Emerging tech can get downright odd, and what was in the IFA Next Pavilion in Berlin this year was no exception. The space is basically a set of two circular halls—one red, one blue—that showcases startups and big-name brands alike. The thing they all have in common is they’re usually showing prototypes for novel ideas that, to be frank, may never actually make it to market.
The point of showcases like this is a little bit vague. Sometimes it’s tech that just makes you scratch your head and say, “Why?” Other times, it’s the way companies decide to show off a fairly common product in a setting that stands out from the main showroom floor. Once in a while, it’s just the whole story behind the product itself.
At the IFA Next Pavillion, the variety of gadgets even seemed nonsensical at times. Segway built a mini track so IFA-goers could try out their new scooters, mini go-karts, and those weird Drift shoes. (More than one attendee came close to eating dirt.) At the Japan Pavilion, we also saw some cute-but-kinda-useless companion bots like trade-show favorite Qoobo, a so-called “tailed cushion to heal your heart.” Also, DrinkShift, a never-ending beer fridge. For some reason, Maserati built an e-bike?
In the healthcare section, we found Visseiro, which is basically a cushion with sensors in it that can theoretically help the elderly monitor their heart rate and breathing… via their butt. Over in the French Tech area, we peeped the My Oeno, a wine scanner that can not only analyze the wine you’re drinking but also what other wines you might like. Also, we witnessed the glory of Muffin Computer, one of only five Russian companies at IFA.
But it’s not just startups that like to get funky. This year, the Panasonic booth decided to show off its newest water pic using what appeared to be plates decorated with floral patterns? When you got closer, it became apparent the flowers weren’t flowers. They were teeth. A rep told me the grooves were filled with food remnants, as a metaphor for how just brushing often leaves food particles in the grooves of your molars. She then invited me to use the water pik to clean the plate. Sure! That’s one way to sell a water pik.
Of course, some of these oddities are simply the result of an increasing need to stand out from a pack at a crowded trade show. (It says something when Acer’s new $14,000 gaming chair evokes a feeling of “been there, done that.”) Some are clearly stunts. Others are desperate attempts to get coverage or funding. All are an essential part of what keeps trade shows like IFA interesting.