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The annals of the history of technology are full of gadgets never got to know about marketing. Here is a tribute to technological demos that perhaps did not have the credentials to reach the shops, but do not deserve oblivion.
Some surprised me, others I already knew, but it was nice to rediscover them. Take a look too.
1 Nes CD-ROM (Yes, a Sony and Nintendo Playstation)
Il Super NES CD-ROM it was supposed to be a collaboration between Nintendo and Sony when it was first revealed at CES 1991. It is the story of a love that ended badly, for a betrayal: when Sony discovered that Nintendo was also in talks with its rival Philips. The approximately 200-300 prototypes of Super NES CD-ROMs, used for presentations and various fairs, have since been the subject of a furious hunt among collectors. The latest price, for a piece sold last year, is 350.000 euros per prototype.
The break with Nintendo produced a surge of pride from Sony, which she chose to go it alone. He developed the idea for this disc-based console and made it the record-breaking PlayStation in stores.
2 Fujitsu Lifebook
Today the idea of a small computing unit that fits into a larger enclosure to become a laptop, camera, or even a phone doesn't seem as extravagant as it once did. In 2012, however, the concept Fujitsu Lifebook it was one of the most enticing visions of the future tech, ahead even of the present times.
Originally designed by Prashant Chandra As a presentation at a Fujitsu design competition, the Lifebook concept, as mentioned, was clearly an idea ahead of its time. A device designed precisely on the principle of "shared hardware". A platform that combines components distributed across tablets, phones, cameras and laptops to create an entire ecosystem with less redundancy. For example, the sharing of optical sensors or physical memories.
The complexity (for the time) of the project kept him well away not only from the shops, but even from the development of a greater number of prototypes. There is practically only one project.
3 Polaroid GL20 sunglasses camera
Well before Google Glass, Polaroid partnered with pop star Lady Gaga to design a sunglass camera, called GL20.
First announced at CES 2011, the GL20s were inspired by the custom sunglasses Lady Gaga wore to concerts. They featured an integrated camera and two outward-facing 1,5-inch OLED displays. Unfortunately for such a gadget, it was possible to transfer photos only with USB: with Bluetooth it was possible to send them only to a Polaroid instant printer. Not a great choice, I must say.
Not even Gaga, one of the most unassailable pop stars on the planet, managed to get the project started. The last time this contraption was heard, Polaroid said, "We will share more details when more information becomes available." Yes, certainly.
4 Apple AirPower
It's not often that Apple fails (at least in recent years), but after unveiling a groundbreaking multi-device wireless charging mat in the fall of 2017, it has to be called "Who Saw". AirPower Apple is not yet seen in stores, nor anywhere else.
AirPower had the noble goal of being able to charge multiple devices at the same time (iPhone, AirPods, Apple Watch) without too many problems. I don't want to make it long: Apple's engineers simply couldn't figure out how to make AirPower a reality that respects the demanding standards of the Cupertino company. In 2019, Apple finally admitted defeat.
5 Google Project Ara
One of the most ambitious concepts on this list, Google's Ara Project was an attempt to bring desktop PC upgradeability and repairability applied to the mobile world to stores through the use of small interchangeable modules.
The idea was simple: upgrade a component of the phone like a camera or an entire display, replacing that single component instead of buying an entirely new device.
Each phone was based on a modular “shell” with multiple attachment points for all types of modules. From standard components like batteries and CPUs to more specialized modules like air quality sensors.
Google believed in the project - it went as far as scheduling large-scale tests and even establishing a retail launch program, but Project Ara it was canceled in 2016 before a single unit hit stores.
6 Tesla Station for Battery Swap
To alleviate the “range anxiety” of its customers, Tesla already showed an innovative battery replacement system in 2013. A swap battery with all the trimmings: instead of waiting for recharging, replace the entire battery pack with a fully charged unit, in a few minutes.
The demonstration was impressive, but the technology was in fact impractical. Tesla has decided to simply increase the charging speed in its Supercharger network rather than try to take on the challenge of moving and repairing thousands (or millions) of batteries everywhere.
We've all been there. After a big meal, a belt feels a little too tight, sometimes you just need to loosen it a little. But instead of doing it yourself, why not let a smart belt do it for you? Well, that's exactly what Belty should have done. And everyone is already imagining shops full of these gadgets. What could go wrong?
With an electric motor capable of connecting to the smartphone, Belty was actually more sophisticated than it looked. He could loosen the belt every time the user sits down to, to increase comfort, and he could adapt at any time to the pressure exerted by the body by changing the grip while keeping the pants up.
Nothing, despite these prodigies evidently the world was not yet ready to let a machine do even such a simple thing. Goodbye shops!
8 Samsung ballie
There have been several attempts to make little "rolling friends" over the years. All failed. Samsung's Ballie, however, looked like the best of the bunch.
Ballie made her debut just a year ago, at CES 2020. With the global pandemic erupted shortly thereafter, Ballie seemed the perfect companion to cheer up quarantined people. More or less. To take it to stores, Ballie was even advertised as a toy for bored pets, or as a security camera. More than a year and a half later, Ballie is still a guess, and at this point, it looks like it will never come out.
9 Segway s-pod
With a look a bit halfway between Roman chariot and Wall-E, this S-Pod seemed like an opportunity for Segway to assert its leadership in eccentric means of transportation. Unlike the original Segway, the S-Pod was controlled with a simple joystick.
Initially, the S-Pod was supposed to hit stores in the third quarter of 2020, before expanding to more markets in 2021. But to date, as of this writing, not a single model has been sold. Maybe Segway will one day make a bang with this mobile chair, but let me question the future prospects of this small and ambitious two-wheeler.