Can Tech Be Gross? You Bet

By Mark Sullivan, PC World |  Offbeat, games, iPhone

Sometime around the end of the 1990s, gross-out humor reared its head once again in American culture. You remember--in movies like Something about Mary (1998) and American Pie (1999). Well, as it turns out, the laff riot continues, the kids love it, and gross-out culture has made its way into various aspects of technology. We identify some the juiciest examples we could find here.

Gross iPhone Apps Explosion

The most notable flare-up lately has been in the Apple iPhone app store, which currently sells at least 50 flatulence or flatulence-related apps. In just one day last December, Apple approved 14 such apps.

To kick off the examples, you have Pull My Finger (actually there are two separate "Pull My Finger" apps). Then there's FartBox, Who Farted?, WhoopieCushion, Mr. Poot!, iToot, Fart Button, Fart for Free, Wet Fart, iFart, iFartz, EasyFart, Fart Keyboard, or my personal favorite, Fart of the Bumblebee. It goes on and on.

And people love them. iFart Mobile is currently number eight on the Top Paid Apps list at the store. On Christmas Day alone, 38,927 people purchased iFart Mobile. And Atomic Fart is number six on the free apps list.

You can find numerous other iPhone apps based on an assortment of rude bodily functions and fluids. Take iVomit and Zit Picker, Hiccy-Burp, and Burp Box--please.

Another iPhone app, called iLick, was less successful in attempt to make it through Apple's vetting process for inclusion in the store. As far as I can tell, the whole point of iLick is to move various shapes--such as lips and lollypops--around the screen of your iPhone with your tongue. Now I'm no clean freak, but that screen must be a Petri dish for all kinds of germs and microbes and other septic stuff in the environment--including everything collected by your finger tips--which makes the idea of a touch-tongue phone just gross. But if you dig catching colds and flu, you go right ahead.

Sex Plus Tech Can Equal Gross

Other technologies integrate sex for gross results. Though there's nothing inherently gross about sex, things can start to get weird when technology gets involved. Example: Two separate companies are marketing accessories that plug into your iPhone or iPod at one end, and into a sexual place on your body at the other end. The result: Vibrators that throb to the beat of your music player.

The first of these items to make the scene (back in 2007) was the iGasm from the British sexual aid company Ann Summers. We gave the company props for the clever name, and props for the clever ads, which simply duplicated Apple's immediately recognizable ads with the silhouetted model and white iPhone cords, only the Ann Summers version shows one white cable heading down into the model's underwear. Apple's attorneys didn't see the humor in it, at least not in public.

More recently a company named Suki, LLC has joined the party with a similar product called OhMiBod, but here's the best part: Suki also sells a product called Boditalk, which is an, uh, insert, "activated by calls made to or from your cell phone when in close range," as the company's site describes it. The "unique 3-pattern vibrating sequence" continues for the duration of the call. Buy one of these and you'll have to re-up your calling plan.

A small German company, OIOO, has made sexual appliances whose vibrations are caused by the remote controls of the popular Wii gaming system. In fact the "antiallergenic Medizin Silicon" pieces, available in both 'his' and 'hers' designs, slide onto the end of a Wii game controller (cagily identified on the OIOO Web site simply as "a well known remote"). There's some kind of software app, too, but the OIOO site is a little vague on how that works.

The 'Gross-Out' Movement in YouTube

I'll spare you the evidence, but in case you didn't know, there's a whole movement within the YouTube community that posts gross stuff. We're talking about everything from very-personal body functions and grooming to road kill. They compete; they try to out-gross each other. One carefully staged 3-minute video documented the popping of an enormous pimple on the back of some dude's neck. The video had more than 50,000 views.

Actually, after I logged in (to prove I'm of age) to YouTube and searched a little deeper, I encountered some extremely graphic video of things that go far beyond zit-popping--like rectal and gyno exams, pile and hemorrhoid removal, colonoscopies, close-up carpal tunnel surgeries, even various procedures performed on animals. Yuck. Nope, I'm not going to link you to 'em, because I feel kinda ill all of a sudden, and I don't want you to see what I just saw.

It Gets Worse, Much Worse

Of course it gets worse when you venture outside the somewhat-controlled confines of YouTube. Check out this plastic surgeon's site, which contains a series of videos of actual, close-up plastic surgery operations.

Then there are those sites like Rotten.com, which exist simply to disgust and disturb. But I'm gonna declare those sites out of bounds for the purposes of decency. Nor will I discuss sites like Ratemypoo.com and ratemyvomit.com. Too easy.

SAM the Sweating Robot

According to a Reuters report, Scientists at the University of Zurich have developed a robot that sweats. The robot, called SAM (sweating agile mannequin), has 125 "sweat nozzles" distributed all over its synthetic head and body. The thing will be used by clothing manufacturers to develop high-tech fibers capable of sustaining a sweating athlete in freezing conditions, the story goes. I'm still not sure what sort of liquid emerges from the bot's "pores," and frankly, this didn't sound very gross to me at first, but there's something about seeing SAM get sweaty in this video...

Pee-Powered Batteries

Aqua Power System, an eco-friendly Japanese company makes pee-powered batteries called NoPoPo (short for "non-pollution-power"). The product contains a combination of magnesium and carbon that, when mixed with urine (or another common liquid such as water, Diet Coke, or orange juice), produces a small charge. It's a little unclear how you get the pee into the battery (some kind of pipette thing?); right now, the batteries are being sold only to the Japanese, whose aim must be straight and true. Kinda Green, and kinda gross. (Props to OhGizmo! for this one.)

And Now More Porn

During CES last January, I went to a tech showcase event one evening at the Mirage. The event took place in a large banquet room; companies were set up with small booths throughout the room. Hors d'oeuvres were served. I noticed one vendor in the corner of the room had its presentation screens pointing inward, away from the rest of the room. I felt it my duty to investigate.

The company, called FyreTV, sells a small set-top box designed to stream DVD-quality porn movies to a TV. When I stepped back there to talk to the guy, the screenswere displaying some pretty lurid stuff. The most interesting--and slightly creepy--thing about this box is its proprietary search capability. FyreTV has analyzed, categorized, and tagged a mountain of porn video so exhaustively that users can search for and find any sexual scenario or fetish that trips their personal trigger. So much time, labor, and engineering spent just for porn. I remember when all we had was National Geographic and the brassiere ads in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue.

Gross Gaming--Of Course!

There must be some really gross stuff in the gaming world, right? Yep. Our gaming specialist Darren Gladstone suggested a couple of gross (but still presentable on this site) games. First there's Gears of War 2. Gears of War is a third-person-shooter (meaning you're watching the main player's shoulder) game in which a team of special forces-type dudes fight the enemy AI "Locust Horde" with large guns fitted with chainsaws where the bayonet should be, with predictably gory results. I found this "execution montage" video on YouTube showing a variety of "kills" in the game. Fun.

Left 4 Dead is another exceptionally gross game. The game, in which a team of players, the survivors of an "apocalyptic epidemic" must battle hordes of very aggressive zombies who just keep coming and will not quit. It's kinda like a game version of the 28 Days Later movie from a few years back. Anyway, these zombie things blow up real good, and gross, as is demonstrated in this gameplay compilation video.

So that about does it for our little roundup of the grotesque in tech. I'm sure there's more out there, so please feel free to use our message boards to let us know about the gross tech you've seen.

But, you know, keep it somewhat tasteful. We're a family publication.

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