Top five weird and stupid tech ideas
In a world increasingly switched on to technology and an audience craving the next great gadget, major tech firms have swelled the number of brains they pay to innovate and create – witness Google’s Project Glass concept for proof of that.
Patents have become the new front line for the likes of Google, Apple and Samsung in an arms race to control the technology we use every day. TVs, smartphones and other tech goodies are constantly updated, improved and tweaked with new features – some good, some not so good. Not everything can be a 3D printer.
We’ve picked what we think are five of the most outlandish, not very useful ideas of recent times. Do you agree with our picks, or do you think some could actually be genuinely useful?
Nokia vibrating tattoos
If you’re one of those people who regularly miss calls because you don’t hear your phone chirping, you have two options; you can turn the volume up or you can have a tattoo made from ferromagnetic materials grafted on to your skin that will vibrate when you receive a call or text message. Your choice.
This patent filed by Nokia back in 2011 begs the asking of several questions. Will you be able to strap these tattoos on yourself, straight-out-of-the-box or will small tattoo parlours be popping up in the back of your local Orange shop? If you lost your phone at home and some call centre began ringing you incessantly, would your arm vibrate off? Why would anyone want a vibrating tattoo?
Just a few of the questions Nokia will be pondering. See our Nokia mobile phone reviews for results on all the latest handsets.
Google background advertising
Google consistently has a team of lab rats working on the next big thing, but it’s now emerged they also have a team of lab rats working on the next completely useless thing.
An increasingly important player in the phone market, Google has filed a patent for ‘advertising based on environmental conditions’. Essentially this means Google wants to attach sensors to phones that can collect data on temperature, humidity and light levels, as well as listen in to ambient background noise.
So, if you’re at the gym and make a call, Google will be able to hear the gym machinery in the background and then serve up adverts for home gym equipment. If it’s 30+ outside, Google will throw in adverts for sun cream, air conditioning units or ice creams.
Amazing Amazon airbags
A study last year found that nearly 1 in 5 of us had dropped our smartphone – and our dignity – down the toilet.
While fishing around in the toilet bowl for your phone may be unpleasant, the results of your smartphone taking a tumble onto concrete are more common, usually more spectacular, and often just as fatal. So Amazon’s patent for airbags on mobile devices is at least addressing a genuine problem. This just doesn’t seem like the solution.
The suggestion is that phones would come fitted with sensors that would deploy built-in airbags, if they detect the phone moving at a certain velocity or within a certain vicinity to the ground. But wait – there’s more. Probably wrestling with the difficulty of stuffing half a kilo of nylon inside a 7mm thick smartphone, the patent also mentions gyroscopes with compressed air that would fire, forcing the phone on to the single side containing airbags.
Sounds like a recipe for bouncing smartphones…and failure. Mobile phone insurance – pointless or practical? Have your say.
Microsoft remote control charging
Microsoft has filed a patent for control-based content pricing. In English? The technology would allow content providers to charge you – through your remote – if you skip over the adverts or watch a replay. We might be persuaded if this system was used to make box office sports events free for those who sit through the adverts. But the truth is that this is likely to just be another additional cost – more money to be coughed up.
Is this a step towards the Ryanair-isation of TV programmes and services? What next? 9p every time you want to turn the volume up? Why not charge for colours? £2.99 for your basic package of reds, greens and blues; the rainbow package for £5.99 or enhanced full colour for £9.99, which includes the rainbow package plus all hues and shades in between*. (*additional charge of £1 for hues of violet. Full color does not include indigo. We reserve the right to remove selected colours from the full colour package at any time and replace with a similar alternative)
Read our online TV services review for guides to BBC iPlayer, Sky Go and more.
Apple Air jet keyboard
Frankly, we’d never bet against anything that comes out of Apple Towers – it has a habit of setting the tech trends that everyone else follows.
Their mundanely named Input Devices and Methods of Operation patent potentially paves the way for predictive writing without actually making contact with the surface of the keyboard. Combining proximity sensors and air vents on individual keys, the technology shoots small jets of air out of keys to log users’ entry before they make contact with the actual key. All very nice.
What we don’t like is that the driver behind this is the seemingly endless drive to make tech thinner and smaller. How about a battery that lasts for more than a few hours when it’s actually being used? I’d take that over a Star Trek keyboard.
Learn more about how we test mobile phones - rating battery life, ease of use and more.
Of course we’re not complete grouches here at Which?, so tune in next week when we pick our five favorite patents for the future.
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