Today we’re paying homage to the failed ideas that took the world by storm. Failure is considered synonymous with defeat. But what if we looked at failure as an opportunity for growth and learning?
What Can We Learn from Ideas That Have Failed?
Innovation and failure often go hand in hand. Google for example, is defined by its successes. However, for Google’s 271 successful tools to date, 282 products have been killed.
Some of the greatest success stories have come from pivots and learning from failed ideas. Occasionally, it’s not about the product, but rather the demands of the market at that time. Other times, the product is ahead of its time and just needs a little patience. Then there are cases where the product is simply a lie, like in the infamous case of Theranos!
Doomed From the Start: 4 Failed Ideas
The following ideas met an unfortunate demise, giving them a special place in the failure hall of shame!
1. Google Glass
I’m sure all the tech enthusiasts can recall the hype around Google Glass when it was first released in 2013.
The idea behind Google Glass was to create a hands-free, AR experience. A wearable smart device with a built-in screen– essentially aiming to revolutionize the tech world! So what went wrong?
Google Glass faced criticism because of its built-in camera and its potential in being used to record people without consent. There were several publicized incidents in which people wearing Google Glass were asked to leave establishments such as bars and restaurants.
Additionally, the device’s high cost, combined with the fact that it was only available to a select group of early users, meant that it never really had the opportunity to gain widespread adoption.
While the technology behind Google Glass was impressive, it was not enough to make the device a success in the consumer market. The project was ultimately discontinued in 2015, with Google shifting its focus to developing AR technologies for businesses and industries rather than consumers.
This health tech is probably top on the list of failed ideas, mostly due to the name being synonymous with malpractice and fraud. The founder, Elizabeth Holmes – who built a cult-like following claimed to revolutionize the medical world with the minilab.
This at-home blood testing kit claimed to be as faster, cheaper, and more accurate than any lab equipment had been so far.
Theranos is proof that a promising idea can mask even the most outrageous of lies if packaged correctly. The company raised a whopping $700 million in VC funding and was valued at $10 billion at its peak in 2014, with Holmes quickly becoming a media sensation. However, a whistleblower exposed the company for inaccurate results and negligence, and it swiftly met its downfall in 2018.
A Silicon Valley startup, Juicero was an IoT at-home cold-pressed juice device, initially hailed as a disruptor in the food industry.
Imagine raising approximately $120 million in valuation only to have your product be exposed for having a bad business model. One of the main points of criticism was the high cost of the Juicero machine and its subscription service. The machine itself was priced at $400, and users had to purchase pre-packaged juice bags from Juicero for $7 each.
Juicero met its demise when Bloomberg published an article in 2017 revealing that the juice bags could be squeezed by hand. This led to widespread ridicule and a loss of confidence in the company’s technology.
Similar to the case of Theranos, Juicero’s story has been widely cited as an example of the excesses and hype of the Silicon Valley startup scene. This failed tech idea is a cautionary tale for investors and entrepreneurs alike. Despite its impressive funding, Juicero ultimately failed to deliver a product that was truly innovative or valuable to consumers. Its downfall serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining a critical eye and healthy skepticism in the face of big promises and shiny new gadgets.
4. Project Ara
Modular smartphones sound too good to be true – and unfortunately for Google’s Project Ara, they are!
The vision behind modular smartphones was to allow users to customize and modify their phones using a tile-based design, allowing for customizable additions with several variants. A major disruption was about to hit the smartphone industry.
Unfortunately, issues arose in relation to production and development pricing. Project Ara also faced opposition from bigger mobile companies.
Thus, the project was shelved in 2016 after its first pilot test in developing markets. One of the reasons cited by Google was also to focus instead on the company unifying its hardware line.
It’s a shame that Project Ara didn’t work out. Modular smartphones promise a greater level of innovation and sustainability for the industry. We hope to see them take off in the future!
Boom or Bust?
The following ideas hold great allure, but will they stand the test of time? Let’s take a look at some of this decade’s most promising ideas.
AI is everywhere! The emergence of AI language models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and Google’s Bard have much to say on the way users are embracing this new frontier in technology. AI tech has now entered the creative industries and is being utilized in everything from graphic design to music production.
The dataset used to train the AI defines how good the results are. Language models such as ChatGPT, despite not being able to provide qualitative judgements, are trained on large datasets of text. Resultantly, if the data contains biases, then the AI will replicate and amplify those biases within its outputs.
Microsoft’s Chatbot, Tay, is the perfect case study of how AI can be used to reinforce bias and fuel hate speech.
Tay was launched in 2016 in an attempt to test conversational language. The launch started off innocently enough but was misused by users to the extent that Microsoft was forced to call off the project within 16 hours.
“Tay” went from “humans are super cool” to full nazi in <24 hrs and I’m not at all concerned about the future of AI pic.twitter.com/xuGi1u9S1A
— gerry (@geraldmellor) March 24, 2016
Given that the data used to train the model included biases and harmful language, Tay began to parrot offensive, racist, and controversial remarks fed to it by users. With no filtration system in place, Tay quickly came to embody the worst traits of humanity.
Tay is a reminder of the challenges and limitations of AI, and the need to develop responsible and trusted ethical systems in AI tech. Moreover, biases differ cross-culturally which begs the question – to what extent can we mitigate algorithmic biases in language learning models?
The global crypto landscape has taken a bit of a nosedive lately with the sobering news of the FTX collapse. While we may not be so quick as to call this the end, many have been left feeling apprehensive regarding the lack of regulation when it comes to scamming and illegalities within the crypto landscape.
This is apparent even in a nascent crypto landscape such as Pakistan, where Waqar Zaka – Pakistan’s self-declared crypto expert – is being investigated for crypto trading-related fraud.
Moreover, attempts to combat inflation have caused bitcoin prices to fall under $16,000. According to Forbes, this has wiped out around $2 trillion from the Bitcoin, Ethereum and crypto markets. In light of a recent G20 meeting, crypto faces a ban threat if strict regulations are not implemented.
As with cryptocurrency, many have been quick to declare NFTs as dead. NFTs enjoyed their boom in 2021 but the hype has since then died down, with the market quickly shrinking. The buying and selling of NFTs are also deeply tied to fluctuations within crypto and a lack of liquidity.
Pakistan’s NFT landscape is a relatively new one, with potential for greater and more widespread use. Pakistani NFT communities are still on the rise, with the Islamabad United cricket team announcing NFT collectible cards in lieu of the PSL matches.
However, experts argue that NFTs may well evolve into an asset class of their own through fractionalization. This allows for multiple ownerships of the same NFT. This could enable the democratization of NFTs and also solve the liquidity problem.
Only time will tell how such experimentation will impact the future of the NFT market. Will they evolve or become another name to add to the list of failed ideas?
Immersive reality offer an exciting future for many industries, VR and AR headsets themselves leave a lot to be desired for. The relatively lower price points for headsets have been a massive attraction for most users but they come with a considerable list of grievances.
Users have complained about how some headsets are heavy and uncomfortable.
Typical side effects of using VR headsets can also include loss of spatial awareness, near-sightedness, headaches, motion sickness, and trouble with hand-eye coordination for children. These are only a few of the side effects listed in Oculus’ VR safety warnings. While AR is here to stay, the headsets may need a revamp!