I write about gadgets and tech for a living, yet I found it nearly impossible to sort out all of the features in my father’s car Bluetooth system the other day. It’s a bumper cam display, a voice-activated navigation system, media player, satellite radio, telephone, etc. etc. etc. I’m pretty sure I saw settings for an oil slick and a machine gun turret in there. It’s packed with so much functionality that it outsmarted itself and became completely useless.
The gadgets in this list are kind of like that. Despite all our tech advancements, sometimes the simple is best.
Giant Swiss Army knife
Sure, this 85-tool Swiss Army knife from Wenger holds a Guinness record for being the world’s most multifunctional penknife, but by the looks of things I’m liable to deplete valuable calories and fluids at an alarming rate just trying to tote it around. Needless to say, it would not be very practical in a survival situation — and don’t even get me started on what it must be like to actually use this thing. I imagine it would be like cutting a piece of rope with a knife taped to a brick.
Kisai Broke watch
These days the cellphone is likely to be your go-to timekeeping device, but watches still have a place for anyone who values style and mechanical precision. That being said, many watchmakers these days are turning to extreme designs in an attempt to attract customers. The owners of Tokyoflash watches often need an advanced degree just to figure out what time it is. To tell the time on the Kisai Broke, you must first press a button to light up a display that resembles stained glass. ”The outer ring of blocks represent hours in the same position as hours on a clock face. The inner ring of blocks represents five-minute intervals in the same position as minutes on a clock face. Four single minutes are shown in the center.” Couldn’t be easier, right? Maybe if I took off the watch and tried to fashion a makeshift sundial … $179
A standard bike is always a great way to exercise, and tech has made bikes both faster and lighter. However, that has not stopped manufacturers from trying to reinvent the wheel. The Rowbike is described as “an exercise apparatus that combines the full-body workout of rowing with the exhilarating ride of a recumbent bicycle.” I assume that the “exhilarating ride” is due, in no small part, to the fact that trying to operate one on normal roads would put you in constant danger. Seriously, they should make a tandem version so that the Grim Reaper can always ride shotgun. $1,400
Speak n’ Brew
Coffee is basically hot water poured over beans, but some of these fancy coffee makers can be ridiculously complex. You could be standing there in your bathrobe trying to set the brew time and accidentally launch a missile strike against Russia. The Speak n’ Brew attempts to make this process easier by allowing you to press a button and speak to your coffee pot in order to set the clock and/or brew times. Now, if you have ever used a voice-activated system in the past, you know that they can be hit or miss with regard to accuracy. I only imagine the heated arguments I might get into with my coffee pot at 6 a.m. when I’m groggy and annoyed. I’ll stick with a French press, thank you very much. $79.99
SafeType vertical keyboard
The SafeType has been around for quite some time, but it’s still one of the weirdest ergonomic keyboards on the market (and that’s saying a lot). A standard keyboard is annoying enough as it is, but imagine trying to learn how to use this thing. Supposedly, the keyboard puts your hands in an “Orthopedically Neutral” position, which helps to reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries. It even has rearview mirrors so you can see your hands as you type. Rearview mirrors for a keyboard! I suggest adorning the wings with flames and racing stripes because you are clearly going to look awesome using this. $295
Rube Goldberg machines
This record-smashing Rube Goldberg machine developed by engineering students at Purdue University takes you on a journey from the Big Bang to the Apocalypse in 244 easy steps — culminating in the watering of a flower. Ironically, I could water my flowers in only two steps, yet they remain dry and lifeless. So, I guess this would be an upgrade for me. Not for sale
Electric nose lift
Back in the day, if you were ugly you just lived with it. Everyone else didn’t look so hot either so you probably wouldn’t have felt insecure. These days we have all sorts of tech designed to make us look younger and more attractive, and it’s easy to fall prey to crazy gadgets that don’t live up to the hype. To be honest, gadgets like this electric nose lift look more like medieval torture devices than fountains of youth. Supposedly, switching on this device will allow it to shape your nose through vibration — making it “a little bit firmer and higher” when used for three minutes per day. $154
Retro phone handsets
Granted, I sort of miss the satisfaction of slamming down a thick, solid phone receiver when hanging up on telemarketers — or calling up Batman — so I understand the nostalgia factor. But there was a reason why we moved on from these bulky old phones. Why would someone want to make our convenient, compact modern cellphones seem obsolete with a corded handset? $29.99
Kohler Numi Toilet
The last thing you want is confusion about operating a toilet after you’ve eaten two burritos and washed them down with a venti coffee. However, that is entirely possible with these new-fangled toilets out of Japan. The Kohler Numi features a built-in music system, ambient lighting, touchscreen remote, motion-activated lid and seat, retracting bidet, air dryer, air deodorizer, heated seat, floor vents to keep your feet warm and customizable options that can be set for every member of your household. $6,400
Overall, the portable tablets and smartphones we have today are fantastic innovations, but they do come with some drawbacks. For one thing, I can’t read an e-book in the tub like I used to do with an old fashioned paper book. The nose stylus designed by Dominic Wilcox is one ridiculous pseudo-solution to that problem. Even if you get one hand wet, you can use both hands to navigate. Plus, there are no side effects … if you are already cross-eyed. Not for sale