Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

7 gadgets that rode CES hype machine to disappointment

CES debuted gadget like smart glasses, smartwatches won awards, but haven't sold well

CES debuted gadget hits like the VCR, CD player and Xbox over the years, but the popular consumer electronics conference also showcases a lot of technology that fails to match the hype.

Some of the top flops from 50 years of the Las Vegas show include Digital Audio Tape players, Apple’s Newton handheld computer and Atari’s Jaguar gaming console. Here are some of the more recent disappointments from CES.

1) Smart Glasses

Google kicked off a wave of optimism about internet-connected eyewear when it unveiled Google Glass at its developer conference in April 2013. At CES in early 2014, there were a bunch on show, including the Epson Moverio BT-200 and Vergence Labs’ Epiphany glasses which let the wearer control drones with hand gestures. As of early 2017, there were no mainstream smart glasses selling in high volumes. Google Glass flopped. Apple Inc. is working on the technology, but hasn’t released a product yet.

2) 3D Printers

This was the anointed technology at CES 2013. The CubeX from 3D Systems Inc. won a Best of CES for emerging technology that year. 3D printers have made steady progress since then, especially for industrial uses, but they aren’t in a lot of homes or offices. MakerBot, a pioneer in the sector that had a strong presence in 2013, has cut staff amid declining sales. Stratasys Ltd. bought MakerBot in 2013, and its share price hit a record in January 2014. The stock is down more than 75% since then. 3D Systems shares are down about the same amount in that period.

3) Lily, GoPro Drones

Startup Lily Robotics won a coveted CES 2016 innovation award for its autonomously steered camera drone. A working version of the gadget wasn’t shown at the conference and shipping dates have been delayed. GoPro Inc. founder Nick Woodman took to the stage at the same CES to tease more information about his company’s Karma drone. That gadget finally went on sale in October, but the company recalled thousands of them after they lost power. GoPro was back at CES this year showing off the Karma and the company said it will re-launch the drone later in 2017.

4) Hoverboards

At CES 2016, makers of hoverboards battled over which company came up with the technology and related designs. The electric skateboards were gaining in popularity, thanks in part to celebrities like Justin Bieber posting shots of themselves zipping around on the devices. So there was a lot at stake. But things turned sour when US federal marshals raided the CES booth of a Chinese hoverboard maker. Future Motion, a Silicon Valley startup, said it invented and patented a self-balancing electric skateboard that looked strikingly similar to the ones the marshals confiscated. Less than two months later, Inc. and other big retailers stopped selling hoverboards after the US Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed them unsafe, saying they “pose an unreasonable risk of fire" if they didn’t meet voluntary safety standards. No hoverboards on the market met those standards, it added at the time.

5) Pebble

Pebble Technology Corp. was the belle of the CES 2013 ball when the startup announced its smartwatch would ship in late January. The following year its Pebble Steel model made several Best of CES lists including The Verge’s Best Smartwatch. Alas, the company is no more. Struggling under the weight of its debt, the company sold software assets to Fitbit Inc. last month. Pebble hardware projects are no more and it isn’t actively supporting existing watches. Too bad for buyers wowed by their showing at CES.

6) Smartwatches

At CES 2014, a year after Pebble’s debut, dozens of smartwatches were shown. Google unveiled its Android Wear smartwatch platform a few months later, and Apple announced its Watch in September of that year. The hope was that smartwatches would be the next hot gadget to rival the smartphone. But by the third quarter of 2016, global smartwatch sales were down 52% from a year earlier, according to research firm IDC.

7) The Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet

Calling it the thinnest tablet in the world, CES listed Dell Inc.’s Venue 8 device among its 2015 Best of Innovation Award Honorees. It was part of an attempt by Intel Corp. to get its components into more tablets and other mobile devices. The tablet featured an Intel RealSense camera and Atom processor. However, last year Dell stopped selling the tablets. Intel managed to sneak a chip into some of the latest iPhones, but the semiconductor giant still hasn’t cracked mobile. Bloomberg