I heard hushed mention of this one in the press room. At the time, I dismissed it as an obvious fairy tale, along the lines of sailors' yarns about kraken and mermaids. Then I happened on it while looking for a free Walker refill in the Venetian (after emptying the personalized gold-plated flask given to me by Larry E. for keeping quiet about his cheating at a recent regatta). For a minute, I thought I'd gone bottoms-up on the absinthe.
Imagine v1 of Big Brother's -- or NSA director Keith Alexander's -- most inflamed fever dream: a sensorbot shaped like a Russian nesting doll wearing a Hindi-cow smile. Then terrifyingly name it "Mother" and build it specifically to monitor as many facets of your personal life as it can. Are you schvitzing yet?
Mind-bendingly only part of the growing Mother family, the insidious entity feeds off suppository-shaped multipurpose sensors that can be affixed nearly anywhere. It then sends back "helpful" data to an app called Senseboard that lets you (or whichever secret government, criminal, or corporate entity has hacked into the software) monitor anything from how far you've walked that day to what meds -- and how much of them -- you're taking to warning signs of diseases like diabetes, depression, or independent thought to streamline the future purging process that I didn't believe in until just now. I flattened two Taiwanese convention-goers when I ran shrieking from the booth like an eight-year-old girl who accidentally spied her dad's bits and bytes.
There are, of course, many, many other eclectic electronics at the show that could've made the Curious cut, like the good-God-why Kollbree smart toothbrush (see below) or the TREWGrip iPhone keyboard with keys facing backward like an accordion so that you can't see them while you're typing and you wind up having a psychotic episode after three text messages. However, this would turn into a quickly forgotten Amazon one-day best-selling dictionary if I tried to list them all, and I'm too exhausted and hammered for that anyway.
Credit: Reuters/Steve Marcus
The point is that the Curious exemplifies the oft overlooked emotional potential of CES. These aren't just cold circuit boards and silicon twisted into fantastic and sometimes useful shapes. These devices bring out the human side in all of us. Really bite into the CES apple and you can feel the full spectrum of human mental states from a Viking's thrill at impending blood-letting to pants-wetting terror at devices that threaten to invade your privacy like Jason's machete splitting your skull. If you missed it this year, you should seriously consider attending in 2015. Just don't forget the scotch or you won't sleep a wink.
Have you called your Sense Mother today? Post your therapist's notes here or via email: email@example.com.
This article, "Sense Mother, may I? The most disturbing tech of CES," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.