Unfulfilled promises! That is what has happened in recent years with technologies and products that promised us everything and that remained in the attempt.
Some wanted to sell us the wonders of modular mobiles, messaging bots or 3D printing, but the truth is that neither those nor many other technologies have managed to materialize. We wanted to review what has happened since 2014 or 2015 in the segment, and here you have the great technological failures of recent years.
Project ARA and modular mobiles
When Motorola began the journey of the so-called Project Ara that Google appropriated, this project became one of the most striking ideas of recent years in the field of mobility.
Suddenly it would be feasible to build a mobile piece, as we do with PCs, something that would theoretically lengthen the life of the mobile to be able to replace only those parts of it that stopped working or could do better. The prodigious Fairphone also adopted that modular personality, although his main challenge was to offer an ethical smartphone that never quite triumphed – he keeps trying – despite his good intentions.
However the idea failed : technical advances occurred, but the pace at which they did was too slow and with certain limitations. Today there are some phones with a certain modular personality (the Moto Z are the best known), but the idea in general does not seem to have caught on among the general public.
Theranos and the biotechnological revolution
The idea of Theranos, as our colleague Javier Jiménez told us, “was simple but revolutionary: create a manual device that would allow real-time blood tests”.
That great promise of biotechnology turned its creator, Elizabeth Holmes, into the “youngest billionaire made-to-itself in the world”, thanks to a valuation of 9,000 million in a company that maintained a huge secrecy.
That ended up exploding: the blood tests that had promised the gold and the Moor were unreliable and invalid, and those that worked did it with Siemens technology. That was a gigantic pantomime, a false revolution that promised everything without ever demonstrating anything.
If there is a problem with that mobile technology that surrounds us, that is the autonomy of the batteries. These compact devices can not count on large batteries, and despite the improvements in efficiency we all wonder how basic battery technology has not changed much in recent years.
We have seen all kinds of developments that promised to double or triple the capacity or energy density of the batteries with the replacement of some of their materials, but the reality is that none of those projects -or others that solved other problems – has been implemented in mass.
In fact, the only thing we have achieved in recent years has been to benefit from the rapid charging or wireless charging technology available in some of our devices. These are sensible improvements, of course, but the big problem at the base continues to exist, and we all hope that one day or another we finally have a battery technology that is a real revolution.
The overwhelming success of instant messaging as a means of communication meant that two years ago an interesting new aspect appeared to take advantage of the phenomenon: the bots integrated into messaging clients.
These bots were something like the “text version” of the well-known voice assistants. Often surprising and promising tools that allowed to interact with diverse platforms and products through written commands, and not voice.
The idea was not new (in IRC they were used for more than two decades) but suddenly all the great ones of the technology bet by those bots of courier. And yet everyone (WeChat, Skype, Facebook Messenger) ended up failing: for certain things, it seems, people preferred to continue speaking out loud. The revolution of the bots was not such in the world of messaging.
Wearables that end up getting tired
The appearance of Pebble in the technological firmament was one of the most talked about in recent years. The company that made us all dream about the revolution of wearables started the fever of smart watches, but also the quantifying bracelets came out reinforced.
That project wanted to convince us that just as the computer replaced the mobile phone, the mobile would replace the clock. It was not like that, and soon it was found that many of these wearables were too limited by their own dimensions: they were actually more accessories of our smartphone than anything else. Many ended up retiring from the market.
It is true that the phenomenon of the Werables has not disappeared – that they tell Apple Watch or Fitbit – but the truth is that once again the promises were not fulfilled. The idea was fantastic, but all this time has shown that these products, although interesting and popular for certain scenarios (sports and especially health, little by little more present in them), are probably not the revolution that the manufacturers wanted us to to sell.
Google Glass and a world of smart glasses
Everything was disgust and fascination in the Google Glass. Seeing those parachutists broadcast live their jump through this product in June 2012 was spectacular, and those connected glasses seemed almost a science fiction product for everything they did and had … for better or for worse.
Sergey Brin’s flagship project captured the imagination of the industry and users, and just being able to test them for a few minutes became for many an event. The possibility of having information accessible by hitting voice or touch commands or recording video and taking pictures so strikingly caught us.
That first revolution of augmented reality came to nothing. The high price of glasses was added to the concern for developments that could take advantage of it and especially for privacy issues (“hey, are you recording me with those glasses?”). Google glasses are now having a second chance, but without putting forward this massive revolution.
Kinect wanted us to get up from the seat
When Microsoft began to market Kinect, it did so with the intention of going one step further than Nintendo had gone on its spectacular Nintendo Wii.
The gesture control system seemed to be able to go beyond the proposal of the Japanese, and Microsoft bet so much on Kinect that it was wrong in the bet. Neither the games managed to fulfill the promise, nor other parallel developments but even more interesting (rehabilitation of patients with injuries, for example).
Kinect ended up being a condemnation in the launch of the original Xbox One, and that revolution that raised Microsoft to play with standing and gestures was not much beyond what we proposed Wii Sports. Microsoft realized the error too late, and by then the PlayStation 4 had already broken his waist. Microsoft, of course, had to play again.
Spectacles and another threat to privacy
When Snapchat announced the Spectacles he did it with a fantastic approach. Those small clips of 10 seconds recorded with a curious circular format (goodbye to portrait and landscape mode) seemed to be the perfect solution for an industry that was still unsuccessful in this type of livestreaming scenarios.
The rush to share that social networks have made us make this device was proposed as a perfect solution especially for a young audience that welcomed them with enthusiasm. The demand seemed spectacular … until it stopped being so.
The Spectacles ended up not interesting almost anything. Sales were minimal and the new threats posed to our privacy were one of the reasons for a device that perhaps took the phenomenon of social networks too far.
The ill-fated Electronic ID
The National Identity Document (DNI) needed a renewal that would adapt it to the times, and that ambition culminated with the creation of the Electronic DNI (DNIe), which thanks to its smart chip promised to become a perfect means of identification and authentication in all kinds of scenarios.
The promise ended up being almost nothing. Despite the initial impulse and the subsidy of 300,000 readers of DNIe, the technology worked in a limited way (obsolete browsers, endless verifications) or, simply, it did not do it.
The problems did not stop there, and a few months ago we could see how the security promised by this platform did not exist. The chaos and vulnerabilities caused more confusion to finish burying – at least for the moment – a document that we continue to use as it did 50 years ago: as if it did not have the smart chip.
Amazon Fire Phone
We all expect a lot from the technological giants, and for years we talked about the potential appearance of an Amazon own smartphone. That device ended up appearing thanks to the launch of the Amazon Fire Phone, but that product proved to be a complete nonsense.
The product was designed to revolutionize the way we buy products. Its four front cameras posed a “dynamic perspective” that had very few practical applications.
Although there were interesting ideas like the “FireFly” button to recognize objects and offer us their price on Amazon, that product was condemned for a crazy price for the services it offered. In the end the Fire Phone was just a product for us to buy even more at Amazon, not to solve any essential problem in the world of mobility. The idea could now have a second chance, but Jeff Bezos’ company will have to be careful with his approach.
Windows Phone before the abyss
Some believe that Microsoft’s mobile platform is not dead and is out there, but the truth is that the failure of its numerous attempts in this segment has been resounding, something ironic if we take into account that Microsoft has been trying much harder than any its two great competitors.
Those first steps with Windows CE and Windows Mobile ended up leading to a strategy in which a Windows Phone more capable seemed to have a certain future. The purchase of Nokia was a big mistake for a platform that would soon try a radical change with the launch of Windows 10 and universal applications.
That was not enough: the platform was still very green in mobile, and although the interesting idea of convergence had a journey, the reality was clear: Windows on mobile phones did not convince Android and iOS users, happy with mature ecosystems and Hardly achievable in quantity and quality of the software catalog. It is difficult to know if Microsoft will try again, but that particular revolution of universal applications has apparently been dead and forgotten … although some of us still have faith in a new opportunity.
3D printers and the new industrial (domestic) revolution
The possibility that one could program a customized application or game revolutionized our world, but that software part lacked part of the hardware: we continued to depend on the manufacturers to have physical products to work with or enjoy (or other things more controversial).
The 3D printers seemed to change all that. Suddenly anyone could make all kinds of objects with a technology that took that ability to homes and that was as striking as it was attractive.
That revolution has not curdled as we thought. Perhaps we were too enthusiastic about a technology that despite its virtues had important limitations (materials, speed, and even cost) for most users for whom it seemed to be able to make that change. 3D printers are still advancing and demonstrating amazing capabilities, but some of us were expecting (surely wrongly) much more.
Nexus Q, music is not as social as you thought
The might Nexus Q from Google did not raise such a huge revolution as other platforms, technologies and products that have spoken before, but his idea was certainly unique: suddenly the music wanted to be more social.
That was the risky proposal of a product that was risky also in everything else. That particular quasi-spherical design and its hardware proposal made it attractive and promising, but the criticism rained from the first moment.
In fact the Nexus Q became the one that is probably the most resounding failure of Google at the hardware level. There have been many others in its software and services (we are left in the inkwell Google+, for example), but its price and benefits did not convince anyone. Even so that effort was not sterile, because the Chromecast picked up the baton with overwhelming success.
Bonus Track: These technologies still do not demonstrate everything they promised
All these great breakthroughs in technology and products that gave us much less than what they promised are joined by some trends that, despite their projection, still do not demonstrate everything that their creators and defenders put forward.
It is the case of course of the cryptocurrency and the block chain. The former were in reality only part of the revolutionary blockchain’s promise, but its practical validity remains debatable. The chain of blocks does seem to have a promising future, but again we come across an apparently fantastic idea that still does not show it clearly.
We also feel cheated by virtual reality and augmented reality, two technological platforms that have been too much pigeonholed in the video game segment and that seemed to have much more potential both in them and outside them. The latest advances from companies such as Apple, Google or Microsoft or Magic Leap allow for some optimism, but we still do not see that ‘killer app’ that needs both virtual reality and augmented reality.
The third of those great trends that many of us continue to ask ourselves is the Internet of Things, which poses a hyperconnected world and in which the benefits to society are enormous. A world in which technology will be ahead of our needs thanks to millions of sensors that will collect information without stopping (even more, with all that implies). For now the idea is relegated to that segment maker with diverse (often incompatible) platforms that try to convince us of a future that we do not see for now clearly.