6 "World-Changing" Inventions (That Didn't Change Shit)

#3. Online Delivery... Everything

How It Was Supposed To Change The World:

The entire dot-com bubble was built on the belief that soon, every single aspect of our lives would be radically reordered around the Internet, based on the scientific principle that a thing that is growing will continue to grow, in every direction, forever.

Did we say "scientific"? We meant "fucktarded." Just because it changed some things, doesn't mean it was going to change everything. But don't tell that to companies like Kozmo and Webvan.com, who made huge piles of start-up money based on the idea that within a few years, everything from a gallon of milk to a pack of matches could be delivered to your door with the click of a mouse.


How It Didn't Change Shit:

Kozmo promised free, one hour delivery of anything you could buy. Whether you wanted a hot dog, a case of beer, 10 gallons of KY or all three, Kozmo would deliver it to you in an hour. And they wouldn't charge you a penny.

Those of you who stayed awake during economics are probably wondering how they expected to make any money. The plan was to make it the way every store does, by marking up products. The only problem is, you can only mark up a can of Coke so much before people won't buy it.

WebVan offered a similar service, promising groceries to your door within 30 minutes. While they had a good idea, the fact that no one at the company had ever worked in the grocery business before, and that they spent over $1 billion in infrastructure, including 115 $800 chairs, meant they couldn't live up to their promise of 30 minute Lucky Charms and Marlboros for long.

Is There Any Hope?

Amazon did well by starting small (books and such) and then slowly expanding their selections with time. And, these days they operate AmazonFresh around the Seattle area, delivering groceries and moving right back into territory that probably still smells of charred Webvan start-up cash. We're guessing if it doesn't make money fast, they won't stay in the cabbage delivery business for long.

#2. Voice Recognition Everything

How It Was Supposed To Change The World:

Video phones weren't the only devices that turned up in almost every futuristic sci-fi story. Most also promised a future where you could turn out the lights, get a drink and have your ass loofah'd with a simple voice command. And it didn't seem so far-fetched, all we needed was some decent voice recognition software and the desire to not move a fucking inch.

These days there are tons of different types of software that can recognize speech. Researchers have been working for years to get it into hospitals for medical transcription, into the military for voice activated death machines and into homes to save people the indignity of walking across the room.

So why do we still have to turn on our TV by punching a damned button?


How It Didn't Change Shit:

Just ask doctors. They were supposed to be some of the main early adopters, since laborious transcription of their taped medical notes is a major expense for them. What they found was that most voice recognition software is about as smart as a drunken donkey (that is drunk because it's depressed over its recent severe head trauma).

Because every human voice is different, with regional accents and slurred words, training voice recognition software to understand you takes forever. And even then it's never 100 perfect accurate.

Likewise, the Air Force bailed on voice recognition for pretty much the same reasons. It turns out that most pilots won't use a product that might send their jets careening into the ground due to a mumbled command.

As for the rest of us, well, have you called tech support recently, and gotten "help" from the robot lady who tries to walk you through your problem via voice commands? How long did you last before you started screaming "AGENT" into the phone over and over?

Is There Any Hope?

Companies have lots of motivation to keep developing voice recognition: it lets them cut loose expensive human customer service workers and transcriptionists. So vendors will continue to sell the software and presumably improve it.

Meanwhile, the new line of Lexus luxury cars use voice commands for everything from climate control to navigation. We have no way of knowing how many of these drivers trying to go to "Bill's Donuts" wind up at "Dildo Hut."

#1. The Segway

How It Was Supposed To Change The World:

No recent product in the last 50 years got the kind of hype the Segway did prior to release. Even though it's little more than a fancy scooter, the first people to lay eyes on it thought it was the second coming of Jesus. Sweet, scooter Jesus.

The buzz started well before the majority of people had even seen a Segway. In early 2001, word started to spread about an invention that would change the world. Journalist Steve Kemper fanned the flames of hype in his 2002 book, Code Name Ginger, which told the story of the development of the Segway and inventor Dean Kamen's attempts to get investors for their miracle invention.

And get them he did. The venture capitalist John Doerr said it was "as big as the Internet" and Apple honcho Steve Jobs said it was "as big a deal as the PC." Presumably both men, when showed a cigarette lighter, bowed down and declared it to be "our fiery overlord."

So whatever its quality as a transportation device, one thing was certain: the Segway could totally make smart people say stupid things.

How It Didn't Change Shit:

There were a lot of reasons the Segway failed to set the world on fire. For one, it's a fucking scooter. And not even cool like a Razor scooter. It's the Razor scooter's fat, anime-loving cousin. After months of being prepared for a revolution in transportation, the public was a little disappointed when the Segway turned out to be a podium on wheels instead of something cool, like rocket boots.

Oh, and it cost as much as a used car. And it was almost impossible to use it without looking like a complete asshole.

Kamen wasn't going to let his dream die just because people thought it was epic scale gay. As he said, "it's an alternative to walking. We can't let them call us a scooter." There was just one problem: Almost everyone called it a scooter. Consequently, it was illegal in many countries in the world to use a Segway on public streets or sidewalks for the first several years of the invention's existence.

Kamen sold a few, mostly to police departments and hilariously chubby mall cops, but in the end the Segway turned out to be one more thing that didn't live up to the hype. But at least it didn't make you shit your pants.

Is There Any Hope?

The good people at Segway are nothing if not persistent in their desire to make your lazy ass ride their little scooter. Since its massive flop on arrival, laws have been changed allowing the use of Segways in 43 states with several others having local regulations to allow them. Sweden and Denmark also recently overturned laws that prohibited the use of Segways.

As of March of 2009, 50,000 Segways had been shipped, a number they'd initially planned to reach back in 2003. So, hell, maybe by the year 2200 upwards of one in five people will be on a Segway. The rest of them will be getting laid.

Now check out the lucky bastards these inventors are envious of, in 5 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World. Or check out some stuff we only think we invented, in 11 "Modern" Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think.

And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see some totally rad, new Transformers we invented out of the ones (all of them) that Bucholz broke.

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