Gadgets That Didn't Live Up to the Hype: A Reflection on 2024's Tech Flops

Fast forward into the second decade of the 21st century and the breakneck pace of technological innovation shows no sign of slowing. Every year, consumers salivate with expectation as to which gadgets will genuinely change the way in which we live, work, play and everything in between. Not everything sparkles and not everything truly glitters. In 2024, there were a number of products that some have deemed are headed straight for the gadget graveyard. Today’s focus is on the tech that promised the moon, and ended up leaving offenders in the dust.

AI Hardware: The Godfather of Duds

As the true price of entry into the smart home market, it’s important to make sure the hardware that runs it is top-notch. Consider how the Amazon Echo revolutionised the world, with millions of units sold and hailed as the definitive gold standard for voice assistants. The concept was a no-brainer and Amazon seized the market share early on. Until then, the inner workings of the Echo were something of a mystery; hook it up to a smart speaker, choose a traditional power outlet, connect it to the internet, and let it do the rest.

The Rabbit R1: More Fizzle Than Sizzle

The Rabbit R1 arrived at CES 2024 with all the hipness of electric-orange eye candy and the 1997 throwback of a Tamagotchi rebooted for the future. The pitch of the device espoused the benefits of a palm-sized AI pro, one that was supposed to streamline your existence by ordering rides and meals – but users kept finding themselves in push-button purgatory, coaxing the device along as it stumbled through basic tasks. The AI was also the most capable on the market – which only made its missteps all the more aggravating. It struggled to understand natural language the way solutions such as ChatGPT did.

Humane Ai Pin: A Promise Unfulfilled

The Humane Ai Pin was anointed with hopes and dreams. With a pedigree that included being designed by former Apple employees, the device seemed destined for success. Its screenless and projection-based design was groundbreaking. Then it shipped and its shoddy projection and overheating issues meant that it burned as brightly as it had flashed. Starting at £1,300 with a mandatory subscription, the Humane Ai Pin didn’t feel like much of a revolution in the digital future.

Apple Vision PRO: A Mixed Reality Experience

There was something about Apple’s Vision Pro that harkened to a new dimension of technology and humanity coexisting. Its hand-and-eye tracking innovations held promise to create a veritable mixed reality utopia. But it soon became clear that history stood to sabotage Apple’s revolutionary glimmers of technological glory when it realised one key design element that could make long-distance travel a pain. Though astronomically advanced, Apple’s mixed reality goggles had one unforgivable flaw. In fact, its unforgivable flaws revealed a void between the Bermuda-triangle circle of aspiration and reality. Here was this shiny thing promising so much. And it could very well deliver on its promise … if it were only bearable.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: A Stellar Concept with Flawed Execution

Samsung customers are a devout bunch, and I’m no exception: even though the camera doesn’t always get the best review, the S Pen and clever camera features kept me in the Samsung faithful, meaning I was first in the queue for the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: the best Galaxy yet, supposedly, with a fantastic camera. Except of course, only some users agree: it’s not all that easy to ‘get the best pic’, even when the phone is supposed to do it all for you. Indeed, it’s tricky to get away from the impression that, even with the big players, we’re not quite there, yet.

"AI PCs": A Glimpse into the Future or a Momentary Gimmick?

This crop of laptops, dubbed ‘AI PCs’, promised, once again, to deliver AI-enhanced personal computing like we’ve never seen before. In reality, it was less of a revolution, and more evolution. The subtle benefits offered by their AI features suggest that we still might be a good few years away from experiencing the kind of transformation that AI could bring to personal computing – but with more powerful AI-optimised chips on the horizon, perhaps the promise of AI PCs is finally on the way.

Navigating the Hype: The Pursuit of True Technological Innovation

If we want to use those artefacts to learn about the technology of a time and a place, we need to acknowledge the path of messy misfires and learning curves that arrived at some functioning device or another, and think about the hopes for consumer technological progress bound up in each. The potential as well as the pragmatic reality of those neon-glowing gadgets should immerse us in the same kind of temporality: longings and dreams mingled with earthy scale-models of everyday experience. Ambition and pragmatism can have their share of surprises, and can both reward us with the same payoff. They might not reliably lead to the same ecstasy of experiencing and knowing at the end of our technological time-tunnel in 2024. But if we have the good sense to approach the realm outside our present with an attitude that allows for learning, these things will be worth appreciating along the way.

Understanding the "PRO" in Technology

The word ‘pro’ has become a ubiquitous feature of gadgets and technology advertising, used to refer to a device that is intended for a professional user or to signal that it offers cutting edge features and capabilities. In this context, ‘pro’ indicates a level of performance, quality or sophistication that is intended to meet the needs of users whose demands exceed those of regular versions. Our list of gadgets that failed when they were introduced in 2024 suggests that having ‘pro’ in a product’s name is no guarantee of success. It’s a reminder that there’s no such thing as a ‘free pro’ – there’s always a price to pay, both in terms of the real or imagined demands made of users and in the degree to which this assumption can deliver genuine value for them.

Jun 18, 2024
<< Go Back