Tuesday, November 13Always On-point

A look back at hyped gadgets that never came to market

Sad Kuri

SAD KURI

Sorry, little buddy.

Kuri

A friendly robot named Kuri recently visited the Popular Science offices. The waste-basket sized bot rolled around the cubes making bleep and bloop sounds, trying its best to mimic and illicit familiar human emotions. At the time of the visit, Kuri was more than a year old, having made its debut at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, but the little bot still hadn’t made it to market.

Then, just a few days after Kuri visited our office, Mayfield Robotics (part of the Bosch startup platform) announced that the home robot was on-hold indefinitely. Development stopped and those who pre-ordered would get refunds. Kuri’s bid to become the go-to home companion that dances and takes video of your family doing everyday activities had ended before it ever really began.

This isn’t a totally unfamiliar story. Hardware, as they say, is hard, and getting it to market past various technical and logistical hurdles can put a serious damper on even the most hyped products. Costs change, large-scale production plans introduce new hurdles, and consumer demand and sentiment shifts rapidly.

It’s a problem that crowdfunding platforms, which allow companies to raise money for a product before they even really exist, have been battling since their inception. Last year, Kickstarter started a partner program to help fledgling companies navigate the maze of suppliers, factories, and complex legal certifications to actually put a piece of consumer electronics on shelves and in homes.

For now, Kuri’s future is still relatively uncertain, but things seem grim. Here’s a look back at some other consumer tech products that built-up lots of hype before disintegrating into a cloud of vapor.

Palm Foleo

Palm Foleo

PALM FOLEO

Palm’s smartphone-dependent laptop was a netbook before netbooks existed.

Palm

“Let me add that to my Palm Pilot” has become a punchline in the the world—a sick burn on someone who says something woefully outdated. But Palm was once relatively mighty. Near the end of its tenure, the company had plans for a $600 laptop-like device that would sync up with the company’s Treo phones for data connectivity. This was 2007, so we were already in the iPhone era, and Palm cancelled the Foleo’s development just three months after its announcement to focus on its handsets. That didn’t work out either, and HP bought Palm in 2010.–www.engadget.com

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