6 Futuristic Technologies That Are Huge Disappointments

We all understand that technological progress has its dark trade-offs. See: pollution, carpal tunnel syndrome, the fact that our telecommunications system has facilitated the ascendance of the Kardashian family as living gods. But given the cornucopia of newfangled doodads we're immersed in daily, we tend be less aware of when our gadgets start sucking a wee bit more. What products are we talking about? Well ...

#6. Smartphones Are Pretty Bad At Being Phones

ponsulak/iStock/Getty Images

We'll cut right to the quick. When it comes to audio quality for longer conversations, smartphones rank a rough third behind landlines and two cans connected by a string. The problem is that we're willing to accept this lack of clarity in favor of being able to slide our phones into our skinny jeans.

dourleak/iStock/Getty Images
Your genitals aren't the only thing being awkwardly restrained by these things.

See, companies "often shrink, flatten, and cover speakers in plastic to improve their phones' overall functionality," which means that your general audio quality is being sacrificed for better performance of whatever Civilization V knockoff Kate Upton's boobs are selling now, as well as the ability to fit the damn thing in your hand. While there are scattered reports of new technologies on the horizon which promise to remedy the situation, there has been absolutely jack shit accomplished over the last couple of years.

Promises of distant solutions are one thing, but the truth is that manufacturers likely don't give a gurgling shit. They've predictably gone the more profitable route by concentrating more on making phones into Fruit Ninja-ing, genital-uploading mini-computers rather than enhancing their usefulness in regards to the original purpose Alexander Graham Bell intended for them.

Library Of Congress
If he didn't want telephones to have alternate uses, he wouldn't have made the receiver look like a Fleshlight.

Complaining about an innovation as wonderful as the smartphone can seem overly whiny, and we realize how wonderful it is to live in a time in which you can be virtually anywhere on Earth and stream any season of Friends on a pocket computer. It's just that on the off chance you need to dial 911 over a raccoon infestation, it'd help if your phone's audio quality ensured that the dispatcher could decipher your muffled screams.

#5. Car Knobs Are Way More Useful Than Touchscreens

Cadillac

As far as shapes go, circles are rather fantastic. This is why we've used them so often for things we need to rotate through. It's simply a quick turn from 97.5 WHOA to 98.1 WHAT on the radio, and all is right in the world.

However, starting around the time Steve Jobs got bored with his iPod's revolutionary clickwheel, touchscreens began to take over the world. What used to be an interactive museum gimmick was suddenly a regular part of our lives. But if customer feedback is to be believed, touchscreens suck.

Happy Shopping Life
Well, not literally. That's at least a decade away.

It turns out that touchscreens can often be a whole lot less responsive than a good old-fashioned dial. Coupling this with the fact that the display setup is often a confusing jumble of boxes and text (not exactly a plus when you're trying to maneuver through rush hour traffic), our collective anger could rival Yosemite Sam trying to escape from a straightjacket. Irate customer feedback has prompted companies like Ford to bring knobs and buttons back to replace many of the annoying features of the touchscreens, as this automotive strategist explains: "Ford is making the change due to negative feedback they've received regarding several aspects of MyFord Touch. The system can be sluggish to the touch, while knobs and buttons obviously have a much quicker response. The four-quadrant system is also very text and information-heavy, making it overwhelming and confusing for some to do even simple tasks."

medtide/iStock/Getty Images
On the bright side, the subwoofer levels are now perfect.

#4. Virtual Reality Is Making Games Stupider

Axel Schmidt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Back in the '90s, headset gaming crashed and burned due to hardware that everybody assumed screwed up your eyes and, more importantly, crapsack games. Technology has since caught up with the concept, and we're ready for all the porn incredible adventures we could only have imagined before. The problem is that the novelty is going to wear off fast, and what we're left with is a gaming system that makes Mario Kart 64 look like the goddamned Mona Lisa.

That up there is a demo for Lucky's Tale, a third-person platforming game created by one of the people behind Words With Friends and designed solely to show off the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. This would be cool if you the gamer were actually the main character, but you're really only hovering in space above it, like some kind of ghost that respects boundaries. There have been plenty of positive reviews, but we're also sure plenty of people like roller coasters after a 90-second ride, but not so much after riding in one for three hours straight.

Playful Corp.
"Target one of 675 completed."

What developers have found is that player-character mobility and exploration options will likely have to be scaled way back, since "excessive camera movements make the player sick." Lucky's Tale deals with this problem by forcing the player to engage with the environment in the most basic way: Going from one goal to the next via the exhilarating, singular option of traveling in a straight line.

Playful Corp.
It does seem like it could be a powerful tool when interrogating acrophobes.

As it stands, keeping things aggravatingly simple is something that all virtual reality games are likely going to have to do, if for no other reason than to keep their customer base from choking on their own puke. This is, of course, assuming that increasingly intricate VR doesn't utterly shitbox your brain, but that's a story for another article (which we already wrote).

Vanamo Media
"Hey! Hey! It's not too late to bring ME back!"

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