,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 7:50:39 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
You may have something with iPotti or however they spell it, but the HapiFork was a great idea and I love the concept.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
1/13/2013 | 9:05:47 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
Thanks for the comment, sorli. The HapiFork could be useful for people who have acid reflux or similar conditions that require pacing the rate at which one eats. I think some of the other shortcomings noted above limit its value as a broadly appealing way to monitor one's diet. But if the fork helps thousands of people to lead healthier lives a year or two from now, more power to them. I'm skeptical but I'll happily admit I missed the boat.
John
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John,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 7:59:03 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
agree w/ all except the cases. bling cases are hot products - you are out of touch man. in asia all the kids stud their phones w/ crystals for $200-300 for no-brand gems.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
1/13/2013 | 9:01:42 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
Thanks for the comment, John. You make a fair point-- a lot of people like the bling, and there's definitely a market.I was referring more to aesthetics than sales potential--and I'm okay being out of touch on that one. Still think a case that costs more than the device it protects/ decorates is silly, though.
joecassara
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joecassara,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 8:43:16 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
What was it InformationWeek said about the original iPad? Something about a heavy, oversized iPod with a niche market at best?
XiroMisho
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XiroMisho,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 9:57:39 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
something many tech people still feel is the case, in all honesty, and while people are buying them up like crazy still doesn't really mean the device is useful or a wise purchase. Tablets are a trend, I'll admit, however in all honesty I've yet to find a use for having one - yes, still. The 7 inch ones are at least a bit more weildy, but I only recently became interested after the Windows tablets hit. Before I get the Apple fanboi's panties in a bunch it's not because it's MS, it's because these newer tablets promise to run a full OS and not a mobile OS. The "Mobile" OS has been a cop-out for engineers to take a break and not push as hard as they could to get all the performance possible out of these devices. the iPad could do so much more, so very much more than it can now, it's major limitation is the fact it runs a mobile OS still, despite it's improved processing power and memory.

If apple sold a tablet running MAC OSX, bam, I'd own that in a heart beat - but iOS? Eh... it's still no sale. But that's because I'm a techie, and I know I cannot multi-task on the device, as any tech writer is also a techie, the iPad was not made for us, it was made for grandma and grandpa, for mom and dad, for the people who do not want to customize, configure, or install things. It's designed for the non-computer people, and that's why the entire Tech community, from bloggers to market analysts, didn't expect the iPad to sell. Apple took a big risk with the iPad, and it worked out great, but if they want to sell even more tablets they'll get a MAC OS version like MS has a Windows 8 version coming soon.
overzeetop
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overzeetop,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 3:30:38 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
That's the cool thing about the Panasonic tablet - it DOES run a full OS. Which means full versions of Lightroom, AutoCAD, the Adobe Creative Suite. Heck, I'm sure you could put any flavor of Linux on it, too. And it's got a real effing pen input. Not pressure sensitive (d@mn you, Wacom!), but for architects/engineers doing drawing markup and collaboration, and for a lot of lightroom tools, you don't need (or even want) pressure sensitivity.

I was jazzed about the MS Surface (AutoCAD...effectively Win-Locked) with a full OS and pixel-accurate pen input, but panasonic's A3 tablet wins hands down. The only drawback is that I'll have to keep my iPad, because 20" really is too big to lug around for casual/personal use.
Eddie Audiofilos Mexicanos
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Eddie Audiofilos Mexicanos,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 11:09:31 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
a... pple kissers
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/14/2013 | 6:56:30 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
The story I wrote about the introduction of the iPad wasn't that way at all:
http://www.informationweek.com...

Gizmodo on the other hand didn't have a high opinion of the iPad:
http://gizmodo.com/5458382/8-t...
Dick Fabulous
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Dick Fabulous,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 8:46:37 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
You need a case to protect that $650 case.
XiroMisho
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XiroMisho,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 9:58:27 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
yo Dawg... I heard you like expensive cases, so we made an expensive case to protect your expensive case while you protect your expensive phone!
Mark in NY
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Mark in NY,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 10:36:08 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
Are you people kidding me????? Trade Shows are the ultimate reflection of what CUSTOMERS are willing to pay for......so shut up...if you don't see it, it means that YOU don't see it...as a long time Software Product Marketing Manager I can say with authority that someone, somwhere made a business case, a proposal and a requeast for funding based on the Voice of the Customer.
Who gives a rat's A$$ what you so called "reporters think" if the can sell it and make money there is no such thing as a dumb idea...unless of course you are a card carrying democratic lacky of the anti-business administration.
My sincere hope is that you cut your finger looking over the bling-infested cover, that you get infected and die from beri-beri or some equally awful disease.
Otherwise get out of our pool, and go taklk about something you DO understand, like hybrid cars and other nonsense, maybe carbon footprints and global warming
Morons, all.....
Interrupting ReplyBot 2012.1
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Interrupting ReplyBot 2012.1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 11:22:18 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
No such thing as a dumb idea? Sir, you've obviously never heard of "The Homer"-

http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki...
My Opinion
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My Opinion,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 8:49:23 AM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
Typical hate rant from another uneducated republican.
Thinus Kriel
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Thinus Kriel,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 9:44:04 AM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
I am sure as I "Software Product Marketing Manager" you have never seen a flop either .... Dumb ass!
SomeGuyNamedMark
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SomeGuyNamedMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 4:42:08 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
Ummm, trade shows ultimately reflect what people HOPE customers are willing to pay for. Whether they actually buy any of it is another matter. And yes, people do care what reporters think because (think hard here) we can't all go to CES so we rely on reporting.

Not sure what this has to with democrats or a very pro-business administration but you sound like a bitter right-wing ipotty developer.
Artoo45
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Artoo45,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 10:58:54 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
How did you miss QuantumMan's downloadable medicine booth? It's both dumb and dangerous. Booth 35853.
Eddie Audiofilos Mexicanos
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Eddie Audiofilos Mexicanos,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 11:08:10 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
Mmmm. Dumbest review without pictures: this
JesseR409
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JesseR409,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 11:25:38 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
I like the Panasonic 20 inch, 4k tablet. For picture editing and artists, that sounds like a great Idea.
Generalkidd
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Generalkidd,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 8:41:21 AM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
It's better off being used as an all-in-one touchscreen PC rather than a tablet.
Thinus Kriel
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Thinus Kriel,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 9:41:43 AM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
Great as a niche product! Not a dumb idea in my opinion at all!
someone_asdf
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someone_asdf,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 5:07:11 AM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
For some reason, everyone else seems to be able to scale to the resolution reasonably well (some of the games I play ran on a Pentium 3 at like 640x480 and I'm now running almost 1080p) and run perfectly on like a million resolutions... but for some reason we "optimize"?

Worst case, the image looks the same scaled up a little (antialiasing / anisotropic filtering largely takes care of really bad looking graphics). Best case, if they're using vector based or mathematically derived items (fonts, etc)? Pixel perfect at 4k. Windows itself has a DPI setting built in, and can be changed so that the UI displays well at any resolution.

If I were in the market for a laptop, I'd seriously take a good look at the Panasonic display.

I have a 16" Sony Viao from like 3-4 years ago, and the only complaint I have about it is the weight -- not the size -- which newer tech has largely alleviated.
Jason Thompson
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Jason Thompson,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 3:01:20 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
A 20" tablet actually sounds really nice. I could hang it on my wall to display weather, trello, etc... with easy touch screen controls. If I want to pick it up and move it to a different part of the house (need an extra screen, etc...) it'd be super easy.
obarthelemy
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obarthelemy,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 3:05:14 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
This article is silly. Complaining that a 6" screen is "only" 1280x720 ? really ? You're perfectly happy when a 7" tablet has 1280x800, and the iPad mini that's even worse is widely recommended. Also, if you can't warry 200g for the duration of a telephone conversation, you should consult a doctor. This is exactly the dumb shit that makes OEM focus on the useless idiot specs that braind dead "journos" can praise/shoot down w/o any brain work, as opposed to what people really want, which in my case is: a big screen, a lot of battery, and a reasonnable price.
ColJamesBapworth
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ColJamesBapworth,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 3:13:20 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
But what if I'm eating soup, huh? WHAT IF I'M EATING SOUP??!!
Elliott Davis
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Elliott Davis,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 4:18:26 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
dissing on the Ascend mate seems unnecessary. it may be useful for the disabled, either visually or otherwise.
GetEdumated
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GetEdumated,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/14/2013 | 5:05:37 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
Also, a toddler is guaranteed to wipe poo all over that iPad in the iPotty.
FritzNelson
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FritzNelson,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2013 | 4:52:49 AM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
One of the things I took away from not only this article, and the comments being left, and heck the CES trade show as well is really that sometimes what we see isn't always the end game. Well, maybe it is for some of the manufacturers and inventors, but just thinking about that fork for a moment ($100?!) makes me think about what might be possible in the future . . . detecting bacteria? Perhaps other foods that cause particular individuals allergic reactions? Calorie counting? These would be for when it can actually be truly smart, and not just have an accelerometer . . . some day, not today, and we don't get there without a few experiments along the way. Huawei may help determine what's too big, or maybe for some other uses (as Elliott Davis points out) like for those who are visually impaired. That's what I love about CES: it's always more about the future than about right now.
pwndecaf
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pwndecaf,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2013 | 4:39:28 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
And just what is wrong with an iPhone case for $650? You have no idea how the 1% live, do you? That's a bargain!
Greenbone
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Greenbone,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2013 | 4:50:15 PM
re: CES 2013: 5 Dumbest Ideas
It makes me truly sad to see that "journalism" has devolved to phoned-in pot-shot roundups like this. Maybe you walked the CES floor, with a hangover, down $500 from a bad-beat in poker the night before?

Cases may be ubiquitous...that's because mobile devices are ubiquitous. That's the angle. There's great opportunity to make cases not just a feature or personal expression, but an application as well.

You're burned out. It isn't likely your fault. I suspect your publishing company is starving and threatening you with fiscal attrition. Try looking at things they way you did fresh out of college.
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