What's new in home gadgets for 2017?
Inventors and designers unveiled their latest home goods last week at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago.
Smart home tech continues to be a big trend this year, said Lisa Casey-Weiss, a lifestyle consultant for the International Housewares Association.
"This year we've added a smart home pavilion as an exhibition within the exhibition," she said. "We're recognizing that this is the wave of the future for housewares. It's not technology for the sake of technology, but to make life easier and simpler for consumers."
In 2017, smart home tech found its way into everything from coffee tables to trash cans (more on those later), but Casey-Weiss said there's a push for consumers to unplug and relax.
"We're also seeing the antithesis of the smart home in design," she said. "It's about creating a space in the home without technology like a reading nook, game room our outdoor space."
Products like specialized pillows, aromatherapy diffusers and equipment for brewing herbal tea further encourage consumers to relax, decompress and unplug.
Herbal tea isn't the only thing brewing. Casey-Weiss highlighted a number of alcohol-related home-brewing gadgets debuting at the show this year, ranging from a cocktail maker that mixes alcohol with premixed flavor pods to craft beer kits to the Alchema, which turns fruit into wine, mead or hard cider in a matter of hours.
"[Brewing] is a fun activity. It's interactive, and there's the convenience of not having to go out and buy," she said.
This year's trending colors are also on the subdued and relaxing side, Casey-Weiss said.
The Pantone color of the year -- Greenery -- was common throughout the show, as were calming shades of blue and gray.
"Green is associated with healthy living and sustainability," Casey-Weiss said. "It's very positive, and it's not bold, but it's uplifting."
Not all the items featured on the show floor were designed for relaxation, however. Click ahead to see 10 of this year's strangest home gadgets.
No, this isn't the amputated arm of an alien -- it's a toilet brush. The squeegee-like end scrapes the side of the toilet bowl, and the handle is embedded with silver ions to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria, according to the manufacturer. It also won the IHA's Global Innovation Award for product design in the cleaning category.
It's available with two holder designs -- both of which attach to your bathroom wall -- for $16.99 and $24.99.
This little white box disinfects and deodorizes smelly soccer cleats, baseball gloves and other difficult-to-clean sports gear. StinkBOSS uses mild heat to dry the items and ozone to kill the odor-causing bacteria that give your sports gear its nasty smell. Cleaning cycles range from 30 minutes for a quick refresh to six hours for tougher odors.
The machine retails for $169.99.
The MudBuster was designed after dog owners at Dexas International searching for pet paw cleaners found that the only ones available were made with tough nylon bristles that could be painful on the dogs' sensitive paws, said John Logan, the company's director of marketing.
The MudBuster uses soft silicone spikes lining the inside of the cup to gently scrape dirt and debris from the paw. To use, fill the cup about one-third of the way with water, then insert the dog's paw.
The MudBuster is available in three sizes for a range of dogs, and they retail for $14.99, $19.99 and $24.99 respectively. It won the IHA's Global Innovation Award for product design in the pet products category.
Could your decor use a lift? This gadget takes that idea literally.
"I was working with a lot of bartenders at cocktail competitions for my other product, the Oak Bottle, and realized there wasn't a good way to present the drinks," said Levitating X creator Joel Paglione. "They'd make this amazing cocktail, and it would just sit there."
The Levitating Cup -- and now the matching plate, pillow, plant and sculptures -- float with the help of electromagnets in the base and the object. The items are all available for pre-order now and cost $179.99 for a wired base and $199.99 for a wireless model.
We take our cell phones everywhere, picking up dirt and bacteria along the way. You can easily clean smudges off the screen, but are you killing the germs too?
PhoneSoap is a device (not a "soap," exactly) that kills the bacteria on your phone with UV light. The device fits any phone and also charges it during the 10-minute cleaning cycle.
PhoneSoap is available in five colors and retails for $49.99. A bigger version for tablets retails for $119.95. There's also a PhoneSoap Polish stick (with actual polish) that disinfects and protects your gadget's screen for $14.95.
Bivita Sprouting Jar
Many grocery store chains have cut sprouts from their produce departments over fears of contamination from salmonella, E. coli and listeria, making them tough to find for salads, sandwiches and other dishes.
This sprouting jar allows you to grow a pile of crunchy sprouts at home (without a garden) in about four days when placed in a warm, brightly lit area. It retails for $27.95 and was the winner of the IHA's Global Innovation Award for product design in the kitchenware category.
Smart home technology is already available in most home appliances, so it was only a matter of time before it showed up in furniture.
The Sobro coffee table, which more than doubled its Indiegogo fundraising goal in just three days, is a smart coffee table with a refrigerator drawer, two USB charging ports, two power outlets, Bluetooth speakers, touchscreen controls and color-changing LED lights.
The coffee table retails for $1,000, but you could get a substantial discount by supporting the Indiegogo campaign.
In addition to smart coffee tables, you can now have a smart trash can.
The GeniCan scanner attaches to the inner surface of trash cans using a magnetic strip stuck to the outside. You can scan items with barcodes as you throw them out, and the item will be added to a grocery list in the GeniCan smartphone app. If an item doesn't have a barcode to scan, the device's voice-recognition function can still add the item to the list.
It also links with Amazon Dash Replenishment to automatically order and ship specific items immediately when they're scanned.
The GeniCan comes in three colors and retails for $149.99.
No Drip Inverted Umbrella
This umbrella hasn't been flipped inside-out by the wind -- it's supposed to look that way. This two-layer umbrella closes upward, trapping water droplets inside, rather than sending them raining down on the user.
The umbrella won the IHA's Global Innovation Award for product design in the home decor and gifts category and retails for $24.95.
The Tip Tough hand protector was created by teen inventor RJ Batts whose father, a professional chef, often accidentally cut his hands with the knives he used at work.
"My dad came home with cuts on his hands, and I didn't think he should have to be in pain from doing what he loves," Batts said. So the then-12-year-old drew up the designs for a steel finger protector that could grip food while protecting the user.
Two years later, the Tip Tough retails online for $14.99, with a professional version ($19.99) and a home chef version ($9.99) on the way.