You may use your laptop's USB ports for helpful accessories like a wireless mouse or a handy external hard drive, but for every practical gadget around, there's a device that's stupendously tacky and whimsical. We could make an exhaustive list here, but all we really need to say is "USB-powered air-conditioned tie".
USB Fishquarium ($19.99)
New job? Time to start thinking about workspace decorations. Nothing signals to new co-workers that you’re a “responsible team player” quite like a desktop aquarium (especially one that’s complete with nature sounds and in-tank lighting). And nothing broadcasts “prepared, efficient rookie” like a well-maintained organizer chock-full of pens and supplies. So, logic dictates that nothing screams “capable, expedient, and equipped office newbie” like a combination aquarium-pencil case plugged up to your desk’s computer. Sounds about right--as long as you don’t turn off the power source, ever. Fish not included.
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USB Heated Blanket ($19.99)
Chuck out your Snuggie! It may not have sleeves but this electric blanket keeps computer users warm while they work. Plug in one USB port for low heat or both ports for high heat. Be warned: you might need to buy two. Measuring in at just 2.5 x 1.5 feet, this heated blanket can’t keep your hands and your feet warm at the same time.
USB Typewriter Computer Keyboard ($699)
At least the folks behind the USB Typewriter are in on their own joke. The website for this $700 piece of nostalgia tech sports the tagline “A groundbreaking advancement in the field of obsolescence!” Connect this yesteryear gadget to an external monitor via USB--or if you’re up for a real retro-future conundrum, an iPad-- and enjoy full typewriter functionality that includes the forgotten clickity-clack of ancient noisy newsrooms and the “satisfying” effort of returning a type carriage that today would drive any writer up a wall.
Humping Dog USB Key ($14.99)
The concept of a USB drive fashioned after an adorable Beagle is cute. The concept of a USB drive fashioned after a very aroused Beagle is just wrong. Yet the Humping Dog USB key exists, and wow, can it hump. The visual of a sex’ed-up plastic pooch isn't what’s so shocking here. It’s the amount of noise this thing makes. Want to save your important documents on a thumb drive that sounds like a wood chipper going at a sprinkler? We didn't think so.
Crave Duet USB-powered Vibrator
When it comes to vibrators, the Crave Duet gets some things right: it’s got a discreet, travel-ready form factor, comes coated in body-friendly materials, and packs a rechargable battery. When you remove the water-proof extension to reveal a USB port, however, things get...unconventional. That’s because this vibrator’s powersource charges--you guessed it--via a computer’s USB port. With the soft-material cap detached the Crave looks like just another thumb drive. So no one will know the same laptop you're using to IM team members and slash through emails is powering up a fun, after-hours toy. Availability in 8GB or 16GB storage sizes helps make the Crave all the more invisible, just not any less awkward.
USB Self-Misting Hairbrush
A hairbrush alone is a fine thing to carry around. A hairbrush that sprays a misty shot of water? Sure, we can kind of see that. But a hairbrush that de-tangles your locks, waters them...and charges via USB? It’s hard to understand a scenario where that gadget is necessary. The Self-Misting Hairbrush exists though, and it holds enough water for 30 minutes of misting while the battery can power a stream for up to 2 hours and 30 minutes. Of course, we have to ask: whose bed-head is that bad?
A necktie isn’t the most comfortable attire on a hot summer day, but this isn’t what pit-stained business men had in mind. Japanese gadget maker Thanko is renown for its awkward useless, even cracked-out USB gadgets. We can add the Air-Conditioned Tie to that list. As you can see, the front-facing “knot” on this tie is made of plastic and houses a small fan that blows what we hope is cool air into the wearer’s chin. Ahhhh. The sweet sensation of relief.
Amoeba Dual Purpose Digital Microscope ($89.99)
Sure, as kid geeks, we all wanted a home microscope. But at that age, we weren’t smart enough to know that any microscope our parent can afford is likely not a very good microscope. Those rules still apply. The Amoeba Dual Purpose Digital Microscope cost $90 bucks, but with zoom up to just 200x, amateur scientists won’t be spotting anything close to an amoeba with it (many microscopes go to at least 400x). Paired with a 1.3-MP digital camera, the Amoeba can share pictures to a PC via USB, but if you’re not spotting mitochondria, what’s the point?
Dual-Heated Travel Mug ($14.99)
Work days are long and coffee gets cold. How do you fix that? With a USB-heated travel mug that keeps all 16 ounces of your morning joe at optimal temperatures well into the afternoon (it also works via car charger). The spill-proof lid should protect against splashes on your dashboard or laptop computer, but, for the love of the Starbucks mermaid, don’t put this mug in a dishwasher.
USB Plasma Ball ($18.99)
We’re not sure when the plasma ball was last popular, but the bravest nostalgia-addict this side of 1990 would need a hipster-size dose of irony to rock this piece of the past without shame. Adding the caveat “Now powered by USB!” doesn’t make this dud of a gadget any cooler.