What the Tech? CES Flops
(ABC 6 News) – The world’s largest electronics show kicks off in Las Vegas next week. Over 4,000 companies and entrepreneurs are expected to show off their latest inventions and products. Some will get more than their share of attention.
Since I began attending CES in 2013 thousands of electronics debuted with a lot of fanfare. Some have become part of our everyday lives while others haven’t seen the light of day since their CES unveiling.
Every year I see companies featuring flying cars they’re working on. Some have elaborate prototypes and videos showing the one or two passenger planes in action. None of them have accomplished getting them in the air for the mass commuting public.
At CES 2019 the world’s media was buzzing about foldable screens from a company called Royale. The screens were displayed as tablets that could fold to the size of a smartphone without any creases. You couldn’t miss them. Everywhere I went I saw Royale with prototypes displayed in clothing, accessories, and decorations. They’re still not for sale.
In 2019 I ventured to a home in a Las Vegas suburb where a company demonstrated an elaborate home security system called the Sunflower and it was impressive. Cameras were placed along the perimeter of the home’s lawn. A drone was kept from weather conditions in a molded plastic shed called the “Hive”.
If one of the cameras detected movement from a human (it used AI to differentiate between people and animals), it would trigger the drone to fly out of the Hive and toward the detected movement. The drone would send an alert to the homeowner’s phone and stream live video of whatever created the movement. The company said the homeowner could elect to call police themselves or the system could be programmed to call 911 on its own. The price tag for the Sunflower system was $10,000. The website hasn’t been updated in some time and the system still isn’t for sale.
Some big ideas seen at CES take money from hopeful buyers. The Zano drone, unveiled at CES 2013, is one of the biggest Kickstarter failures ever. The company collected over 3 million dollars from interested buyers before filing for bankruptcy. Investors never got their money back and it led to Kickstarter hiring investigators to vet companies making promises to early investors. Elio promised a $7,500 car that gets 84 miles to the gallon at CES in 2018. 65,000 people put down deposits raising $28 million.
Elio still hasn’t rolled one off the assembly line and no one got their money back. The company’s website isn’t taking orders and its Louisiana assembly plant never opened.
Have you ever seen a robotic suitcase in the airport? No? At least three companies rolled them out in 2019 with prototypes travelers could ride.
The Welt was a health-tracking men’s belt with sensors similar to those found in The Apple Watch and Fitbits.
The Rocking Bed simulated the movement of sleeping on a cruise ship. I’ve seen the Rocking Bed on display at more than one CES event but you can’t order one from the company’s website.
That’s just a very small sample of CES big ideas that never came of anything. To be fair, many companies debuting products and technologies at CES never have the intention of actually putting their inventions on the market. Many inventors and entrepreneurs bring their devices to CES to sell them to established companies.
I’ll be on the show floor at CES all next week where I’m sure I’ll see more great ideas that never make it past the show floor.