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

5min read

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."

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."