Most of the tech we saw at CES 2022 was harmless and friendly, but lurking beneath the show's glossy surface were some ideas that sent shivers down our spine: autonomous tractors, seemingly friendly T-800 robots, and bears that nibble on your fingertips.
Okay, maybe we're being a bit harsh on Amagami Ham Ham, but like everything else in this list it ticked one important box: given the right director, it could easily be star of a chilling horror movie.
A big theme of CES 2022 has been tech that watches you sleep, including a worryingly intelligent anti-snore pillow and smart light bulbs, so those have made our list despite their undoubted plus points.
Throw in over-engineered air purifying masks, breathing PC cases and, yes, more creepy humanoid robots, and you have a strong supporting cast for a new David Cronenberg flick. So grab some popcorn and peruse our list of the scariest tech ideas of CES 2022 – and if this gets you in the mood, head on over to our guide to the best new horror movies of 2022.
John Deere autonomous tractor
If James Cameron were to remake the opening sequence from Terminator, we might see this autonomous John Deere tractor rumbling over the skeletal remains of human civilization. Of course, the 8R tractor has been built with the perfectly sensible aim of helping farmers till their soil more efficiently, but there's still something chilling about seeing this agricultural beast lumbering towards you without anyone at the wheel.
Heightening our fears is the fact that the 8R tractor uses artificial intelligence, plus six pairs of stereo cameras, to drive itself around. But the good news is that farmers can control the tractor with a smartphone app, and that the machine's ability to analyze the soil it tills should be able to give farmers some handy pointers on how to manage their land and crops more efficiently.
Lurking on the fringes of the uncanny valley is Ameca, a close relative of Sonny from I, Robot and an emotionally expressive mechanoid with a slightly sickly smile. Built by Engineered Arts, the UK's leading maker of entertainment robots, it made its first public appearance at CES 2022 and is designed to welcome visitors to events or attraction. But is it just biding its time before launching a presidential campaign?
Ameca is certainly smart, boasting artificial intelligence and cameras in each of its eyes that allow it to respond to your movements and track faces. Fortunately, the robot can't yet walk, which makes slightly easier to run from a Boston Dynamics Spot. And given Ameca appears to live in a state that's somewhere between wonder and bafflement, we reckon we'd be able to distract it with a fidget spinner.
Razer Zephyr Pro
If last year's Razer Zephyr mask wasn't quite intimidating enough for you, the company has made an even more over-engineered version with built-in voice amplification, called the Zephyr Pro. It's perhaps the ideal post-apocalyptic accessory for our troubled times, if one that's not exactly ideal for collecting your kid from pre-school.
To be fair to Razer, the Zephyr Pro is good for a lot more than Bane cosplay, thanks to its replaceable N95-grade filters and speaker grilles for projecting your voice at 60 decibels, from a range of one meter. It's also made from recycled materials and the optional RGB lights tell you when to replace your filters. There's no release date yet, but it'll arrive sometime in 2022 for $149.
Ten Minds Motion Pillow
The seemingly innocuous Motion Pillow is filled with little airbags that gently nudge your head into a better position for nighttime breathing. But what happens when it decides to end your snoring... permanently? Perhaps it's our imagination running away with us, but a pillow that can watches you sleep and moves itself around is potentially the stuff of, well, nightmares.
Fortunately, the reality of the Motion Pillow is, for now, more humdrum and useful. Its AI Motion System detects your snoring, locates your head position, then slowly moves your sideways to help open your airways. Assuming this doesn't wake you up, it'll also present your much-improved sleeping stats when you rejoin the real world, ready for a morning nibble from your Amagami Ham Ham...
Amagami Ham Ham
Yes, this adorable stuffed robot looks cute, particularly when you discover that it's designed to comfort you by gently nibbling on your finger. But what happens when Amagami Ham Ham goes full Gremlin and decides it'd like one of your digits for breakfast? The fact that this isn't technically possible doesn't mean our minds haven't turned one of CES 2022's most heartwarming launches into a comedy horror scene.
Thankfully, 'Amagami' is Japanese for "soft biting" rather than "fingertip guillotine", and its maker Yukai Engineering has even coded an algorithm that serves up two-dozen nibbling styles for the tips of your fingers. You'll be able to buy it in Calico Cat and Shuba Inu designs for around $40 this year.
Owo Game haptic vest
What better way to unwind after a hard day at the office than by donning a vest that simulates severe abdominal wounds, insect bites, dagger stabs and being struck by an axe? That's the utopian dream envisioned by the Owo Game haptic vest, which works with games on mobile, PC, console and VR platforms to bring an added dose of uncomfortable realism.
Thankfully, the sensations the vest delivers aren't all near-death experiences, with the Owo Game also promising to recreate the thrill of driving at 100mph or free-falling (towards a very large trampoline, hopefully). You can also adjust the intensity of each sensation, to make sure it stays on the right side of enjoyable. There's no confirmed launch date for the Owo yet, but you can register your interest on the official site.
CyberPowerPC Kinetic case
There's something unnerving about tech that looks like it's breathing, and that's the effect created by CyberPowerPC's Kinetic case. Rather than sighing when you've just spent another nine hours on Microsoft Flight Simulator, the case's 18 mechanical vents are designed to automatically open and close when it needs more air.
As CyberPowerPC’s Nam Hoang explained in a preview video for the Kinetic series, the aim was to create a case that's more than just a box with holes. The design was apparently inspired by the kinetic architecture in buildings like the Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi – and now we're past our reflexive phobia of breathing gadgets, we have to admit it's beguilingly beautiful.
Hyundai's 'digital twins'
The prize for the most unintentionally disturbing vision of the future at CES 2022 goes to Hyundai, for its musings on the metaverse and robots. Like a cross between David Gelernter's Mirror Worlds and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Hyundai's presentation revolved around the concept of 'digital twins', an idea that sci-fi hasn't exactly depicted in glowing terms.
In Hyundai's vision, robots are effectively our proxies, acting as our eyes and ears, or even allowing us to hug family from another continent while we're away with work. The company even went as far as depicting people visiting Mars with their pet Boston Dynamic robots, which themselves tread a fine line between awesome and terrifying. The advantages of 'metamobility', where physical limitations are no longer a barrier for anyone, are certainly exciting, but it's hard not to think of the dystopian downsides when you've been weaned on Blade Runner and The Matrix.
Taking HyundaI' concept of 'digital twins' and turning it into a mildly disturbing reality is the Beonmi 1.0 robot, which will apparently evolve over time from human-piloted to a fully autonomous humanoid.
It's Beonmi's somewhat intense 'concentration' face that had us initially a little spooked, but the robot does also smile and is apparently happy to work in a huge range of fields, including agriculture, logistics, and eventually space construction. We're happy to give Beonmi the benefit of the doubt for now – until it applies for a job on TechRadar, at least.
- Check out all of TechRadar's CES 2022 coverage with reviews, reaction, and analysis of the best new tech we've seen, from 8K TVs and foldable displays to new phones, laptops and smart home gadgets.
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Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.