Even as I dread the day I’ll finally eclipse the age of 30, I am already well on my way to being a crotchety, craggy faced old cretin. I have dealt with random bouts of back pain from sleeping on many brick-like mattresses. I have tried some massage therapy to deal with these issues, but in all these years of spine-twitching pain, your average Sharper Image-type automatic massage chair has never done anything more than poke and prod me, at best, or slam artificial knees into my tender spine, at worst.
So here comes BodyFriend back to the show floor of CES with its new, $9,500 ultra high-end massage recliner called the Phantom Medicalcare, which looks like a torture chair from a dark, alternate dimension of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies crossed with the front grill of a sports car.
Gizmodo has tried a few of BodyFriend’s massive, monstrous, and expensive massage chairs before, though the company’s initial showing at CES Unveiled this Tuesday was a more subdued affair than the booth babes it’s come out with in the past. The California-based company promised its turned this massage chair “into a medical device.” Those working the BodyFriend booth claimed its device scans users’ bodies through stimulation to help relieve muscle pain. The company also promoted its pulses of electro-magnetic fields to measure the body and relieve muscle back and neck pain.
“Does it come with a kill switch?” I asked the people manning the booth. Maybe they didn’t hear me, but they offered a vague reassurance that I would be fine.
I was initially nervous because, getting in, I found my feet were swallowed by the bottom of the machine. My arms were given a little more latitude as they were fitted into compressing arm rests. When the machine started working, I found my feet were being compressed, then consumed. First the machine took my left arm. Then it took my right.
The balls on the massage machine then started their dance, arching and rubbing somewhat awkward parts of my body, like the line of my incredibly boney butt. The rollers attacked the balls of my callused feet and even the ends of my toes. The soft music playing from the machines speakers couldn’t drown out the laughs of my colleague as I went bug-eyed from being repeatedly lifted and dropped on the swell of the chair’s whims.
Then they asked if I wanted the neck portion of the machine installed. “Sure, why the hell not,” I thought. The neck massage unit comes with a head strap. I found myself unable to move most of my body as all my limbs were constricted by a machine that pretended to attack my problem muscles.
I wasn’t in it for long—probably less than 15 minutes. But when the company finally pried me from the massage machine’s jaws, I stood up and felt… exactly the same as when I went in. With all of BodyFriend’s sophisticated bells and whistles, I still feel incredibly underwhelmed by machine-based massages. Even more so now, since this latest adventure felt like the machine was literally chewing me up, as if it needed me tender for when I would eventually sink into the acid-laced membrane of its Sarlacc Pit stomach.