“It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary” was how one attendee summed up this year’s show. And, indeed, the biggest debuts of last week seemed, well, not particularly big. TVs were thinner, cameras zoomier, 3D a step closer to fruition. But game changers were few and far between. And perhaps that’s because companies have learned to tone down their promises and time frames.
It’s not just big technologies. A few years ago, a grand, gadget-filled future was just around the corner. There’d be cameras that print their own photos! And cell phones with Skype! When you wanted to turn off your TV, you’d just wave your hand and when you wanted to turn on your toys you’d just think hard. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that 2009 was to be the year of fulfilled promise. All those products we’d just about given up hope on were launching at long last. If only we could say it was worth the wait.
Launch the list here for a look at the letdowns.
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Dawn of the New Polaroid
Last year Polaroid stopped production of their game-changing film, aiming their energies toward the strictly digital and breaking the hearts of artistes and casting agents worldwide. And so surely it is no coincidence that they then finally brought to market the PoGo—a digital camera that incorporates Polaroid’s pint-size, inkless printer for producing photos on the go. Unfortunately, it sort of sucks. The color comes out awful, the camera is bulky and the one true joy of taking Polaroids, voided. They might get this to work sooner or later. In the meantime, expect to wait.
Look Ma, No Wires!
To hear a wireless charging company tell it, wires are a bane of modern existence so strong that nothing short of total annihilation is necessary. But even if you accept that as gospel, the solution falls short. Throw your devices on the long-awaited PowerMat and they’ll be charged sans wires. But first you have to buy a separate “skin” for each gadget in order for the magnetic induction to work. If there’s none for your desired chargee, no problem! You can buy a universal one that plugs into any device with a, um, wire.
Skype to Go
At last, Skype is available for download on mobile phones. Freedom from big telco! Liberation from contracts! Skype for all! Not quite. It works over your mobile connection, not Wi-Fi—which means more connectivity, but you can’t just load it on an unlocked device and go. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, to other phones come in at the Skype rates (low, but not free), which begs the question: why bother?
This one might be somewhat unfair, as the “Gesture Control” TV’s not yet on the market, but with working prototypes everywhere, lets assume the tech’s not going to change much between now and then. When it was far enough away to be purely theoretical, gesture-based technology seemed incredibly cool and game changing. Up close, it just seems useless. At the Hitachi booth, demonstrators well-trained in the art of concise hand movements, flicked their wrists to change channels instantly. The mortals flared about considerably more, but eventually got it. Still, the consensus of nearly everyone watching was: “is a remote really so unwieldy?” Far be it from us to shoot down cool technology for the sake of cool technology, but we need more convincing.
Mind Control Toys
Think hard. Think really, really hard. Having fun yet? Mattel’s Mind Flex translates your brainwaves into commands in order to move a small ball through an obstacle course. Sure, it may be a revolutionary use of EEG technology, but do you really want to concentrate that hard while playing a game?