As creatives we all love our gadgets, but some took style over substance to a whole new level. Here's a selection of the most 'nut-worthy' gadgets of 2000.
The inventors of the excessively overengineered and outrageously improbable were hard at work all year long.
Day after tireless day, they trudged into their vast underground laboratories, consumed mass quantities of caffeinated beverages, worked feverishly into the night, and came up with ... a briefcase that zaps unsuspecting carriers with 100,000 volts of electricity. Microprocessor-equipped dentures. And a telephone that turns off your lights.
In the spirit of the New Year, then, let us raise a glass to these, er, ingenious creations. What follows is a sampling of the year's most nut-worthy (whoops, noteworthy) gizmos, gadgets, inventions, and technologies of 2000.
Microchips in the Darndest Places
The Finger-Frying, Eardrum-Splitting Briefcase: CCS International's B-100 Shocker Briefcase is designed to protect your valuables from theft. Imagine this: You're tra-la-la-ing through Manhattan toting a briefcase loaded with diamonds, cash, and a couple of Moon Pies. Suddenly a thief snatches the case and dashes down 42nd Street. Do you scream for the police? Pursue the heathen yourself? Nope.
You simply whip out your remote control, and the briefcase delivers 100,000 volts of electricity and a 130-decibel, ear-piercing alarm, forcing the hapless criminal to drop your goodies and presumably fall to the ground in tearful, pained surrender.
The SB-100 is also equipped with a motion sensor so that you can ward marauders away before they place their larcenous digits on your briefcase. Coming next year: the SB-200, which features all the above antitheft measures as well as a retractable, remote-controlled hand with fingers that you can use to poke the perpetrator's eyes, Three Stooges style.
The Digital Denture: A Japanese dentist recently invented a way to implant a microchip into a false tooth on a denture plate. The microprocessor can be detected with a radio transmitter-receiver, thus enabling the denture wearer to be identified.
Presumably one would think that a dentist about to perform a root canal would already possess at least a vague idea of the patient's identity. The killer app for a digital denture, then, is nursing home identification.
"In facilities such as a senior citizens' home, in which a number of old people are received ... all the dentures are collected from their owners after each meal, and then the dentures are washed all together," according to the dentist's patent. "In such case, it is [important] to identify all the dentures to give back to their correct owners without any mistake."
In other words: It's hard enough to walk a mile in someone else's shoes; you certainly wouldn't want to eat a meal in their teeth, too.
The Channel-Surfing Telephone: STMicroelectronics and Digital Mobility showed a technology that will enable you to control "smart" household appliances, such as TVs and stereos, with a Wireless Application Protocol-equipped telephone.
The devices talk to one another over the Bluetooth wireless network specification. Just think: You can switch to QVC and order the Suzanne Somers bracelet being hawked on that shopping channel by using the same device. But we wonder what happens if your phone rings while you're using it to turn up the oven. Does your caller get a busy signal--or a whiff of pepperoni pizza?
Products Implement Technology for Its Own Sake
The Song-Title-Catching Key Chain: You're driving around. A song comes on the radio that you like, but the dumb DJ forgets to mention the title and artist. Solution? Simply aim the EMarker, a small device on your key chain, at the radio and push a button.
If the radio station is one of a teensy handful supporting this technology, the name of the song and the artist will be "bookmarked" by the EMarker. Then all you have to do is plug the EMarker into your computer, go to the EMarker.com Web site, and find out all the details about the song.
One question: Wouldn't it be a smidge easier to simply call the radio station?
The Home Bar-Code Scanner/Web Page Finder: The CueCat Reader "keystroke automator" is a free handheld device that attaches to your computer. When you scan the mouse-size device across UPC, ISBN, and other product codes, the CueCat automatically finds a Web page that's relevant to the scanned product code or advertisement.
"The CueCat Reader connects to your keyboard port and will not interfere with your mouse or keyboard function ... though you'll probably find you use them less often, since the CueCat reader eliminates the tasks of typing in long URLs and hunting for hidden or confusing links," proclaims the device's promotional Web page.
Before you dismiss the device as entirely impractical, however, consider this: The CueCat Reader may one day enable you to perform brain scans at home, too.
An Artificial What?
The Virtual TV Celebrity: As the world's first 3D virtual news anchor, Ananova has extended the glorious tradition of vapid television reporting. With her green hair and expressionless face, Ananova comes off as a cross between a punk rocker and an IRS agent, and has set scientists everywhere to wondering: Which came first, robots or Dan Rather?
The E-Mail Game: For those who have absolutely, positively nothing else better to do, there's the online version of the venerable child's game Rock, Paper, Scissors played via e-mail.
You challenge a friend to a game by entering both of your e-mail addresses at the Emazing.com site. You then make your play by clicking on the rock, paper, or scissors icon. Your opponent receives an HTML-formatted message, inviting them to play. Once they make their choice, Emazing.com determines the winner and notifies you both via e-mail.
Coming next: An electronic version of Kick the Can, using Global Positioning System receivers.
The Body-Area Network: Consumer electronics giant Philips Electronics and clothing manufacturer Levi Strauss teamed up this year to unveil a line of wired clothing in Europe. First up: jackets that come equipped with a mobile phone, an MP3 player, a remote control unit, and headphones in the hood. All the devices on this "body-area network" are connected by cables stitched into the fabric.
As a follow-up, we hear that Levi's is now working on a pair of wired jeans in conjunction with the makers of the shocking briefcase. The jeans are designed especially for dieters who need a little extra help kicking the food habit. Whenever the waist begins to expand, the pants automatically jolt the wearer in the groin with 100,000 volts of electricity.
Happy New Year!