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What Happened To Google Glass? And Other Failed Digital Innovations Of The 21st Century

5min read
Business

I sometimes wonder if there is a graveyard for 'failed' inventions. You know those new technologies that are being talked about everywhere and sure to be 'the next best thing'.

When does something cease to be a 'next big thing' and slide away into oblivion?


I think it's worth looking at how an innovation becomes touted as 'the next big thing' in the first place. It typically begins in places like Silicon Valley with venture capitalists [VCs], who are always on the lookout for new, disruptive technology that will be their next Facebook or Apple – and become a billion-dollar company.

“Investors get involved, invest, then tout the next superfood until it is part of the zeitgeist," explained a venture capitalist recently to Bonnie Halper, technology expert and founder of Startup One Stop.

The truth is that VCs may have only one or two winners out of ten companies in their portfolio, if they are lucky. The most successful VC firms' investments are monitored by Silicon Valley and the press alike, with the assumption that past success is a good indicator of future success and increases the likelihood that the companies they invest in are likely winners.

A technology can be highly praised before it is even developed or hits the market. Then reality hits, or the company moves from concept to finally delivering their much-anticipated product or service, and it turns out not to be the next remarkable thing. Some fails are more epic than others.

Here is a look at 3 Failed Digital Innovations

Google Glass – an optical head-mounted display designed in the shape of a pair of eyeglasses, which was designed with the mission of producing a ubiquitous computer. A smartphone-like, hands-free format displayed information right within the glasses. The wearer could use voice commands to call up information via the connected internet.

“I had a friend who was an early 'Google Explorer' and he looked ridiculous as he walked around with his Google Glass – there's a reason why they called them Glassholes.' I did try them and told him that – like CD Roms of yore – they were a limited application technology, better served in the enterprise space. Which is exactly where they're being utilized," according to Halper.

While the technology was compelling, the price was prohibitive for consumers at $1500 a pair. The video camera capabilities raised privacy concerns resulting in some negative press, criticism and even prompting legislative action. The quirky look of users when wearing Google Glass added to their disappointing reception.

While Google Glass failed and was discontinued in 2017, as Halper notes, there is a recognized need for them in large corporations and institutions; an enterprise version was recently released.

"The Segway certainly has a cool factor, both in its underlying technology which achieves balance using tilt sensors, and gyroscopic sensors." Photo Courtesy of Entity Magazine

The Segway – is a two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter invented by prolific inventor Dean Kamen and marketed as a Personal Transporter. The Segway certainly has a cool factor, both in its underlying technology which achieves balance using tilt sensors, and gyroscopic sensors, which can reach a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour.

While touted as the next big thing in transportation, the Segway's price and its uniqueness proved too challenging. At $5000 a unit, it was a luxury item for most consumers. On par with the cost of a used car, it offered less reliable transportation options. The company projected sales of 50,000 to 100,000 Segways in the first year, but only 6,000 were sold in the first two years.

As an early adopter, Peter Shankman discovered that riding it in NYC was problematic – one police officer told him to ride on the street, then another shooed him from the street and told him he belonged on the sidewalk, while yet another told him that its uses wasn't permitted at all.

While a failure with consumers, as was the case with Google Glass, the Segway has found some use at the enterprise level. It has been adopted by some municipalities for use by its police force, enabling them to patrol more of their precinct more quickly than they could on foot.

Quick Response Codes [QR Codes] – are a type of two-dimensional barcode. Originally designed for the automobile industry in Japan, QR codes, we were promised, were going to revolutionize business with applications ranging from business cards to restaurants to directions to museums and beyond.

As a machine-readable label, QR Codes were essentially barcodes that contain information that can be accessed by scanning them with a specially designed reader. The first obstacle to adoption of QR Codes, was that one had to install a reader on their phone. Maybe this wouldn't be an obstacle today, but back in 2000 when they were first introduced, mobile phones weren't as feature-rich as they are today and consumers weren't accustomed to downloading apps as they are today.

The other problem with QR Codes was the inconsistent results that users encountered – not from the technology, but from the company's hyping their use.

Prospects and customers were cheered on as if they would be winning the lottery, and after jumping through a hoop to get the reader installed, then scanning the code, the hype lead to disappointment and frustration.

Users often found a regular coupon for a mere 10 percent off; not a prize worth the effort they had just put in to claim it.

QR Codes were seen on billboards, yet, there was no tangible way for a motorist to scan the QR Code – certainly not while driving. A phone number on a billboard still works easier than this recent technology reported to make it easier to access information, that created more work to use it.

QR Codes, or customized variations of them, have been co-opted by Snapchat very successfully. By creating their own version of a QR Code, and building a reader into their camera, Snapchat overcame prior obstacles and made them cool within their own ecosystem.

Eventually, all smartphones came equipped with QR code readers, but the public wasn't sold on their use and neither were companies. The Snapchat application is a unique success story for QR Codes. Otherwise, they have been a commercial failure.

Venture capitalists only expect 10 -20 percent of their companies to become successful, so despite touting something as the next best thing, they know that a number of stars need to be aligned for a digital innovation to succeed beyond the hype and attain that status. A winner isn't always based on the best technological innovation, but on several factors from ease of use, timing, to the right influencers singing its praises.

Some digital innovations weren't true failures, however, they failed to gain wide adoption with the general public. As Halper explained, “Google was founded by techies – techies don't put themselves into the shoes of civilians."

3 Min Read
Lifestyle

Tempted To Dial Your Ex: 5 Ways To Know Whether Or Not You Should Contact An Old Flame

Thinking of ringing up your ex during these uncertain times? Maybe you want an excuse to contact your ex, or maybe you genuinely feel the need to connect with someone on an emotional level. As a matchmaker and relationship expert, I was surprised at the start of the coronavirus quarantine when friends were telling me that they were contacting their exes! But as social distancing has grown to be more than a short-term situation, we must avoid seeking short-term solutions—and resist the urge to dial an ex.

It stands to reason that you would contact an ex for support. After all, who knows you and your fears better than an ex? This all translates into someone who you think can provide comfort and support. As a matchmaker, I already know that people can spark and ignite relationships virtually that can lead to offline love, but lonely singles didn't necessarily believe this or understand this initially, which drives them straight back to a familiar ex. You only need to tune into Love Is Blind to test this theory or look to Dina Lohan and her virtual boyfriend.

At the start of lockdown, singles were already feeling lonely. There were studies that said as much as 3 out of 4 people were lonely, and that was before lockdown. Singles were worried that dating someone was going to be off limits for a very long time. Now when you factor in a widespread pandemic and the psychological impact that hits when you have to be in isolation and can't see anyone but your takeout delivery person, we end up understanding this urge to contact an ex.

So, what should you do if you are tempted to ring up an old flame? How do you know if it's the wrong thing or the right thing to do in a time like this? Check out a few of my points before deciding on picking up that phone to text, much less call an ex.

Before You Dial The Ex...

First, you need to phone a friend! It's the person that got you through this breakup to begin with. Let them remind you of the good, the bad and the ugly before taking this first step and risk getting sucked back in.

What was the reason for your breakup? As I mentioned before, you could get sucked back in… but that might not be a bad thing. It depends; when you phoned that friend to remind you, did she remind you of good or bad things during the breakup? It's possible that you both just had to take jobs in different cities, and the breakup wasn't due to a problem in the relationship. Have these problems resolved if there were issues?

You want to come from a good place of reflection and not let bad habits make the choice for you.

Depending on the reason for the breakup, set your boundaries for how much contact beforehand. If there was abuse or toxic behaviors in the relationship, don't even go there. You can't afford to repeat this relationship again.

If you know you shouldn't be contacting this ex but feel lonely, set up a support system ahead of time. Set up activities or things to fall back on to resist the urge. Maybe you phone a different friend, join a virtual happy hour for singles, or binge watch Netflix. Anything else is acceptable, but don't phone that ex.

Write down your reasons for wanting to contact the ex. Ask yourself if this is worth the pain. Are you flea-bagging again, or is there a friendship to be had, which will provide you with genuine comfort? If it's the latter, it's okay to go there. If it's an excuse to go back together and make contact, don't.

Decide how far you are willing to take the relationship this time, without it being a rinse and repeat. If you broke up for reasons beyond your control, it's okay. If your ex was a serial cheater, phone a friend instead.

If there was abuse or toxic behaviors in the relationship, don't even go there. You can't afford to repeat this relationship again.

As life returns to a more normal state and you adjust to the new normal, we will slowly begin to notice more balance in our lives. You want to come from a good place of reflection and not let bad habits make the choice for you. Some do's and don'ts for this time would be:

  • Do: exercise ⁠— taking care of you is important during this time. It's self-care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Do: shower, brush your teeth, and get out of your sweats.
  • Don't: be a couch potato.
  • Don't: drink or eat excessively during this time. Again, remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Do: think positive thoughts everyday and write down the 3 things you are grateful for. Look at the impact of John Krasinksi's SGN. It's uplifting and when you feel good, you won't want to slide backwards.
  • Don't: contact a toxic ex. It's a backward move in a moment of uncertainty that could have a long term impact. Why continue flea bagging yourself?