Yes we know, there are many of you who think that writing an article on how dumb new tech is only serves to illustrate what nerd your writer is. But before any of the self-professed techies balk at this list, or at least the concept of it, let’s take a step back and look at the tech bubble for a minute. We don't need to point out that we're currently living through an unprecedented level of technological progression. We are all phenomenally fortunate to have resources for work and pleasure that the generation just before us could not have possibly imagined. But as with all bubbles, society can get a little carried away itself, and there's where the weirder and less welcome ideas and movements come about.
If you want the first example of the tech bubble getting a little out of control, then look no further than the crazy selling prices of so many startups, or the public offerings of the more established tech giants. While good ideas are usually instantly spotted, the bad and the ugly also sometimes creep through. After all, it's in man’s nature, to invent, disrupt and generally try to better himself, and the following list - while obviously focusing on failed attempts - is a demonstration of this. While tech may not be able to answer all our problems - at least not yet anyway - these facepalm trends illustrate some enthusiastic if ill-advised attempts to do so. From the simplistic to the bizarre and the downright overpriced, here are the top ten tech trends we're rolling our eyes at.
10 Ironically Bad Games
Recently, we looked at the most popular toys of the last 25 years, and right up there was the Gameboy, the Super Nintendo, and of course the Playstation. That list was testament to the advances that have been made in the world of graphics and computer gaming. No longer is the computer game the exclusive to the college geek - everyone is now a part of this trend, whether you're a regular Steam user or you just partake in a bit of Candy Crush on your smartphone. And yet, we still harbour a soft spot for the blocky, two-dimensional platform design of the Mario games of yore. Case in point - Flappy Bird. Yes, the game was never intended as a display of man’s superior gaming and graphics skills, but we all know that we can do better than derivative retro irony. There’s no need to rest on your laurels here guys. Not when glorious games like Goat Simulator exist.
9 Smartphone airbags
No, this is not a belated April Fool; this is in fact the brainchild of none other than Amazon. The device is not on the market - yet- but it has been patented by the company. The product was developed for those of us who have experienced that sickening fear as we drop our precious and, let’s face it, expensive smartphones on the ground.
The airbags double as buoyancy aids in water and the idea is that, much like a car, the airbags would come built into the device. Surely a simpler solution for all mobile manufacturers would be to use more durable materials that don't smash on the slightest impact...?
8 Miss a phone call? Get a vibrating tattoo!
Another in the series of bizarre patented ideas that somehow (!) have not yet made it to market, this one comes from Finnish mobile giant, Nokia. In 2011, the company decided that too many of us were missing calls and that there had to be a solution to keep us connected 24/7. For most people, there is: you raise the volume of your ringtone, place your phone in plain sight, or use a wireless device to answer it. Nokia, however, took this a step further. They developed the vibrating tattoo, so that you'll never miss a call again. As the name suggests, your tattooed skin notifies you of a call, as ferromagnetic materials grafted to the skin will vibrate when you receive a call or text. Particularly pesky when you're screening calls during those private or sensitive moments...
7 The SaaS Systems that remind you to be a Company
Now, we are all guilty of this next one: installing software and cloud-based systems that will streamline our business or personal life, from banking to billing to file storage. The problem is, these are the inevitable basics of any business life. So if you can’t remember to invoice the people who owe you money without a software system, then you should probably brush up on your business and entrepreneurial skills. We’re just saying.
6 Big Data Banter
Another of the buzzwords of the day, everyone and their mother seems to be jumping on the big data bandwagon. From big data storage, solutions, insights, whatever they're calling it, big data seems to be the answer to all our problems. So long, that is, as you know what to do with it. And, more importantly, so long as the data people provide is accurate.
One of the biggest problems facing researchers since time began is people relating how they would like to behave and act, rather than how they truly do. While some of our habits collected in anonymous data by big data centres may give a truer insight into what we are all up to and when, there is still room for error. And on top of this, we still have to create solutions in the real world from all this data. Moreover, do we even know who is collecting our data, and to what end? Who really reads the Ts & Cs? Now there’s the real problem.
Oh man, there is seemingly no end to the lambasting of Google’s foray into the social playing field. And we say as Google+ account holders. But therein lies the problem. Many of us never wanted to have Google+ accounts. We were happy with our Gmail emails or our YouTube accounts. Then one day someone had a genius idea of bringing all of it onto the same social playing field, where we would all talk about... well, nothing, as it happens. Aside from the lack of genuine user interaction on the network, many account holders do not take kindly to Google using this increasingly integrated single sign-in system to gather their data. For most of us, Google is an integral feature of our internet experience, be it through our use of an Android device, the search tool, Chrome or Gmail. Of course, the more you use these under your name, the more data Google has, and once you sign in, Larry Page and co. can monitor your every move. And that's before you factor in any GPS features.
4 The fork that is your Mom
Devices that aim to replace your mom seems to be an emerging sub-genre of the tech world, from life tracking and fitness monitors, to devices that track how eat, sleep, and interact with the world around you. Enter, then, the HapiFork - the device that monitors what you eat. The premise is simple; if you eat too much or too quickly, the fork vibrates to tell you to slow down or cut it out altogether. The slower you eat, the more likely you are to become conscious of the fact that you are full, and in turn to stop eating. That of course if presuming you listen to the advice of your vibrating fork, who reports your habits to your smartphone. The $100 fork however has no way of making sure you take on its sterling advice, rendering the product somewhat less revolutionary. Basically, it tells you that if you eat too much, you'll get fat - is that really $100 worth of wisdom?
3 The Mother who is, literally, a Mom
If you thought a fork telling you what to do was unnecessary, then you definitely won't like this. Described by Sense, the creators of 'Mother', as “The care you need, the care you want,” Mother is a device shaped like a Russian stacking doll that wants to know what you do, when you do it, and how long you do it for. Sensors "detect and understand the movements of objects and people" and relay this all to your smart devices.
While this is ostensibly marketed as a way to keep things in your daily life running smoothly and safely, there's no doubt this could be abused by nosy, invasive family members and partners. And, do we really need a $200 sensor to remind us we slept well but we're running low on milk? The creepy, blinking face sitting on your coffee table and overseeing your life seems to be a tool for reducing your independence from technology - and your independent thought - to less than the minimum.
2 Wearable Tech that will Blatantly Break
Most of us probably already know the pain of having a favourite gadget, tech or otherwise, malfunction. You feel silly, adrift, and betrayed by the product in which you had invested so much time. Then smartphones come along, compounding all these emotions with the high level of practical and financial loss you will feel should your tech gadget break. Then some - we’re looking at you Google - decided that we would be much better off if we integrated technology into ourselves.
No, not in a weird Nokia vibrating tattoo way, just in a hipster trend-setting way. And as hipsters had already declared glasses cool, why not tech glasses? Here's why, Google: because glasses are awkward to wear, require regular maintenance, are highly fragile, and seriously expensive. And those are just the ones that correct your vision. Google glass is something we’ve been hearing about for a long time, but it's been slow to come on the market. The most recent price estimate has been $1,500. For that kind of cash you had better be sure they don’t break, ever.
1 Wearable tech that will blatantly get stolen
Here, then, is the second problem with Google Glass, and to a lesser extent wearable tech such as smart watches and life tracking devices: they can all be stolen. And by virtue of where on the body it is worn, the easiest target will be Google Glass. So unless you want to rock up to the latest disruptive tech event wearing one of those fetching granny chains affixed to the back of your device, we suggest you think carefully before blowing your earnings on Google Glass. As for the other wearable tech devices? Just have a think back on how many pieces of jewellery/watches/smartphones/iPods you've damaged or had stolen. If the answer is very few, then maybe wearable tech is for you. If you've already made a mental list of items that went missing or were stolen, then perhaps this trend is not for you.