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Passing gas? Theres an app for that
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Remember the Pet Rock?

Gary Dahl sold 1.5 million of them in 1975 at $4 a pop in boxes with breathing holes, straw and a 32-page booklet offering instructions on how to care for them.

If you mislaid yours or missed out on the fad, don’t worry. There are plenty of more Pet Rocks out there in the form of smart plates, smart shirts, smart jump rope, smart forks, and smart flatulence detectors.

Unlike Dahl who bankrolled his own absurd fad, today’s inventors rely on strangers via Kickstart to fund their products proving the line “there’s a sucker born every minute” that was spoken in criticism of P.T. Barnum and his customers in the mid-1880s still rings true today.

Take the case of the smart flatulence detector named CH4 — the chemical formula of methane gas.

Rodrigo Narciso is in the process of trying to raise $180,000 to produce the device you wear on your rear pants’ pocket for obvious reasons. It analyzes the odor working in conjunction with a mobile app that you log everything that you eat to determine what food gives you gas.

Perhaps I’m too dumb to understand the concept but how difficult is it for a person to realize what type of food gives them gas?

By forking over a mere $99 you can buy a HapiFork that coaches you into healthier eating habits. It is used in connection with an app on a smartphone to determine how many bites you are taking and how fast you are eating. It has a default setting that allows a bite every 10 seconds although it can be customized. Take a bite before the 10 seconds or whatever time you set passes and the fork vibrates. (Hopefully it is not hard enough of a vibration to drop the sauce laden pasta onto your shirt.) The pitch is it will coach you to slow down that in turn could potentially help you lose weight.

In other words a smart fork can replace mothers who up until Silicon Valley’s whiz kids decided to save us all would tell kids to slow down and chew their food.

The device also helps you lose $99.

Then there is my favorite, the smart cup that’s dubbed the “Vessyl.”

For $99 — a price that apparently goes nicely with apps costing 99 cents to make smart devices work, the Vessyl works in tandem with a smartphone to record your daily beverage intake. It also lists what you are drinking in real time in case you had no clue. It tracks caffeine, calories, and sugar consumed among other data. Supposedly it gives you the will to cut back on over indulgence.

I’m obviously not very smart as I can tell you pretty much what I consume day in and day out. Now I might lie to myself and tell myself it’s OK to have an extra cookie or two — or six  — but I do know what I eat.

I kind of get heart and pulse monitors for people who exercise although I eschew both.

If you can’t tell you’re pushing it too much or not working hard enough then you’re not using the ultimate app — your brain.

But then again the makers of the Smart Rope hope you don’t use your brain. If you hurry and fork over $70 you can join other folks that have made preorders on Kickstart to the tune of $198,000 so you can have a rope that communicates with your smartphone to tell you how hard you are exercising.

Jumping doesn’t faze me. Jumping with rope sand trying not to trip is another story. I’d gladly pay $70 for a smart rope if it does something useful like guarantee I won’t trip over it as I’m jumping. Of course such a rope would take real innovation instead of just rehashing exercise monitors six ways to Sunday.

That’s the bottom line of some of the “high tech” craziness today. A lot of the products aren’t really adding value unless it is to the pocketbooks of “inventors” who would be right at home hawking tickets to see a two-headed man and a bearded lady.

It’s much like Does the name sound vaguely familiar? That was the “cutting edge” Internet-based dry cleaning firm that was going to wipe out neighborhood dry cleaners. The idea was hatched in Pleasanton in 2001 with plans to build a massive dry cleaning facility in Manteca on Moffat Boulevard in Spreckels Park to serve the Bay Area and Sacramento.

The idea was you’d log into a website to say you have clothes you needed to dry clean. They’d be picked up at work or home one day and returned the next.

It was a different version than middle men that ran dry cleaning pickup services in the 1960s and 1970s. The big difference was that you used the phone and not a website to arrange for a pickup.

It’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with an app to do the same thing.

Actually, it might be the perfect fit for someone that doles out $100 plus to buy a smart shirt to exercise in that sends biometric readings to your  smartphone. Just tap an app on the same smartphone and have a laundry service come by the gym and collect your sweat drenched shirt while you tap another app to tell you what exactly you drank/ate that your body sweated.

Smartphones, how did we live without them?
Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.