Robotic balls and GPS walking sticks: Latest bizarre tech trends

Story highlights

  • GPS-enabled walking stick among the usual uses for mobile technology on display at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
  • Other gadgets included the YotaPhone, a device featuring both a color touch screen and a screen using low-power monochome e-ink
  • Mitten-ready mobiles, robotic balls and temperature-sensing microchips were also on display

There were no major announcements and no breathtaking new gadgets, but this year's Mobile World Congress did offer up more than its fair share of unexpected uses for digital technology.

Here are a few of the stranger sights that were creating a buzz around this year's event in Barcelona.

GPS-enabled walking stick

Clearly aimed at the elderly, or anyone with walking difficulties, this prototype from Japan's Fujitsu is a stick fitted with GPS navigation features, health monitoring sensors and Bluetooth and wireless connectivity.

The stick, known as Generation, allows relatives, carers or perhaps medics to track the user's real time movements while also recording heart rate. The stick also has the potential to summon emergency services.

How big is too big for mobile phones?
How big is too big for mobile phones?


    How big is too big for mobile phones?


How big is too big for mobile phones? 03:09
BlackBerry's comeback battle
BlackBerry's comeback battle


    BlackBerry's comeback battle


BlackBerry's comeback battle 02:57
Gaming on the go
Gaming on the go


    Gaming on the go


Gaming on the go 03:06

While the stick is some way off launch, Fujitsu has clearly been putting a great deal of thought about how its technology can benefit senior citizens -- a shrewd move given Japan's aging population. It has also created a phone specifically aimed at the elderly, featuring a large keypad and sound enhancement.


Paddy Smith from Stuff drew our attention to this quirky two-faced device. Here's what he had to say:

A smartphone running Google's Android operating system and a 4.3-inch touchscreen on the front? You might be thinking there's no shortage of those around, and you'd be right, but the YotaPhone offers something none of the others can: a second screen, on the back of the phone.

Tell us: What's your dream smartphone feature?

This screen uses the monochrome e-ink technology seen in Amazon's Kindle and other e-readers, and uses very little battery power. The screen can be customized to show whatever image you please, but more interesting are the apps that allow it to display Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds, or a clock or weather report.

Sensirion micro temperature sensor

This tiny speck of technology will give mobiles the ability to measure temperature and humidity, opening the door to a whole new realm of applications.

Sensiron says its device will give your mobile the ability to "feel," offering all kinds of biofeedback possibilities.

At the very least it should enable it to accurately read the weather conditions around you. It could also prove an invaluable healthcare or sports monitoring tool.

Next, presumably, we will get phones that can smell and taste.

Glove-friendly touch screens

Forget its claims to being the world's fastest phone. Ignore the brilliant touch screen and the powerful 13 megapixel camera. Disregard its slender 8.4mm side profile.

What sets Chinese manufacturer Huawei's flagship Ascend P2 smartphone apart is the fact that it can be operated by users wearing gloves.

Read more: Gadget show goes soft on hardware

Mitten-ready mobiles aren't new -- Nokia's Lumia 920 also responds to fingers cloaked in fabric -- but for anyone who regularly checks their phone in freezing conditions, any fresh addition is a great leap forward.

Robotic balls

A popular attraction in one corner of MWC were robotic Sphero balls that can be controlled using a Bluetooth-equipped smartphone.

Sphero's manufacturer, US-based Orbotix, was in Barcelona to launch a new range of augmented reality games, including one in which the robotic ball becomes, in Orbotox's own words, "a cupcake-munching beaver."

Running, jumping and standing still

Taiwan's HTC, having nothing new to promote beyond last year's showstopping One X, instead decided to offer up a troupe of Parkour athletes who wowed congress-goers with their acrobatics. Why? We have no idea.

      Mobile World Congress

    • A woman wears the new Samsung Gear 2, right, and at the Samsung Gear Fit , left, at the Mobile World Congress, the world's largest mobile phone trade show in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Expected highlights include major product launches from Samsung and other phone makers, along with a keynote address by Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

      What were the key trends this year?

      Mobile World Congress spans the full spectrum of untethered gadgetry, from the next generation of mobile phone networks to wireless charging technology.
    • Big data, big business, big brother?

      Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.
    • The hottest gadgets at MWC

      Mobile World Congress returned to form this year, with Samsung, Sony, and Huawei all choosing to launch flagship devices in Barcelona. These are my picks from the show:
    • Some Android phones can use eye-scanning security via the Eyeprint App Lock from EyeVerify, a demo of which is pictured. Several companies, such as Agnitio, are developing voice recognition systems.

      7 surprising smartphone features

      Mobile World Congress begins in Barcelona Monday and amid the hoopla of new super-phones, largely unknown technologies will be revealed. And it will be these that change our lives.
    • Soledad O'Brien interviews Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook's offices in New York on March 13.

      Where are the women in tech?

      With a lack of gender diversity in the tech sector, the time has come to make women in ICT a norm rather than the exception
    • LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08: A 3D printed prosthetic arm is displayed in the exhibition '3D: printing the future' in the Science Museum on October 8, 2013 in London, England. The exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow, features over 600 3D printed objects ranging from: replacement organs, artworks, aircraft parts and a handgun. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

      10 lifesaving mobile features

      The medical and healthcare sectors are in the midst of rapid change, and it can be difficult to see which new technologies will have a long-lasting impact.
    • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Newseum September 18, 2013 in Washington, DC

      What is WhatsApp really worth?

      Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said WhatsApp was "worth more than $19 billion" during a speech given at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday.
    • Michael Jackson performs on stage at the taping of the ?American Bandstand?s 50th ? A Celebration!", to air on ABC TV on May 3, 2002. (Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage)

      Sony teams up with Jacko estate

      Sony has announced a tie-up with the estate of Michael Jackson, allowing them to use his music to promote the release of a new smartphone.
    • Anne Lise Kjaer

      Mobile tech shapes future finance

      Financial transactions have always been at the heart of our society, but growing smartphone and Internet penetration are inspiring new, disruptive approaches.
    • A visitor of the "NEXT Berlin" conference tries out the Google Glass on April 24, 2013 in Berlin. "NEXT Berlin" describes itself as "a meeting place for the European digital industry". Organisers say that at the conference, "marketing decision-makers and business developers meet technical experts and creative minds to discuss what will be important in the next 12 months". The conference is running from April 23 to 24, 2013.       AFP PHOTO / OLE SPATA / GERMANY OUT        (Photo credit should read Ole Spata/AFP/Getty Images)

      How not to be a 'Glasshole'

      Google has heard all the concerns about Glass, its digital headset expected to hit the market by the end of the year.
    • These iron-on cases were made to attach to workout clothes so that you can run and cycle with two free hands.

      5 fitness apps that get results

      Looking for a new way to reach your fitness goals? Now's the time to check out some of the hottest fitness apps as 2014 gets underway.
    • The Philips Fluid concept phone has a bendy organic light-emitting diode, which means it can be wrapped around the wrist as a watch or bracelet or used as a normal mobile phone.

      Full coverage from MWC14

      See full coverage from the world's biggest mobile technology conference in Barcelona, Spain.