Some of the Worst Internet of Things Products You Could Buy This Christmas
Egg minders! WiFi dolls! Netflix socks! Siri, tell me I’m living the dream!
Happy holidays, humans.
In case you've got some very odd, specific needs or just need a quick gag gift, we've got you covered. We plumbed the internet of things for a few very odd, very bad products.
The internet of things is vast and positively seething with ideas on how to streamline the most annoying parts of your life. But at times, its gimmicks get laughably questionable.
An internet-connected Christmas ornament
If you've longed for a series of small internet-connected computers to hang from your Christmas tree, your wishes may soon become a reality, unfortunately.
"Jolly" is "the smart connected Christmas tree ornament," according to its IndieGoGo campaign page, and can display photos from your phone, or beam out messages sent via text or email.
It even includes a "time machine" feature, which will—and this doesn't sound ominous at all—"automatically retrieve, group, and display holiday photos from prior years, letting you relieve those wonderful times." There's no mention of any security features on the product's page for the app, the ornament itself, or the accompanying web portal, so we can only hope that it won't be possible to remotely feast on all the photos the device has access to.
A Barbie doll that listens to you, and could be easily hacked
Tipped as one of the "hottest toys for the holiday season", the Hello Barbie doll is probably going to be the highlight of many a child's Christmas morning. But, the WiFi capable doll is also plagued with security problems, with researchers warning that hackers could intercept the encrypted data between the doll and its servers, and then downgrade that encryption using the well-known POODLE attack.
Most of the issues with the doll have been fixed, according to Andrew Blaich, a researcher at Bluebox Labs who worked on disclosing the vulnerabilities.
Christmas lights that are hooked up to the internet for some reason
Plenty of so-called "smart" light bulbs exist. But Australian startup Moore's Cloud took the idea of connecting even the most basic elements of a house to the internet a step further with "Holiday," a set of smart Christmas lights.
With the partner app, users can change the color of their lights to pretty much any one they might desire, and the bulbs also flash along with music, apparently.
The product was first covered in 2013, with shipments of the lights expected to roll out by the following holiday season. But at the time of writing the website for Moore's Cloud is unresponsive, so it's unclear whether or not the company is still churning out these sets of lights.
A tree that blinks every time you receive an email
Christmas is usually a time to get away from it all. To hangout with loved ones, and forget about work. So nothing is more likely to screw all of that up than an internet-connected Christmas tree which sets off a flash of lights every time you receive an email.
That's what "The Lonely Christmas Tree" DIY project promises, by using an Arduino, a popular micro-computer. The creator, Matt Richardson, also points out this could be used to illuminate your living room whenever a new instant-message or text comes in, and even if there is a change in the weather, because presumably windows haven't been invented in this horrifying, ubiquitously internet-connected Christmas milieu from the near-future. Others have made similar projects, with their tree responding to Twitter mentions.
An egg minder that literally just tells you how many eggs are left
I imagine Christmas wouldn't be complete without the sadistic relative who thinks eggnog is an acceptable alcoholic beverage and ends up making, like, a gallon of the stuff. If you are this relative and cannot stand to listen to reason, I suppose the best thing you can buy to double up on bad choices is this Quirky egg minder.
Thankfully, the uses for this tray extend past just eggnog. Have you ever just plain forgotten the number of eggs in your fridge? Have you ever had a panic attack thinking you've botched your dinner frittata, and now it's going to be lame and half the size you expected it to be? (Did you seriously only have four eggs and not a half dozen?) Worry not. Thanks to the power of the internet, you'll question your sanity a little less knowing how many eggs you've got left.
But just when your life was getting a little more stable, you learn this thing holds 14 eggs instead of 12. I don't know either, man.
"Netflix Socks" (for those who aren't totally ashamed to wear an Arduino on their feet)
There's no bigger personal tragedy than dozing off in the middle of your binge and then waking up three episodes later and feeling like a gross human being. Netflix even built in its own super judgey idle prompt in case you haven't moved your mouse in a few hours.
The system is certainly not clairvoyant. It can't know magically know if you're still awake. But if you can dignify slipping an Arduino controller into your socks, the internet can know if you're asleep or still a functional adult.
These Netflix socks are made by Netflix itself and not for sale, but the company has put up a tutorial for making your own if you're clever enough. You can even stick a pulse sensor on it, and an infrared repeater for times when your feet are behind a thick shroud of blankets. Of course, it's all programmable. Not very consumer-friendly, but if you're going in this deep on controlling every aspect of your life, there isn't much sense turning back, is there?
A smart outlet
Imagine what Home Alone would've been like with a bunch of internet-hooked devices. Macaulay Culkin could have set up a handful of Dropcams, shut off all the smoke detectors, program a Nest to overheat the home, and set off any number of WiFi enabled traps.
With a ConnectSense smart outlet, you've basically got a nice on and off switch. Turn off all your lights! Blind your enemies! Make it a part of some torturous Rube Goldberg machine that truly shows this generation's mastery of micromanaging at a distance!
Or you can just turn the nightlights off with your phone. But that's neither here nor there. Commence the PG-rated torture porn.
And that's it. Maybe not all of these were totally useless, but you have to admit, the trend of connecting everything in our lives to the internet has rightfully earned a reputation for being dorky and more needlessly complicated than it's marketed to be.
Stay safe this Christmas, and don't let your home kill you.