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CES: Products that swing and miss

There was no shortage of interesting gadgets to be seen at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show – I recently told you, in fact, about five of my favorites. But not everything can be awesome. Indeed, not everything can even be mediocre.

Here are a few unfortunate CES contenders that seem like someone should have pulled the plug before spending the money to try to bring it to market.

H20-Pal. Unfortunately, I can’t even say this is the only product of its kind trying to come to market -- there are several -- but this is the one I saw at CES. H20-Pal is a Bluetooth water bottle that keeps track of how much water you drink every day and displays fancy graphics to that effect on your mobile device -- as well as posting proudly to your social media. This product is wrong in so many ways I have lost count, but I’ll summarize it this way: Why would anyone spend $100 on a device that does little more than remind you not to get thirsty? And don’t tell me that you need 64 ounces of water every day, because that’s a thoroughly debunked medical myth. If anyone I know posts a badge on Facebook for drinking a glass of water, I will unfriend him immediately.

Interesting and unusual tech at CES 2014
 TREWGrip. I love products that live well outside the box -– that’s where real innovation is. But if you’re going to be different, you should be different for a good reason. TREWGrip is a keyboard for mobile devices that looks like it was ripped out of the cockpit of an alien space ship. Its curvy frame put the keys on the underside, so you can type while gripping it from the bottom.  It’s a QWERTY arrangement, but since you can’t see the keys, there are light-up indicators on top so you know where you’re typing. This might be good for a very small number of touch typists, but at $250 it’s insanely expensive, awkward for most people to use and simply over-engineered since there are an abundance of $50 Bluetooth keyboards available at for sale.

HAPI Spoon. You might see a trend here – while Bluetooth is an awesome technology, it isn’t the answer to every problem. And indeed, sometimes there’s no problem at all. Last year, CES saw the introduction of the HAPI fork, a Bluetooth-enabled utensil with an accelerometer that vibrates when you eat too quickly and reinforces that with stats on your smartphone. They were back this year, this time with a Bluetooth spoon. Enough said.