- If you’ve ever wanted to smell your Excel spreadsheets, we have just the thing for you.
Your computer alone doesn’t amount to much. That boxy central unit usually has a power button and that’s it.
To do anything with it, you need some peripherals — at least a mouse, a keyboard, and a display. But you can’t buy plenty of other useful gadgets too, like webcams, speakers, video game controllers, and whatnot.
You can also buy a lot of completely useless peripherals. Over the years, manufacturers have experimented with absolutely mind-boggling devices, thinking that somebody might buy them.
Here are some of the weirdest computer peripherals ever made — some of which you can actually buy today.
1. SafeType Keyboard
Ergonomic keyboards can get pretty wild and wacky. But there’s none wackier than the SafeType.
This bizarre gem of ergonomic design splits the keyboard into three sections. Two of them, containing the letter keys, are positioned vertically at the ends of the horizontal space.
Now, we’ve never tried out this keyboard so we don’t know if it’s actually ergonomic. Maybe it is. But how are you supposed to see the keys on the vertical parts?
Simple. Just look in one of the two rear-view mirrors included with the SafeType.
Suppose that also works against coworkers who might be trying to sneak up on you. This thing is out of production, but you might still be able to find one at a clearance sale somewhere.
2. Dream Cheeky Stress Ball
Stress balls are a common sight on any office desk. But with the Dream Cheeky stress ball, you can e-squeeze your frustration away.
The thing consists of a silicone (we think) shell covering some kind of a squeezable mechanism. But what’s with the USB plug?
You can plug the “ball” into your computer and program it to take out your source of anguish. It can delete emails, scrap documents, or delete text, among other things.
Except not really. According to user comments, the drivers are ancient and not supported by modern operating systems.
But hey, it’s a cool curiosity.
3. Kuchofuku K-200Y Air-Conditioned Shirt
Ah, Japan, the mother of all weird gadgets. If there was any country in the world that would come with a USB-connected air-conditioned work shirt, it’d be Japan.
This polyester/cotton shirt has two fans sewn into it. You can plug it into your computer on a hot day and feel the breeze as you code or type.
You can also power the shirt with four AA batteries if you need to step out of the office. Or you could, when this thing was still being sold.
4. AlphaGrip iGrip
It’s a video game controller! No, it’s a keyboard!
Actually, it’s a bizarre hybrid of both. The iGrip is marketed as the ultimate all-in-one ergonomic keyboard, gaming controller, and trackball mouse.
In reality, it’s an ungodly mess of dozens of buttons, rocker switches, and more. For Pete’s sake, there are six Shift keys!
Even the manufacturer itself admits that it’ll probably take around 30 hours to learn how to properly use the iGrip. We can think of a lot of more worthwhile things to do with our time.
5. 3rd Space ForceWear Vest
Are you too much of a gamer for the air-conditioned work shirt? Then maybe this FPS game vest is more up your alley.
The ForceWear vest was sold to gamers who really wanted to get in on the first-person actions. It features eight directional force feedback units that would vibrate based on the direction the player character was being shot at in the game.
It’s a neat concept, but the vest never supported many games. Although it did have drivers for some of the biggest games of its era, gamers didn’t get on board with the idea and the ForceWear died off.
6. Digiscents iSmell
What stinks? It’s the Digiscent iSmell, an ambitious little device that aimed to bring smell to the virtual world.
Using a combination of chemicals, the bizarrely shaped tower would emit synthetic smells that simulated whatever was on the screen. But did it work?
We don’t know. The iSmell never made it past the prototype phase due to a lack of funding.
Actually, that probably tells you everything you need to know about how well it worked.
7. USB Ghost Radar
Are you convinced that your workspace or gaming battle station is haunted? Well, you can prove it with the USB ghost radar!
To be honest, we have no idea how this thing works. It supposedly has a bunch of sensors that track electromagnetic waves that could originate from ghosts, while filtering out biometric feedback from your skin and different lunar phases.
If the gadget detects a ghost, it will beep and indicate the paranormal intruder’s intensity and position with a series of lights. That said, we’re fairly certain the thing just makes noises occasionally and displays random lights.
8. OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator
Finally, the ultimate peripheral to remove the separation between man and machine. The OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA) allowed you to control a computer — with your mind.
Well, not really. The device consisted of a headband that tracked your facial muscle movements to execute commands.
For example, you could raise an eyebrow to open Google.
The most shocking thing is that the NIA actually worked fairly well. Sure, it couldn’t beat a keyboard and mouse, but it was responsive and performed the assigned tasks with precision (after lengthy calibration).
Yet, it wasn’t good enough. The NIA is discontinued, but you can still occasionally find it floating around on the internet. If you can get one for a reasonable price, it’s a cool little gadget.