Technology moves pretty fast, and it’s only getting faster. As a species, we adopt new tech in record time, with each passing decade giving us both new toys and an exponentially faster adoption rate. Take the telephone, for example. It took 75 years to reach 50 million users. Radio took nearly 40 years to reach that same point while television did it in 14 years. The internet was available in 50 million homes after only 4 years. Technology keeps coming, and we’re snapping it up with increasing demand and fervour.
Angry Birds Space? It reached 50 million users in 35 days. Yes. Days.
New technology and electronics are emerging all the time. The internet wasn’t really a widely accessible “thing” until the mid-90s, and now it’s everywhere. I didn’t get my first email address until I started at the University of Ottawa in 1992 (the only problem was that no one I knew had an email account, so I had no one to write to), and now it’s the preferred method of communication, along with other texting services like Whatsapp and SMS. Speaking of which, affordable cell phones didn’t make their first appearance until 20-25 years ago, and smartphones have been around even less time. Imagine your life without the internet, or email, or your smartphone (which is probably in your hand, bag, or on the desk beside you right now). Can’t do it, right?
The International Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, is an annual technology and electronics tradeshow that takes place in Las Vegas every January. It’s revealed some rather remarkable new products over the years, including the VCR (1970), the camcorder (1981), the CD player (1981), DVDs (1996), HDTV (1998), the Xbox (2001), Blu-ray discs (2003), and 3D HDTV (2009).
But for every grand slam, there are at least a dozen strikeouts. Products that are just unnecessary, weird, silly, or yet one more example of the decline of western civilization.
Don’t believe me? Check these out.
1. Connected Everything
Wifi and Bluetooth allow us to wirelessly connect to virtually anything, and people love that. What could be better? A toaster or blender that you can turn on from downstairs while watching the game? I’ll take two.
Except not really. Do we actually need live updates from our dryer about the relative humidity of our load of laundry, or a sensor that warns us when our milk is starting to sour? Nope. No, we do not.
Sure it makes things easier, but easier is not always better. It often leads to the dumbing down and “lazification” (a word I just made up) of an entire group of people. Shouldn’t we be able to tell if our laundry is dry (you know, by touching it) or our milk is sour (by smelling it) without technology?
This year, CES revealed wifi and bluetooth-enabled toothbrushes (including the Grush Gaming Toothbrush that allows kids to play interactive games connected to the motion of their brushing, and parents to track their kid’s brushing stats), pacifiers (including the Pacif-i, which monitors your baby’s body temperature, medicine schedule, and even the baby’s physical location), flowerpots (including the Parrot Pot which can detect when your plant is thirsty and either notify you, or automatically do the watering itself), and belt (yeah, a “smart belt” called Belty that syncs with your smartphone and automatically vibrates and loosens when you’ve eaten too much, among many other “benefits”).
Is it just me, or have we crossed over into Crazy Town? Silly.
2. Panasonic Smart Mirror
File this one under “Why the Hell Would You Want That?!” The Panasonic smart mirror superimposes an image of you over your reflection. It allows you to see how you would look with a different hairstyle, or facial hair, or makeup design. That may sound fun, but would you really spend money on it and use it at home?
Beyond trying out a goatee, the mirror can also analyze your skin using its high-definition camera system and point out all your flaws. How fun! Wrinkles, age spots, crow’s feet, and everything else you don’t want to see or hear about. It then makes suggestions for treatments and products that you could use to fix each issue. President of Panasonic’s consumer electronics Julie Bauer says it “is not a gimmick, it’s a serious technology solution.”
A mirror is supposed to reflect. Not change. Smart mirror? No, thanks. Survey says...silly.
3. Tao Chair
Touting itself as “the invisible gym in your living room”, the Tao Chair is something that I’m pretty sure marks the end of anyone’s efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A reclining chair gym system. Yes. Just what the world needs.
The website asks: What if you could burn calories while watching your favourite TV show...at home?
The answer? You have officially given up.
The chair says it works various muscle groups with resistance training and tracks your progress and calories burned. You can see it displayed on the arm rest. Or you could get up, and do some real exercise.
An “invisible gym” hidden in a glorified La-Z-Boy? No. Just no. That’s silly.
4. "New" Sony Walkman
Seriously, what year is it? I remember the Sony Walkman. It was awesome. And yellow (at least the Sports model I had was). And it finally allowed you to listen to Bryan Adams or Cyndi Lauper’s new cassette while out and about. Radical! It debuted in 1979 but really hit its stride in the 80s. Bon Jovi never sounded so good.
Fast-forward (see what I did there...if you ever used a cassette tape, you’ll get it) to 2015. Sony unveiled its next-generation of Walkman at CES. The ZX2. For the low, low price of $1120 (no, that is not a misprint), you can grab the 128GB model, designed to play ultra-HD audio files.
Um...does anyone still do that? Don’t we all (or most of us anyway) simply subscribe to Spotify or Rdio or Google Music?
This player would seem to have a very, very small potential market...if it exists at all. How many people are willing to spend over a grand for what is basically an iPod, but at nearly five times the price? I concede that are are some people that care deeply about sound quality, but the vast majority simply don’t.
Not well thought out, Sony. Not well thought out. I call silly on it.
5. Robo Rumpshaker
Um...what? I’m not even sure how to describe this one. Have you ever seen a photograph of a gym from the 30s, 40s, or 50s? Chances are, it included some kind of vibrating, shaking contraption. You stood on it, wrapped a strap or belt around your waist, turned it on, and let the machine do all the work for you while the pounds just melted off. Magic!
But, of course, it didn’t really do much, and the machines eventually faded from existence and memory.
Until now. They’re back, baby, and better than ever...because now they’re brightly coloured with a cute and “with it” name. Enter the Robo Rumpshaker. All of the campy nostalgia with none of the science or results.
The line to purchase starts over here. What? No one? Let me spell it out for you, Robo Rumpshaker. S-i-l-l-y.
Technology evolves at breakneck speed, but just because something can be done (or reimagined, or brought back, or rebooted), doesn’t mean it should. There’s real innovation taking place all the time, across every industry and field. These five? Not so much. Do we really have nothing better to do with our time and resources?
What’s the weirdest, silliest, wackiest "innovation" you’ve seen recently? Leave your additions in the comments below...