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7 Oddball ‘Smart’ Devices You Have to Check Out

Everything is becoming “smart.” Name a physical item you can buy, and chances are, if it doesn’t have a sensor, a computer chip, and a way to communicate, it will soon. 

Vessyl smart mug
Vessyl smart mug

The Vessyl smart mug. (Vessyl)

Why? Here’s the sci-fi scenario: Your car rounds the corner to your home, which prompts your coffee maker to brew a fresh cup of joe. When you pour the coffee into a “smart mug,” the ingredients and caloric information are registered and sent to the smartphone app that tracks your fitness and dietary information. After you pour milk into your coffee and place the almost-empty carton back into the fridge, the smart appliance adds the item to your phone’s shopping list or to an online supermarket that will ship the milk, along with other items, every Friday morning.

You want to live in the future? Check out these seven strange connected gadgets.

1. Baidu Kuaisou chopsticks
Not sure how fresh your food is? Chinese search giant Baidu says it can tell you with its upcoming “smart chopsticks.” Called Baidu Kuaisou, this 21st-century eating utensil can detect oils that might contain unsanitary levels of contamination — and then send info on its quality to a mobile or computer app. A recently posted video by the company shows the chopsticks swirling around a bowl of fresh olive oil, with the accompanying app displaying “Good,” while recycled cooking oil registered a “Bad” reading. 

2. Vessyl
The Vessyl mug can analyze what you’re drinking and its dietary contents and then send the information to an app on your smartphone or tablet. This 13-ounce mug has smarts under the lid. It can, reportedly, identify what you’re drinking on its small screen (coffee, tea, water, or cola, for example) as well as its content, such as sugar, calories, fat, and caffeine. All this data is shared to a nearby iOS or Android device. An accompanying charging coaster “juices” up the cup for one week of use. It’s set to ship in 2015. You can preorder now for $99.

3. 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball
Even sporting equipment is on the grid. While it looks and feels like any other basketball, the 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball (current price: $227) wirelessly sends info on your game to a nearby app — including the number of dribbles and shots, spin and speed data, and arc and acceleration metrics. Now available for purchase, the water-resistant orange ball delivers up to eight hours of battery life between charges, offers upgradeable sensor software (when new features are introduced over time) and provides a range of up to 90 feet to your app-enabled mobile device.

4. Mimo Baby
Unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, the Mimo Baby ($200) is a small turtle-shaped gadget you connect to your baby’s onesie. It sends information to a parent’s (or babysitter’s) phone or tablet: whether the baby is asleep or awake, the position he is lying in (back or tummy), how well he’s breathing, body temperature, and more. You can even get live audio. A partnership between Intel and Edison, Mimo Baby might give parents the peace of mind they want. Others might think it’s over-monitoring.

5. Oral-B ProfessionalCare SmartSeries 5000 Electric Toothbrush
Consider it the granddaddy of all toothbrushes. The recently launched Oral-B ProfessionalCare SmartSeries 5000 Electric Toothbrush (from $119) sends information on your brushing to a nearby app, such as how long you’re brushing, which quadrant you might be neglecting (like upper right) and if you’re applying too much pressure or not enough. The apps for mobile devices can also show you additional info, if desired, such as news headlines and weather info to read while you’re brushing. Of course it’s also a stellar electric toothbrush that delivers 40,000 pulsations and 8,800 oscillations per minute and different cleaning modes, including a Tongue Cleaner mode for fresh breath.

6. Whirlpool Smart Front Load Washer
Wash, rinse, repeat … and text. Whirlpool’s “smart” washing machine (model #WFL98HEBU; from $1,434.60) and accompanying Whirlpool “smart” dryer (model #WEL98HEBU; also from $1,434.60) can keep you informed about the status of your laundry, as long as your smartphone is with you. 

7. Parrot Flower Power Wireless Plant Sensor
Do you need Bluetooth to have a green thumb? The Parrot Flower Power Wireless Plant Sensor (from $56) is a wireless-enabled gardening gadget, capable of recommending which plants will thrive in specific locations by analyzing soil and correlating it with location and weather predictions. It has a database of 6,000 plants and flowers. It can also diagnose ailing plants. You simply plant the device in the soil and let its four sensors do the work. Then look at the accompanying iOS or Android app for real-time info related to sunlight exposure, soil moisture, temperature, humidity, and drainage.