CES in Las Vegas, Nevada is the world’s biggest annual tech trade show, but it can also be the most bizarre. From e-skins to short story dispensers, we’ve rounded up the best wacky gadgets from this year’s event. Prepare to step into the future…

Annual Las Vegas-based tech show, CES, is a mecca for innovation and an outlet for the odd. In over 50 years of operation, it’s seen the launch of more than 700,000 products. Many – like the CD player, VCR and Sony PlayStation – went on to become household names. Others? Well… They’ve certainly made us think. Or at least scratch our heads.

Now the show is done and dusted for another year, it’s time to look back on what was revealed. Discover the tech that piqued our interest in this list of CES 2018’s weirdest tech…

Short Edition Short Story Dispenser

The more you read, the more you know, and now (again, thanks to reading) you know about the latest way to pass the time – free stories from Short Edition’s Short Story Dispenser. Currently stationed in train stations, airports and hospitals around France, the cylindrical machine asks its users to select either ‘1 min’, ‘3 min’ or ‘5 min’ before printing out an original short story tailored to the timeframe. The printout – which looks a lot like a receipt – is described by Short Edition as “a lively papyrus” printed on eco-friendly paper. It’s already proven a hit with American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, who’s invested in the company and bought a machine for his café. More devices will be rolled out across the United States throughout 2018.

Planet Computers Gemini

London start-up, Planet Computers, is taking it back to the early noughties with its Gemini PDA. The clamshell Android device features an 18:9 ultra-wide 1080p screen, 4GB of RAM, a 4,220mAh battery, and two USB-C ports. It’s 15.1mm thick when closed and weighs 308g. But Gemini’s most important feature is its fully tactile QWERTY keyboard – the world’s smallest for finger touch typing.

The Gemini was inspired by the ‘PSION’ PDA devices of old, with creators lamenting the difficulties of touch screen keyboards that take over a modern device’s whole display. Targeted at bloggers and creatives who need write constantly, as well as professionals who need to read and write emails and documents on the go, it does seem to have found a niche – raising $1,337,736 on Indiegogo, more than 280 percent of its initial goal. And you can still order yours from the crowdfunding platform for $399 (around £296).

Modius weight loss headset

New year, new you? Modius Health have just the headset. By using low-pulse electrical currents to stimulate the vestibular nerve that runs behind your ear and into your brain, the Modius promises to supress your appetite and trick your brain into thinking you’re engaged in physical activity. The jury’s still out on whether it actually works. However, the company behind the device, Neurovalens, say a clinical study involving 18 people saw users lose an average of 8-10% body fat in just four months, while inventor Dr Jason McKeown claims it reduced his body fat by a whopping 44%. Try it for yourself for £369.

L’Oreal UV Sense

Claiming to be the ‘world’s smallest wearable’, UV Sense by French beauty brand L’Oreal is designed to be worn on your thumbnail as it monitors exposure to harmful UV rays. Once installed and connected to an app on your mobile, the less than 2mm thick, 9mm in diameter device can run constantly for up to two weeks without charge. As well as providing sun safety advice via the app, it will also alert users when they need to take shade, and act as a reminder to keep applying that L’Oreal-branded sunscreen to keep sun damage – and skin cancer – at bay. Odd, but potentially life-saving, the device will be available on a limited basis in the US this summer, with a global roll-out scheduled for next year. Price details aren’t confirmed as yet.

Neutrogena Skin360

Staying within the realm of skincare, Neutrogena also revealed their Skin360 scanner, equipped with sensors, 12 high-powered lights and a 30x magnification lens. When paired with your iPhone, the scanner provides an instant analysis of your skin’s moisture levels, pore size and wrinkles. Using machine learning, the Skin360 app compares your skin to other users in your age range – giving you a score of up to 100 for each category. There’s also a handy option to ‘improve’ that leads you straight through to the Neutrogena store.

While it’s being billed as a way to educate people about the importance of skincare, wrinkles viewed at 30x their regular size sound a bit scary to us. The Skin360 will start shipping in the US this summer at a cost of $50 (around £37).

Nissan Brain-to-Vehicle technology

Welcome to a future where your car could read your mind. New Brain-to-Vehicle technology (B2V) created by the tech heads at Nissan promises to speed up drivers’ reaction times by measuring brain activity using a wireless electroencephalogram (EEG) headset. By anticipating intended movement, the system is designed to take actions – such as turning the steering wheel or slowing the car – 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than the driver, while remaining largely imperceptible. Well, aside from the net of electrodes on your noggin that is…

Nissan executive vice-president Daniele Schillaci said of the system: “When most people think about autonomous driving, they have a very impersonal vision of the future, where humans relinquish control to the cars. Yet B2V technology does the opposite, by using signals from their own brain to make the drive even more exciting and enjoyable.” While we’re unsure when the tech will hit the streets, the wheels are well and truly in motion.

The 90Fun Puppy 1 suitcase

We all know not to leave our bags unattended at the airport, but what if your bag was programmed not to leave you either? Using Segway’s self-balancing technology and a remote control, the Puppy 1 by Chinese company Xiaomi is designed to follow its owner around like, well, a puppy, so you can have your hands free for those other essential travel tasks.

Early reports indicate that the Puppy 1 may still require some training in obstacle avoidance and balance. However, 90Fun plan to start taking pre-orders through a crowdfunding campaign later this year, giving them time to iron out kinks.

Xenoma e-skin

Xenoma’s e-skin lets you turn your torso into a controller. Featuring technology debuted at CES in 2017, the Japanese start-up’s spiderman-esque shirt is kitted out with 14 sensors and a Bluetooth module. When worn, the movements you make in real life are replicated by a character onscreen – without the need for a camera or wires. CES demos showed the e-skin used for simple gaming, but with further development Xenoma believe it could also be used for fitness coaching and healthcare as well. Despite this, you’re unlikely to be suiting up any time soon. The only way to get hold of an e-skin right now is to purchase a full developer’s kit, which will set you back a cool $5,000 USD (around £3,700).

Somnox Sleep Robot

Trouble drifting off? Somnox has just the thing: the Netherlands-based start-up’s Sleep Robot is custom-made for cuddling. As you snuggle, the cashew-shaped pillow emits a range of soothing sounds – from rhythmic breathing and heartbeats to audio books and lullabies. You can even record your own noises, if you’re that way inclined. Plus, the Sleep Robot won’t steal the covers or kick you in its sleep. Down the line it’s thought this cushy companion will offer sleep tracking as well. For now though you can pre-order on Kickstarter for €499 (around £442).

Hip’Air

Anyone with elderly friends or family members will know falls are a major cause of injury and concern. In fact, according to French company Helite, they’re responsible for 65,000 hip fractures each year in France alone. With that in mind let us present Hip’Air – the airbags for your hips. Uninflated, Hip’Air looks like a bulky belt. But when you fall, airbags inflate, absorbing around 90 percent of the impact and theoretically saving your hips.

At a cost of around £590, Hip’Air is a pretty pricey solution. And, because it’s quite difficult to wear discreetly, we’re unsure whether grandma will really want to pop it on. But falls are certainly an issue in need of a solution – if this gets more people talking, we think it’s done its job.

Find out more about current and future trends… Reflect on the trends that shaped mobile in 2017 and look to the year ahead with three of the web’s best-known mobile commentators.

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