The biggest wearable tech disasters

The gadgets which failed to catch on fire but did cause minor burns
Wearable tech disasters

Of all sub-genres of technology, wearable tech seems to be the most prone to disaster. It's not really a surprise - you've got an extra layer of complexity and interaction as soon as you strap a cold hard electro-gizmo to a squishy human being, and there's also the possibility that what manufacturers think is a useful piece of technology will look completely stupid when deployed on the high street.

The same field of technology that gave us the Apple Watch and Fitbit and VR headsets has also gifted us with some of the worst and weirdest products to ever be produced.

It's not all bad, though: each and every one of these flops has played a part in the ongoing evolution of wearable technology, and their failure has usually been due to the restrictions of current technology rather than a lack of vision.

Here we select some of the wearables, some retro, some of which made it to market, others that ended up in the bin and made us scratch our heads and wonder "what were you thinking?"

Virtual Boy

Basically the Oculus Rift's batty great uncle, Nintendo's first and only stab at virtual reality was released to a lukewarm reception in 1995. It got some things right - the dual-sticked pad which would become essential for 3D gaming and the nascent application of virtual reality. But the ultimate experience was disappointing, with buyers complaining of jumpy images, a lack of head tracking, and dizziness and nausea when using the device.

Just 1.26 million were sold worldwide, making it one of gaming's biggest disasters.

Now read: How VR actually works

Wearable trousers

The biggest wearable tech disasters

Okay, all trousers are technically wearable if they're living up to their billing as trousers, but here we mean that strange corner of wearable tech that tries to transform our general groin area into a gadget. One notable concept that hit the headlines in 2012 was a pair of jeans called Beauty and the Geek, that transformed your crotch into a working mouse, keyboard and speakers.

In a statement to Wired, one of the designers said the jeans meant you "didn't have to be stiff behind your screen". We'll sidestep the obvious lewd joke here, to ask have you ever been typing on a regular keyboard and thought "I feel a bit stiff doing this, if only my keyboard was under the table?" It's no, isn't it?

Basis Peak

The biggest wearable tech disasters

In June 2016, Basis Peak sales were halted after a small number, 0.2% of total smartwatches sold, were found to be overheating, causing burns, blisters and discomfort. However, all Basis Peak smartwatches were recalled by Intel in August 2016, due to overheating issues. Customers got a full refund as software updates didn't manage to fix the problem.

Unfortunately for Basis though, that wasn't the end of it. There were also reports that some customers' charging cables were overheating and melting as well. Double fail.

HRMs that don't burn you: The best heart rate monitors

Power Glove

The biggest wearable tech disasters

This accessory for the NES certainly got a lot of attention and has reached cult status. Looking like something you'd wear when doing some welding, the Power Glove was made by Mattel and two games were especially produced to use it with.

Those games sold poorly, and the mitt itself only shifted 100,000 units in the US. Those who did use it moaned that the controls were difficult to use and imprecise. Still, a brave attempt at a game changer, which you could argue paved the way for products such as the Playstation Move.

Neptune Pine

The biggest wearable tech disasters

We love great screens, boy do we, and heck, this product has a great screen. A 2.4-inch high resolution screen. The trouble is that's a hell of a lot of screen to have sitting on your wrist.

Don't get us wrong, it's a mighty device, with front and rear cameras, headphone jack, satellite navigation, compass, pedometer, built in mic and speakers… all very good, but it's gargantuan. You'd never be able to wear a long-sleeved shirt again, or even a baggy coat for that matter. If you forgot you had it on and went to scratch your head you could knock yourself out! Nope, too big, just too big.

Xybernaut Poma

It may have been years ahead of its time, but that doesn't change the fact that Xybernaut's Poma wearable computer, released in 2002, was about as portable as a dead whale. The pocket-sized Windows CE computer connects to a golf-ball size display which dangles over your eye, just waiting to inflict severe ocular trauma when you walk into that lamppost you couldn't see thanks to it obstructing your view.

Add to this a near-unusable virtual keyboard and its $1,499 price tag and you would have been better off with a straightforward PDA. “I can't recommend that anyone submit themselves to a Poma pummeling," wrote Mike Langberg in Mercury News.

Don't call it a comeback: The best smartglasses 2017

Kreyos Meteor

The biggest wearable tech disasters

Now this was a disaster in the truest sense of the word. With an original goal of raising $100,000, San Francisco company Kreyos crowdfunded $1.5m on Indiegogo in 2013 for its Kreyos Meteor smartwatch.

However, delays soon plagued the project, with manufacturing and design problems holding up the process, and even a destructive storm causing the factory to flood. When devices did eventually ship they took ages to arrive and they had technical issues and few of the promised features. Refunds were denied, angry reviews were deleted… backers weren't happy and the company announced its closure in 2014.

Ring

Described by its makers as "like magic, allowing you to control anything you want, by wearing it on your finger," it was claimed that: "You can send texts, control home appliances, and even pay your bills — all at once and in a flash."

Check out the video above that's now been viewed more than a million times, and is titled Worst Product Ever Made. "It is the most inconvenient, useless piece of hardware and software that I have ever seen," the reviewer says.

Good, bad and ugly: The best (and worst) smart rings

QR Tie

The biggest wearable tech disasters

What will help you stand out as the coolest cat in the boardroom? That's right, a tie with a QR code built in. Simply ask (or plead with) people to hold their phones up to your neckwear to bag themselves your personal details. The product raised $2,112 of its $40,000 goal.

Strangely, in the marketing shots for the QR tie, the company, who proclaimed "we control our personal brand and what it says about us", decided it would look best being worn by a topless guy, which kind of makes it seem like their brand is saying "hey we're douchbags!"

Fossil Wrist PDA

Think that Fossil has only just making smartwatches? Nope - in 2002 the US watch maker was an early entrant into the smartwatch race - so early, in fact, that it didn't have anyone to race against, and no one understood the rules of the race anyway.

Its wrist PDA ran the same Palm OS that powered more fully-fledged pocketable computers, and Fossil had to completely rewrite its code to run on such a (then) tiny device.

Poor sales led to Fossil discontinuing this admirable failure in 2005.

Fossil's 2017 collection: Q Accomplice, Modern Pursuit and more

Skully

The biggest wearable tech disasters

Skully was the Indiegogo's most successful wearable tech project ($2.4 million raised). But then the company filed for bankruptcy, as hopes of compensation for angry backers diminished.

Not only did the heads-up display promise detailed road layouts and GPS mapping, there was to be hands free music streaming and access to a rear view camera feed, with 180 degree coverage so all blind spots will be eliminated. Alas, none of the 2,000+ backers ever managed to get their head in one.

Worse for wear: The worst wearable crowdfunding campaigns

MSN Direct Smart Watch

Related to the Wrist PDA was Microsoft's MSN Direct Smart Watch, which was also made by Fossil. It was part of Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) project back in 2004, a precursor to the internet of things which used FM radio waves rather than cellular signals to transmit data to coffee makers and alarm clocks.

Thus the Smart Watch was capable of receiving weather information, news headlines and even short messages. The problem was that at this time mobile phones were rapidly becoming smarter, negating the need for a secondary rather more dumb device. The naff Dick Tracey branding can't have helped, too.

Timeline: Smartwatches that kickstarted the wearable revolution

Cat Ear Headphones

The biggest wearable tech disasters

Nothing screams "don't engage with me, I'm an awful person" like accessorising your head with glowing cat ears attached to headphones. But for just $99 you too can make sure the seat next to you on the bus is always free.

Yes, unlike some of the things in this list, they're actually produced and on sale, so someone's buying them. What makes the wearer even more unbearable is the ability to play their music (it's going to be bad music, isn't it?) outwards! Yes, the cat ears are speakers. They couldn't get anymore annoying if they tried.

Oakley Thump

In the mid-2000s it was common practice to combine everything with an MP3 player, such as Rubik's cubes and massage devices. Premium sports sunglasses manufacturer Oakley even got in on the act with its Thump sunglasses, which came complete with a couple of earbuds and up to 1GB of storage.

Unfortunately Oakley didn't think about people who'd want listen to music indoors, or not look like a complete dickhead.

Revamped: Oakley Radar Pace review

Fitbit Force

Fitbit's Force tracker came packed with cool functions, such as sleep and activity recording, an altimeter, an OLED display and 10,000 reports of skin rashes. Apparently the majority of people who bought the device were not okay with potentially developing an itchy, blistered wrist, so Fitbit was forced to issue a recall of the 1 million or so units it had sold.

Fortunately Fitbit has bounced back from the negative press - but the company has slapped health warnings on its latest trackers anyway.

Buyers guide: What Fitbit should you buy

Com 1 Android Wear

The Com 1 Android Wear smartwatch hit crowdfunding site Indiegogo back in September 2014, with the team behind it claiming that if it hit its target then the $125 device would ship in early 2015. However, the campaign disappeared with a dispute with Google over copyright the reason the project was pulled.

It seems that, unlike Android on smartphones, Android Wear isn't freely available for any Tom, Dick or Harry.

Watches that do exist: Best Android Wear watches

Tomatan

In 2015 the world was introduced to Tomatan, a wearable robot that dispenses tomatoes for people to eat while running. It weighs 18 pounds and is essentially a robot with a tomato for a head that you take for a shoulder ride feeds you the nutritious fruit with his circular metal arms.

According to Kagome, the Japanese vegetable juice company that designed Tomatan, tomatoes combat fatigue. Okay, it's not a disaster. In fact it's glorious. To be honest we just wanted an excuse to watch the video again. Enjoy.

TAGGEDWearables

1 Comment

  • Blackwizard says:

    I'm surprised to find Virtual Boy mentioned here. You just brought out Nintendo's secret shame. LOL!

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