There are many reasons why technology fails. Sometimes the technology doesn’t work the way it was supposed to. Sometimes the technology works, but people don’t want it. Sometimes the technology has separate issues—safety, or it needs another expensive piece to work, and people don’t think the entire package is worth the hassle. Some failures are one-of-a-kind devices. Others were the first of their kind and follow-up devices were designed differently.
As the world advances, and as technology becomes even more ingrained in our lives there will be even more failures as companies try to find “the next big thing.” Let’s take at some of the more notable devices from the last few years that didn’t quite catch on.
This head-mounted computer came out in 2013 and it was intended to allow people to watch video, record video, and use their glasses as a smartphone. Some people didn’t like the price tag, some didn’t like the fact they could be recorded without knowing about it. Overall, people just didn’t like Google Glass although there have been some medical advances made thanks to the device, such as providing new ways to connect with autistic people.
The Nike Fuel Band
This device is similar to a FitBit, but made by Nike. The Nike product didn’t work with other software and it often wasn’t accurate. The device was supposed to send data to the Nike website, which would have been brilliant as a marketing tool – if it worked, if people wanted the information enough to follow-up with the Nike website, and if the data was accurate.
The idea was if you work on a computer for too long at a time, you forget to blink. Thus, people suffer from eyestrain which was an easy to fix issue. The Wink had lenses that were supposed to fog up so you’d blink. Another advantage was that if you fell asleep while working, the Wink would wake you. Consumers were not interested enough to shell out $300, so the product failed.
The Microsoft version of the smartwatch was supposed to allow people to connect to the internet so they could check out their stocks, check the weather forecast, or other tasks that would otherwise require a phone or larger computer. It cost $60 a month for web access that was mostly found on smartphones; a turnoff for most consumers.
The Zune was Microsoft’s answer to the iPod. Unfortunately, it was bulkier, the design wasn’t as sleek, the music-sharing technology didn’t work very well, and it was expensive. Then, sitting next to it in most stores was the iPod which did everything the Zune said it would do, for the same or less money.
Taser’s MP3 player
In 2008, Taser International created a Taser gun that doubled as an MP3 player. Who doesn’t want to blast their tunes while tasing a bad guy? What was awesome—as if listening to your jam while you zap someone wasn’t enough—was the fact these MP3 Tasers came in leopard print, pink, or other colors so you could accessorize. Sadly, not enough of a cool-factor to make the device a success.
The TwitterPeek was a sleek device just for Twitter users who tweet and do nothing else. The device couldn’t take pictures, send text messages, make phone calls – nothing but tweet. Apparently there were not enough Twitter-only consumers out there, and this device failed to find a foothold.
The Amstrad E-Mailer
Released in 2000, this cell phone was a pay-as-you-go email machine that also happened to have a telephone. Some may not know or may not remember that cell phones didn’t always have email functionality. The biggest problem was the size of the device and its design. This E-Mailer had the right idea, but it came too soon.
Oakley’s earphone/sunglasses, called the Thump, may sound good in theory: Fashionable shades with built in audio. Consumers didn’t pick up on the idea. Perhaps they didn’t think they were necessary, perhaps Oakley sunglasses cost too much to add an electronic component that made them more expensive, but for whatever reason, these shades were DOA.
Before the smartphone allowed people to surf the web for addresses, telephone numbers, and other general information, how did people find out where the good restaurants were? Or what movies were showing? The Scout Modo wanted to be that answer. Using pager networks, it would send information to your pager about whatever social events you were interested in. It didn’t catch on.
Often, when an electronic device fails, it is just another step in the direction of a success. Perhaps a large amount of the tech will be “borrowed” for another device later, and if so, yesterday’s Google Glass may become today’s medical treatment for autism.