Rejected: 5 Computer Accessories That Bombed
Designed to solve problems we never had, embarrassingly unattractive, or both, these tech gadgets were doomed from the start.
I think Retta Sirleaf's character Donna said it best on a season three episode of NBC's Parks and Recreation when a wacky ergonomic keyboard was forced upon her: "This spaceship keyboard is driving me crazy. I'm down to one word a minute and the word is 'perflipiskop.' Because I can't fly spaceships."
We get that comfort is important when typing. We get that repetitive stress injury is a problem. But do our keyboards really need to be capable of gymnastics feats in order to give us a little wrist relief?
These peripherals also suffer from a major aesthetic flaw. Apparently the creators of Donna's NASA vessel -- the SafeType vertical keyboard -- didn't get the "thin is in" memo about technology design, but sleek and sexy gadgets, no matter how orthopedically-unsound, are always going to win out over their bulky, cumbersome, and, let's face it, embarrassing ergonomic cousins. We'll type and swype away on our tiny, flat tablets until we're up to our ears in carpal tunnel syndrome.
And then we'll still wait in line for hours when the next generation comes out.
At the beginning of the century, when IBM (IBM) still had a dog in the personal computing fight, I owned a Thinkpad notebook. On the keyboard, between the G and H keys, was this odd little red button that, if I didn't know better, was some sort of homage to a couple different parts of the female genitalia. It was a laptop nub, AKA pointing stick, and I loved it.
There was so much reliability and control inside that nub because it sat on top of a hardware-linked isometric joystick. Since it was centered on the keyboard, my right hand got to stay put -- rather than jumping back and forth between the home row and the keys -- and not having to travel those several inches saved my neck and shoulders a whole lot of strain.
But, today, in our touchpad-obsessed world, the nub is becoming a relic. IBM, which had trademarked it as the TrackPoint, sold its PC business to Lenovo (LNVGY.PK) and now the Chinese hardware company sells its series of Thinkpads with the special button. The nub has also not yet completely fallen out of favor with Toshiba and its Tecras laptop, Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) EliteBooks, and Dell's (DELL) Latitude series. But, let's be honest, if Apple (AAPL) isn't doing it, it's headed for extinction.
The name alone has the Finger-Nose Stylus off to a bad start. Technology need not evoke the unsanitary habits of preschoolers. But when you actually lay eyes on this smartphone peripheral, you're immediately transported to a far darker place. Unless you want to be mistaken for a violent, sociopath gang leader in future England, by all means, strap this puppy on your face.
Finally solving that problem facing bathers who need to tweet every activity in real-time, London designer Dominic Wilcox created a hands-free stylus for touchscreens that literally sits on the end of your nose.
"I found that I could use my nose to scroll but I couldn't see where my nose was touching precisely," Wilcox said. "It was at that point that I came up with this idea of a nose extension 'finger' that would allow navigation while my phone is firmly held by one hand."
Now, thanks to Wilcox, one hand washes the other that holds the iPhone.
Kinect Adventures River Rush Raft|
Video game developers have had an amazing knack for turning kids on to recreational activities without ever getting them outside the four walls of their basements. In recent years, with the advent of wireless remotes and sensors with more interactive play, kids have at least been goaded off the couch in order to take a swing at a baseball -- even if it was imaginary. Another upside for parents was that their homes were spared the equipment clutter that came with playing virtual sports.
Well, in 2010, Microsoft (MSFT) closed the shade on that glint of parental relief when the company released its Kinect Adventures! game for the Xbox 360. To help authenticate the experience of navigating through roaring rapids, its River Rush adventure included an actual full-sized blow-up raft. Never mind that actual rafting is a seated activity and steering doesn't happen with your feet.
Microsoft did exercise some restraint in accessorizing River Rush. The game not only led kids up the creek without a paddle -- it didn't even include a life preserver.
If it's any indication of how well the game is faring with consumers, Amazon (AMZN) is letting Kinect Adventures! go. That spells the end for five separate games, all for under $12.
From Kinoki Foot Pads to the Shake Weight, we've learned to expect only the best from television-advertised mail-order products. The As-Seen-on-TV Hat is no exception.
If you love the veiled-helmet look of a beekeeper's suit but prefer the activity of watching movies over maintaining a honey bee colony, then the TV Hat is the media fashion statement you've been waiting for. Just slip your iPod, iPhone, Android, Zune, or other digital video player into the underrim pocket of the hat, pull down the built-in hood, and your own private movie theater experience is right there -- startlingly close -- before your very eyes.
And since you don't have to hold the device anymore, your hands are now free to do all sorts of things that don't require you to actually see what it is you're doing.
The TV Hat would be a great gag gift for your next White Elephant holiday exchange, but at $29.95 plus $7.95 shipping and handling, it's probably at least twenty bucks over the spending limit.
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