#3. Hybrid Vehicles
Hybrid vehicles, with their part-electrical, part-gasoline engines are a sort of compromise for people who care about fuel consumption, but aren't going to go all-out for some hippie contraption that has to be plugged in for eight hours before you can drive it. Ask any hybrid owner why they own one, and you'll likely hear a variety of answers like "to save the environment," "to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," and "to drive Dick Cheney back into the sea from whence he came."
Hysterical, possibly Gore-fueled overestimation of value.
The problem with hybrid cars isn't what they can do, it's what people think they can do. Realistically, a hybrid car will get roughly 20-30 percent better gas mileage than a similarly sized normal car. It turns out they don't perform as well in the real world as in the lab, and the talk of 55 miles to the gallon for hybrids was pretty much bullshit ( the Toyota Prius' gas mileage was knocked back from 55 to 46 MPG by the EPA). Sure, those numbers are still light years ahead of the customized Escalades issued to the Cracked staff ...
...but don't blow away the numbers for regular ol' economy cars that cost $5,000 less.
As far as environmental impact, don't forget the manufacturing process. Just by insisting on buying a new car instead of keeping your old one, you added 27 tons of waste to the environment. It's more so for a hybrid, since their enormously powerful batteries don't grow on trees, perhaps due to an oversight on the part of God. They have to be built and shipped around the planet, creating waste every step of the way.
We're pretty level-headed here at Cracked, and generally agree that mankind should never harm the planet, except possibly in self defense. So, we applaud the goal of improving fuel economy in vehicles. But if you buy a hybrid, don't fool yourself into thinking you're single handedly saving Earth. You're maybe helping a bit, but if the planet's ever going to be saved, it will require a concerted effort from everyone, including consumers, businesses, governments and, most importantly, Batman.
#2. The Internet on your TV
For some strange reason, it's long been a goal for many very smart people to move Internet users away from the computer desk and onto the sofa. You can browse the Internet on the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PS3, plus Microsoft still has its set-top browser out there (they bought up the old WebTV thing years ago) which is enjoyed by literally hundreds of people.
Remarkably ill-conceived product.
To see why this doesn't work, here's a fun little experiment you can do. Go get a ruler and measure how tall the text is on your monitor when viewing one of your favorite websites. It doesn't have to be this one, and in fact, probably isn't.
Every website in existence is designed to be viewed from about 2 feet away, and uses relatively small fonts as a consequence. So in other words, you'd need something like a 200-inch television to display text that's readable from your couch.
This leads us right to the other problem: Web content isn't designed to be shared. TV shows are broadcast in 30- to 60- minute chunks that a family or group of friends can all sit and watch together. Web browsing is a series of three-minute-long hops from link to link, at the whims of whoever is doing the navigating.
Mom sitting there and watching while Dad navigates through his favorite sports blogs would be torture for both. Mom, because she probably doesn't care about his sports and Dad, because he has to now pretend he uses the Internet to read about sports and not anime porn.
#1. Virtual Reality
In the movie Disclosure, Michael Douglas has to track down evidence that proves Demi Moore at one point found him sexually desirable. In order to access his company's network, he's forced to use a virtual reality getup thanks to several unlikely plot contrivances. This involves donning a 10-pound helmet, slipping on some kind of power glove, and then clambering up on a sort of roller platform. Once that's all done, he gets to pretend to walk down the corridors of a virtual library, where he pretends to open a virtual file cabinet, pretends to grab a virtual file folder, and then pretends to flip through virtual pages looking for the evidence that proves that the woman who was pretending to find him attractive wasn't pretending.
Got all that?
It's not actually useful for anything.
The problem is that any idiot (even Michael Douglas, probably) could accomplish the above task 10 times faster with a keyboard and mouse. Just because you could do it in virtual reality doesn't mean you should. Given the choice, anyone who uses a computer to do a job is only going to be interested in using the fastest and easiest method, not the one that requires the user to possess both a helmet and the weathered good looks of Michael Douglas.
No one in the '90s thought that we'd be sitting here in 2007 and thinking of those VR headsets as a ridiculous fad. Yet, even the most advanced game consoles are still played with the same old control pads on the same old television. The Wii does add a tiny element of virtual reality in that it lets you physically interact with the game, a little. But, just a little.
The whole point of VR is to completely immerse you in the entertainment, but a regular old TV kind of already does that. When you're wrapped up in a good TV show, you're not thinking about your surroundings. You block it out, you're focused on the show. By moving the screen to an inch in front of your eyeball, VR is solving a problem that doesn't really exist.
Sure, some time in the distant future when real "almost reality" simulations exist, we'll wind up using some kind of VR technology, but only if it doesn't require us to stand up and wear a 10-pound helmet. But, it will be well worth the wait, because on that day we will find ourselves neck deep in a first-person sex-with-Michael Douglas simulator, and it will be glorious.