Some of the year's most talked-about home gadgets are stranger than fiction.
Feel pancakes are just too boring and hard to make? Maybe a 3D printer spitting out uniquely-shaped pancakes will whet your appetite. Tired of cracking your eggs before you scramble them? There's a tool for that too.
Some of these 10 gadgets featured at this year's 2015 International Home and Housewares Show this month in Chicago solve actual problems, like how to get fresh popcorn from the microwave without the oils and chemicals. Some of them solve made-up problems, like not being able to match two socks. Some allow home cooks to produce artisanal treats, like oak-aged wine.
Then there are a few that are just fun to look at.
Check out these fun oddball tools for your home.
Oak Bottle Master Diffuser
The Oak Bottle Master Diffuser allows people who enjoy complex wines and spirits to bring out oak flavors at home, without investing in a bulky, traditional, large oak barrel to age it. The simple product, which retails for $80, speeds up the "oaking" process from several years to one or two days by changing the liquid volume to surface area ratio of barrel aging. Basically, there is comparably less wine and more oak involved in this process.
Users open the beverage they'd like to use, pour it into the bottle-shaped oak vessel and wait. Once it's ready, the wine or spirit can be served directly from the bottle.
The Olive X-Press
The Olive X-Press, which was just unveiled for the first time by Florida-based business incubator Stratus Investments, claims to be the first and only at-home olive oil press. By making olive oil on-demand from fresh olives in the kitchen, cooks retain more of the olive's health benefits and can experience better quality oil outside of harvest season, the company says.
Users put whole olives in the top of the press, which looks like an electric coffee grinder with a funnel on top, and in about five minutes it can produce about two cups of olive oil.
Trees growing on the sides of cliffs inspired the design for the brand new VPlant modular planters, by the Portland-based company Modular Livings. These individual, modular plastic units -- which will be available separately for $14.50 or in a starter kit for $104 starting next month -- fit together in a variety of different ways to help people create their own vertical gardens. The space-age-looking planters come in white, black, brown and green and can be assembled to stand freely or attach to a wall.
SmartSync, a new sock-sorting laundry basket attachment by North Carolina-based CreateSmart, is aiming to make matching pairs of socks a little easier. Apparently, the odd device is mostly for distracted men: 75 percent of men wear mismatched socks at least once per week, according to the company, whereas only about 20 percent of women lose socks in the laundry.
The spinning plastic ring, which will go for about $50 later this spring (laundry basket included), has eight cups on which people can place a single sock until its match is found. Then, once there is a pair, the second sock fits into the first and slides through the cup into the laundry basket.
PopTop Popcorn Popper
The new PopTop Popcorn Popper, by Seattle-based company Chef'n, is a modular silicone container that can make 10 cups of popcorn in the microwave without any oil. It retails for about $20, and could be a healthy alternative for snack-lovers who aren't crazy about the chemicals in bagged microwave popcorn. Users add popcorn kernels to the bottom of the container, fold down the sides and put it in the microwave. Once it's ready, the sides pop up and then it's time for seasoning and eating.
The PancakeBot, which is definitely a contender for weirdest and most buzz-worthy gadget this year, is a relatively small 3D printer that can cook pancake batter in any shape imaginable: If you can trace it, you can eat it.
Norway-based creator Miguel Valenzuela built the first model two years ago out of Legos and a ketchup bottle. Now, it's a little more high-tech. He's using stepper motors, Arduino controllers, clear acrylic and tracing software. Valenzuela and his partner product development company, the New York-based StoreBound, are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to get the project up-and-running for consumers. As of today, it has 1,097 backers and has raised more than $205,000, believe it or not.
Darth Vader BBQ tongs
There's nothing weird about barbecue tongs per se, but this light saber tool (complete with space-y sound effects and a saber-like, red tong sheath) is part of a whole line of whimsical-and-strange "Star Wars"-inspired kitchenware by London-based company Underground Toys. It's also part of a larger "Star Wars" trend that was present at the Housewares Show this year, in light of the upcoming film "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens."
Golden Goose egg scrambler
The Golden Goose egg scrambler by Chicago-based company Y Line Product Design is a new way to scramble an egg before ever cracking the shell. It looks kind of like an inverted diabolo toy or two-sided yo-yo and is definitely all about playing with food. Cooks can take an egg of any size, put it inside the round "adaptive egg cradle" and then use strings and handles on each side to spin it like crazy. After a few revolutions, the egg should come out of the shell completely yellow. It can be used for scrambled or hard boiled golden eggs.
Golden Goose made its debut at the Housewares Show and is coming soon to stores.
According to California-based company Chef's Thumb, kitchen knife cuts account for over 1 million U.S. emergency room visits every year. So it created the Chef's Thumb, which is like a thimble on steroids. It's made out of polycarbonate and stainless steel to protect cooks' thumbs from cuts like a thimble does for sewers, but it also comes with a "Viper-Bite" gripper for stabilizing cooking surfaces and a titanium produce peeler. It's not available in stores yet, but costs about $15 through the company's website.
The Yolk-O-Mizer, a round, alien-looking kitchen tool from Pennsylvania-based NewMetro Design, is a new way for cooks to separate egg yolks from egg whites. It's made out of silicone and polypropylene and is large enough to hold four yolks at a time. The gadget, which retails for around $10 and has a small vacuum-looking hose on the side, can suck up yolks from a bowl of cracked eggs when squeezed. The brush attached to the hose can be used for applying egg wash to pastries.