Technological innovations that, simply, weren’t!

Recent technological innovations in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have instigated a debate between lawyers, students and academics as to whether ‘AI’ will help lawyers perform to the best of their ability, or alternatively threaten jobs in the legal industry. With recent technological advances, and IBM Watson’s platform ‘ROSS Intelligence’ pioneering the way, I have taken a look at some of the biggest technological fails in modern times and a few light hearted inventions that are simply pure genius!


  • Betamax vs VHS.Betamax v VHS

If you were alive in the 1980’s then you will remember the rivalry between the competing Betamax and VHS media formats. If you were not an 80’s baby, then you will have nevertheless heard of Betamax referred to in the punchline of many a comedian’s joke. In the 1970’s Sony decided to go all out and create a home video recording system called ‘Betamax’, rivalling JVC’s subsequent ‘VHS tape’. Whilst Betamax offered slightly superior audio and visual, the large price difference and much shorter recording time (initially only 60 minutes) saw it pale in comparison to the might of the VHS. Sony was greedy and did not initially license their format to any other manufacturers, looking to dominate the market, however less greedy JVC licensed their VHS format to others, providing fierce competition and price matching which reduce the price consumers paid.


  • The Fat Burning ‘Wobble’ Vibrating Belt Machines of the 1960’s.Fat Burning Machine

The need for productivity is human nature. Why would you want to go to the gym and work out, sweat and injure yourself to lose a few pounds when you could get a ripped set of abs by letting hi-tech machinery do all of the leg work? This proved to be the selling point of the multitude of machines, marketing the ability to ‘wobble’ the fatty bits off your body. I remember my mum having one of these machines, however I thought it was far more fun to use on my head! These machines never really worked, despite clever marketing; or are they in fact a miracle cure, silenced by conglomerate gyms? No… they really did not work!


  • Real Player.RealPlayer Buffering

If you search the internet using the term ‘Real Player Fail’, the results will speak for themselves as to why this free media player, which dominated the media player market against Windows Media Player and Quicktime, failed. RealPlayer was criticized for containing adware and spyware, and was involved in multiple lawsuits. Adding insult to injury, those who used to use RealPlayer will remember the copious amounts of updates and codecs required to play a media file, all of which led to it being listed as’s 2nd worst tech product of all time!


  • Jet-Pack.Jet Pack

In the 1950’s Bell Aerosystems began to develop a rocket pack that would enable the user to fly short distances and over obstacles, aimed at uses within the American Military. Despite featuring in copious amounts of cartoons and films portraying it as humankinds next big technological leap, it was quickly shot down by the military, preferring to fund missile development. Unfortunately, as fun as it would have been to blast off into the air whilst strapped to a tank full of jet fuel (hydrogen peroxide) like James Bond, it wasn’t exactly a safe or economic mode of travel, burning 5 gallons of fuel in 21 seconds! Back to the drawing board…


  • The MiniDisc Player.MiniDisc v MP3

Once again, Sony makes this list of technological innovations that, simply, weren’t! Unlike the Betamax, Sony was not the only manufacturer that attempted to push the MiniDisc format, however it was Sony’s $70m ad campaign that really back-fired. There was no doubt that MiniDiscs offered the superior audio playback of a CD with the recording versatility of a cassette, but then again so did mp3’s in the form of Apple’s iPod, and cheap CD-R’s in the early-2000’s. The hefty £400-£500 price tag in Sony’s first year of sales may also have been the tiniest of hindrance’s in 1992!


  • Fan-Chopsticks.Chopsticks

Ok, so now we have moved on from technological advances to everyday inventions from the country that bought you Takeshi’s Castle… Japan! Who doesn’t get frustrated when you are boiling hot ramen noodles that just won’t cool down quickly enough? Bring on the Fan-Chopsticks! Never again will you have to blow your own food.



  • The Baby Mop.Baby Mop

You know those annoying times when you want to mop the floor, but have to take care of the baby? Well the genius inventors of Chindogu have once again combated this everyday problem by creating the Baby Mop. Babies like to crawl on floors, therefore put your feet up and set your baby some chores to do in the kitchen!


  • Train Nap Cap.Train Nap Cap

For those times when you have had one too many beers, or perhaps the soothing voice of Alan Rickman has sent you sleepy whilst on public transport. Have no fear, sleep is here, with the amazing Chindogu Train Nap Cap that allows you to sleep on the tube without anyone else being knowing! Despite marginal fashion flaws, I can see this invention being utilised by students worldwide!



From a highly sophisticated Artificial Intelligence creation, to the Baby Mop. Inventions come in all shapes and sizes, and aim to make our everyday lives easier. Whether IBM’s Artificial Intelligence technology will help or hinder the new generation of lawyers in the UK, is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure though… I need to get me a Train Nap Cap!


No Japanese babies were harmed during the making of this article – all photos belong to their rightful owners!


Written by James Sudworth – OULS News Editor




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