9 Wacky Products That People Actually Like
There is no shortage of odd products on the market these days. From sleep bracelets to whimsical exercise gadgets to apps that ease your daily dilemmas, there are some strange products out there. While some of them might be nothing but expensive toys for conspicuous consumers, a few may actually have some real value.
1. Philip Stein Sleep Band. Consumers are actually shelling out $395 for what looks like a simple bracelet with alleged sleep-inducing powers. Philip Stein, a company that gained success after it was included on Oprah’s Favorite Things list three times, designed the Sleep Band, which it claims can induce a state of well-being. Looking much like a watch without a face, the Sleep Band contains a metal disc that’s said to harness certain atmospheric frequencies. While it may be hogwash, some people are buying it, and even some scientists are taking note: Michael Breus, a psychologist and sleep specialist who is not associated with the brand, has researched the bracelet and recommends it to his patients. “It is based on the idea of a tuning fork. As the frequency resonates from the bracelet, the body naturally tunes to it, aligning sleep,” Breus told New York magazine.
Customers have up to 60 days to return the Sleep Band if they are not completely satisfied. Philip Stein has sold about 37,000 bracelets to date and claims few have been returned. The manufacturer is cagey about the Sleep Band’s effectiveness, saying it works for some people, and not for others.
However, double-blind studies using technologies similar to the Sleep Band have not shown them to be significantly more effective than a placebo. Critics deride sleep bands as "PJ" or placebo jewelry, and liken them to the trinkets worn to ward off evil spirits or to heighten athletic performance.
2. Micro Luggage. Micro Luggage is the brainchild of Micro Mobility, a scooter manufacturer based in Switzerland, and industry leader Samsonite. It looks like your standard carry-on bag, but Micro Luggage can transform into a kick scooter in under a minute. When travelers have the need for speed, they pull down the footboard and pull up the handle, which doubles as the handlebars, and set off. Micro Luggage is security-checkpoint compliant, so riders can scoot right to their gate. When folded up, the bag can fit in the overhead compartment on most airlines. It retails for $250.
It is not known what sort of chaos these luggage scooters could create in airports if they catch on. Some find rolling luggage bags to be a nuisance.
3. Carr Matey. Over the past five years, a lot of car apps have come on the market. Carr Matey does what the majority of them do: note where you’ve parked your car and help you find it again using GPS. It also has a timer to let you know when your meter is running out so you can avoid tickets. However, the app has one unique feature that differentiates it from the rest: It talks like a pirate. Captains, why mark your car on just any ol’ map when you could harbor your vessel on a treasure map? Carr Matey is free on Google Play and the App Store.
5. RunPee. RunPee was dubbed one of the weirdest apps in the world by Mashable. Despite its silly name, it’s actually quite useful. This app gives moviegoers with small bladders the best times to take a bathroom break so they don’t miss crucial moments during a film. Creator Dan Florio, who refers to himself as chief pee officer of RunPee, began charging 99 cents for downloads in 2012. From 2012 to 2013, RunPee was downloaded between 50,000 and 60,000 times. Currently, the RunPee app is free.
5. The Ped Egg. Designed to slough dead skin off the bottoms of your feet, the Ped Egg bears a somewhat disturbing resemblance to a cheese grater. Yet surprisingly, this odd egg-shaped gadget is one of the most successful As Seen On TV products in history. According to a CNBC roundup, total sales of the Ped Egg reached $450 million in 2013. A.J. Khubani, creator of the “As Seen On TV” logo and CEO of TeleBrands, calls the Ped Egg their “flagship product,” and attributes its success to its ability to solve a common problem at a reasonable price (around $10).
6. Quitbit. With the slew of activity trackers coming on the market, it’s no surprise there’s one to track smokers’ habits and shame them into quitting. Created by two ex-smokers, Quitbit is a smart lighter with an accompanying app that can be programmed for different things: reducing overall consumption, extending the time between cigarettes, etc. There is also a community feature on the app that allows users to share their progress and connect with others for support. Quitbit was successfully funded on Kickstarter, but has yet to be released to the general public. You can preorder Quitbit for an estimated shipping date of March 2015.
This isn't the first time smoking paraphenalia have been employed to get people to quit smoking. Back in the 1980s, a cigarette company branded its smokes "Death" and emblazoned them with a skull on a black pack.
7. Chui Doorbell. This smart doorbell, equipped with a WiFi-enabled camera and facial recognition software, could be the next best thing for greeting or deterring guests. With the Chui Doorbell, users have the option to prerecord messages and play them via a smartphone/tablet app when people arrive. Using two-way audio and one-way video, homeowners can instruct the UPS guy to leave a package or tell solicitors to leave them alone. The doorbell can also be connected to a smart lock system; Chui will automatically open the door for established guests implementing “99.6 percent accurate” facial recognition technology. This product was crowd-funded on Kickstarter and went well beyond its initial goal. Chui can be reserved before it’s available for retail for $249; shipping is set to begin this month.
It's unclear what the target market is for the Chui doorbell. It could possibly provide some porter assistance for the disabled; however, it might also be a gadget that would appeal only to the paranoid or slothful.
8. Kangoo Jumps. If you own a pair of Kangoo Jumps, chances are you’re an exercise enthusiast and somewhat of a bouncy performance artist, too. Kangoos look like a pair of rollerblades with huge spring systems attached to their bottoms, rather than wheels. They were designed to give users a workout with less impact and stress on the joints and an increased gravitational load on the body. The boots quickly sparked an exercise trend when they were released in 2010. According to a Huffington Post article, Kangoo classes were “offered in 22 states and most major U.S. cities” in 2011, one year after their debut. Health clubs were providing Kangoos for temporary use, but judging by a subsequent spike in sales, it seems many people were convinced to buy a pair of their own.
Exercise physiologists say that while research shows Kangoo Jumps may loosen the impact of weight-bearing exercise, there is a concern that they can alter a person's gait, which may result in orthopedic problems. Another concern is injury, especially for those who are older or heavier.
9. Portable Saunas. For apartment dwellers and those with limited space, portable saunas have become quite popular. Not only are they collapsible for easy storage, but they’re relatively affordable (a popular brand sells for $800) compared to a permanent sauna. The most notable hitch is that users look absolutely ridiculous in them. But who cares if you look like an Eskimo zipped up in an igloo or a robot in a fat suit as long as its works, right? There are many portable saunas on the market, all made by different manufacturers and sold at major retailers. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Several studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and rheumatoid arthritis, and found some evidence of benefit.
A couple of caveats: Saunas are often marketed as detoxification products, but there is no proof they can actually "detoxify" anything. While it might be true that human bodies contain traces of toxins in their cells and cell membranes, the marketing material never says exactly what toxins are removed from the body. There is also no proof that heavy sweating provides any specific detoxification benefits.