Tech That Time Forgot?

Tech That Time Forgot?

Technology moves at such a blistering pace that it’s hard to keep up with every new gadget and innovation - and inevitably, some of it ends up on the cutting room floor.

Take a look at a few of the next big things that turned out to be big nothings – are they really dead, or just sleeping?

Whatever happened to Google Glass?

Is Google Glass really a failed technology, or was the world just not ready for it? The concept – essentially a head-mounted personal computer that’s only slightly bulkier than the average pair of eyeglasses – certainly wowed crowds when it was announced in 2013.

The potential to video everything you see, project an augmented-reality map in front of you as you walk around, to search the internet and post to social media with voice commands, sounds like everything the future ever promised us. So why did it flop?

First up was the privacy issue. While we’re all used to carrying around high-end cameras in our pockets by now, many weren’t so keen on the slightly creepier, more surreptitious level that Google Glass could possibly take things to.

Next was the price: $1,500 (£1,120) is a tough sell for any new technology, particularly one with no single, clearly-defined selling point. Smartphones were easy: they put the internet in your pocket. Glass put the internet… on your face?

Despite a whole load of potential, Google never quite nailed down why people absolutely had to buy it – a mistake Apple surely never would have made.

Nonetheless, Google is far from finished with the Glass project. In July 2017, rumblings from Google suggested that Glass 2.0 is now being used as an “assisted reality” device in workplaces all over the USA, from factory floors to healthcare.

Maybe once it’s made its mark in the enterprise world, we’ll see Google Glass return to the consumer shelf once again.

Is 3D TV dead?

Not too long ago, it looked like 3D TV was going to make the leap from science fiction and into our living rooms. LG, Samsung and Sony went big on 3D-capability in their new TV releases after 2010, when James Cameron’s Avatar ignited public interest in the technology. And yet, nearly a decade later, it’s failed to make much of a splash.

One major reason is the glasses. Not only did you have to wear special glasses to get the 3D effect, but the glasses had to be compatible with your TV’s 3D tech. Panasonic and Samsung went one way with the active shutter system, while LG and Vizio went another with passive polarisation.

Combined with the not-inconsiderable cost of the glasses themselves, this created confusion among consumers and added another hurdle to an already expensive technology. Not only that, but you’d need to buy a new 3D-enabled Blu-Ray player if you wanted to do more than just watch TV.

Which brings us to the timing. In 2010, many people had just finished upgrading to HD TVs – and combined with the ongoing pressures of the credit crunch, people had little appetite for investing even more in their daily sofa time.

Glasses-free 3D TV is currently in development, though – Toshiba has reportedly been testing products in Asian markets, while a new “Ultra-D” TV technology from Stream TV Networks promises immersive, glasses-free 3D viewing on any device. If successful, they could be just the thing to bring this technology back from the dead.

Where did Aibo go?

Sony’s Aibo – the cute little robotic dogs first introduced in 1999 – captured all the hope and optimism of a world about to step into a new millennium. The digital canine companions barked, ran around, did tricks and played games, and best of all, they never chewed the furniture.

It was hoped that Aibo would help to usher in a new wave of household “helper robots”, which never really materialised. However, it actually sold quite well for a premium product – the real problems were at parent company Sony, which hit a rocky patch in the mid-2000s and was forced to axe some of its more exotic development projects.

Sadly, this included Aibo – and by 2005, after five generations of production, the line was discontinued. The fifth and final version of Aibo was capable of expressing up to 60 different emotions (hopefully, betrayal wasn’t one of them).

However, the tech scrapyard isn't the final resting place for Aibo. The robo-puppy was officially revived and revealed at the three-day tech show, CES 2018, in Vegas. The revamped Aibo now uses deep-learning AI to “actively seek out its owners”, “detect words of praise” and “form an emotional bond with members of the household”. There's a camera in the nose so it can recognise different people, touch sensors on the head, chin and back so you can pet Aibo, and even an accompanying Aibone which this not-so-furry companion will play fetch with. The pup is even multilingual, speaking both English and Japanese, and Sony have announced more languages are on the way soon.

An accompanying app will also be launched, with Alexa-like features that people can use to control their music, media and smart home appliances, which sounds both handy and adorable.

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