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From Web-Controlled Gardens to Sleep Monitors: 12 of CE Week's Craziest Gadgets


The Consumer Electronics Week show in New York hosts some start-ups with bizarre ideas that just might work.

Self-watering Web-controlled gardens. A special sleep monitor that can suggest a personalized schedule to fit your biorhythms. A baseball cap that uses your bones to conduct sound. These were just a few of the crazy innovations spotted at the Consumer Electronics Week (CE Week) showcase in New York.

CE Week is a younger (and local) sibling to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world's largest event of its kind held each January in Las Vegas. While most companies stash their fanciest product announcements until CES in mid-winter, CE Week is still a worthy event to visit, especially if you're excited about huge TV screens, car electronics, speakers, headphones, and smartphone cases and similar accessories.

However, there are way less obvious inventions hiding around many corners. Some may be one-day wonders while others just might evolve into the next big thing – who knows?

Bitponics: A Web-Controlled Garden

If Bitponics gets off the ground, you'll soon be able to take care of your plants remotely. A $499 box provides all the necessary sensors (temperature, humidity, pH, etc.) and automation (to control the lamp or the watering pump) in order to take care of your garden remotely from any device. Just place the box within range of your Wi-Fi network. The product will be made available this summer.

The basic Bitponics Cloud Web service, which stores all your garden data, is free, but you'll have to pay $9 per month, or even up to $49 per month for additional services, so serious gardening comes at a price. Also note that the base $499 box doesn't include lamps or pumps or garden accessories – only the control device and sensors. The creators said they may introduce a full gardening starter set at some point.

Intelligent Bike-Share

So you know what Citi Bike is all about, but how about setting shared bicycles free from those bike-rack prisons? Social Bicycles uses mobile networks to lock and unlock bicycles (all the interaction happens on the Web), meaning you can lock them to any bike stand available.

Its creators say that rack-free social bicycles might bring great value to small communities, towns, and even companies. A bike sells for $1,000-1,500.

Founded in 2010 in Brooklyn, Social Bicycles still cannot boast a wide network of adopters. With additional venture capital funding secured in May, the company plans to expand its presence. Now you can experience the smart bikes in five locations across the US, from Hoboken, NJ, to the San Francisco Airport, with more places to come.

The Reinvented Light Bulb

LIFX calls its product "the light bulb, reinvented," but basically it's a Wi-Fi-enabled LED-bulb whose color and intensity can be controlled via the Internet.

The project originated on Kickstarter, and the company aims to ship the first batch of preordered gadgets soon (you can sign up to get one in the second wave). The highest price bulb system is $79. Want to check it out before you buy? Wait until the holiday season when it's expected to hit the shelves of major retailers.

Unfortunately, developers still didn't have a nice-looking prototype to show the public. At CE Week they were demonstrating just the app and the emulator.

Some of their colleague competitors did, however, have prototypes to show off: Lumenplay kicked off its Crowdsupply project at CE Week, for example. It is attempting to redo Christmas lights, having created a multi-color string of lights that is controlled via a smartphone or iPad (NASDAQ:AAPL). The demo was quite fascinating, with the inventors running through a number of programs and options. An Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) app is coming soon, too – if the initiative gets enough backers, of course. As of yesterday, the funding goal had reached 1%, with 67 backers contributing toward the $159,025 target.

Bone-Conduction Headset in a Cap

Now you don't even need headphones – put on this cap and you'll immediately get a sound delivered straight through the bones of your skull. This product uses Bluetooth to communicate with your smartphone. The electronic part is easily detachable so you can wash the cap. The sound quality is far from what's offered by fancier brand headsets, but convenience has its trade-offs.

Launched as an IndieGoGo project, the Cynaps hat has gone commercial, with caps available for $79 or less.

Track Your Sleep to Sleep Well

You've heard about those deep-sleep phases, and all the methods of getting more enjoyable and better sleep, but you've never had enough time or will to go to a sleep lab yourself? Well, now there's an app for that. And a special device: Beddit.

Put a special thin sensor under your sheet (the company promises you won't even feel it) and a special device will track all your sleep phases. Then check the app in the morning and see this:

The device is $99 for early adopters. Just keep in mind that it's not able to reschedule your day so you'll have more time to sleep – that part is up to you.

In One Shot

Below are more pictures of and quick comments about CE Week products:

This box (its creator promises a downsizing to Sony (NYSE:SNE) Playstation 3 size soon) uses advanced processing to create 3D-glasses-ready pictures out of flat images. So if you feel like spending $299 and you don't have a smart TV with a similar function, 3-D Vision, Inc.'s device might well be a good option.

Waterproof rugged cases? There were loads of them at CE Week.

Pairasight: This product is similar to Google Glass with two 1080p cameras and no LCD-screens, and is made for business applications (to be used by surgeons, car mechanics, etc.)

The kitchen computer Netchef is great if you're too lazy to bring your tablet or laptop to the kitchen. The competition for smart kitchen devices is harsh, though, so Netchef could soon be ousted by connected fridges.

A connected lock, logging and taking pictures of visitors? Check!

A secure, mobile flash-storage drive with additional features, accessible by a swipe of a finger? Here you go! This was made for those who are missing the days of the Cruzer Profile flash drive and devices like it.

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