20 of the Weirdest Inventions From the Past 20 Years
Ever since Mental Floss debuted in 2001, we’ve been keen on covering some of the biggest, boldest, and best inventions from the brightest minds out there. We’ve seen the rise of iPhones, digital currency, and self-driving cars.
We’ve also seen the 20 ideas below, which may not have changed the world but nonetheless piqued our curiosity. Take a look at 20 inventions that deserve recognition for being both innovative and extremely weird.
Slugs destroying your garden? This artificial intelligence from the California Institute of Technology debuted in 2001 and promised to crawl over soil looking for slugs using a light. When it spotted one, it would pick up the invader and store it. Bacteria inside Slugbot “digested” the slugs, which would then be used as an organic power source for the machine. Yes, it runs on slugs. The British government is funding a new Slugbot prototype they plan to test in 2021.
2. Milk Clothing
Have you ever looked at a glass of milk and wondered how many T-shirts you could make from it? German fashion designer Anke Domaske did. In 2011, she unveiled a fabric called QMilch, which was made from the casein protein found in milk. (Other milk-based fabrics used chemicals.) The dried milk powder is heated and comes out in yard strands. One dress used about six liters of milk. Start-up company Mi Terro also introduced milk clothing in 2019.
3. The Selfie Toaster
Plain toast is bland. To help liven it up, this toaster from the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation released in 2014 is customized using a photo of your face that guides a special metal plate. The result is perfectly crisp toast that you can then use to butter yourself up.
4. Fish Skin Bikini
This beachwear introduced in 2003 is made from tanned and dyed salmon skin that would otherwise have become chicken feed. The Skini company of London sold them for $335 and up.
5. Air Powered Pogo Stick
Razor updated the classic pogo stick in 2001 by replacing springs with an air pump, making landings a little bit trickier.
6. Ecopod Biodegradable Coffin
If your concern for the environment extends past your own lifespan, you were probably relieved to hear of the Ecopod, a biodegradable coffin made of recycled paper, which was introduced in 2007.
7. Bra Dryer
As undergarments go, bras can be hard to clean—normal wash and dry cycles in a machine can ruin them. In 2009, inventor Alexander Farennikov created the Bra Dryer, which uses infrared light and air flow to dry a bra in just 30 minutes.
8. The Necomimi
Japan brought humans and cats ever closer together in 2012 with the Necomimi, a set of mechanical cat ears that measures brainwaves and allows the ears to react to the wearer’s moods. Interested? The ears perk up. Relaxed? They droop. Focused? They wriggle.
9. The Ostrich Pillow
Funded to the tune of $130,000 on Kickstarter in 2012, the Ostrich Pillow allows the wearer to escape the world by sticking their head into a fluffy hole.
10. The Baby Mop
When your little one is exploring the world on all fours, why not have them do a little cleaning at the same time? This onesie has soft mop heads for scrubbing action. The 2012 invention was inspired by a satirical ad in Japan, but there’s nothing fake about how your floors will shine.
Need a little extra motivation to stick to a diet? The BitBite can help. The earpiece has a microphone that analyzes your eating habits, from how much you eat to how quickly. If you’re killing a bag of chips, BitBite can remind you to take it easy. The project had a successful launch on Indiegogo in 2014.
12. Le Whif Inhalable Chocolate
Harvard biomedical engineer David Edwards and students created this food innovation in 2007, which deposits a few hundred milligrams of cocoa onto your tongue—allowing you to get your chocolate fix without eating a bag of fun-sized Twix.
13. Ping-Pong Door
Love ping pong but don’t have the space? This door converts to a ping pong table with a simple flip of the wrist. Inventor Tobias Fränzel and German company FINKELDEI introduced it in 2018. The company will custom-build one for you for around $12,000.
14. The Dogbrella
What smells worse than a wet dog? Two wet dogs. To avoid a damp canine (or two), LesyPet created this umbrella that mounts to a dog’s collar and keeps them dry for walks. It became an Amazon sensation in 2017.
Hate folding clothes? Pick up a FoldiMate. The 2019 machine accepts clothes and spits them out neatly folded. Sorry, but it doesn’t do socks.
16. Drop Wipes
Weird? Yes. Useful? Also yes. Drop Wipes made a splash in 2019 by being the first sanitary wipe formulated to clean damaging bird droppings from the exterior of your vehicle. (If you have bird poop in the interior of your vehicle, you’ve got other concerns.)
17. The Flask Tie
If work is driving you to the bottle, a flask hidden in your tie can do double-duty. The Flask Tie, which came out in 2013, has a hidden fluid bladder and straw to make your shift go down a little easier.
18. The Snuggie
While it wasn’t the first wearable blanket—that would be the Slanket—the Snuggie became the most popular one, thanks to its infomercial campaign in 2008.
19. The Boyfriend’s Arm Pillow
Released in 2008 by the Kameo Corporation, this pillow shaped like an embracing human arm quickly caught on in Japan.
20. The Uro Club
On the golf course and need some urgent relief? In 2010, urologist Lloyd Seskin introduced the Uro Club—a hollow golf club that allows a player to urinate discreetly. A fabric privacy shield will have observers thinking you're just taking a practice swing.