GADGETS

Vaporhardware! 10 Cool Gadgets You'll Never See at the Store

Building buzz about a gadget requires a dash of snake oil, a well-worded press release, and a viral YouTube video. And a product, of course. Yet these ten tech devices are all about buzz -- and not actually shipping a gizmo. And they may never actually come out. By John Brandon

Duke Nukem Vaporware

Building buzz requires a dash of snake oil, a well-worded press release, and a charming YouTube video that hopefully goes viral. Yet, sometimes things never actually make it out -- like the legendary video game sequel Duke Nukem Forever, promised and undelivered 10 or so years ago. 

These ten tech devices are also all about buzz -- and not about actually shipping a real product to customers. In each case, we attempted to either order the product, request a demo, or at least get a hard shipping date to no avail. They might never actually come out.

Lady Gaga Sunglasses

1. Sunglasses designed by Lady Gaga 

That’s Lady Gaga, sporting a pair of Polaroid “Polarez” GL20 sunglasses, which she “designed” herself, while on tour. The glasses use two 1.7-inch digital screens that can record video and snap photos. There’s even a USB port for connecting the goggles to your computer. But there's no set shipping date for the goggles, and most similar products we’ve tried don’t work. Oh yeah: Polaroid confirmed that the goggles were just an early prototype, not real.

Jamie Allen Larson

Audiovox Airpower

2. A battery charger that captures Wi-Fi power 

You know the wireless signal you use at Starbucks with your laptop? Audiovox has developed a gadget called the Airpower which can capture the signal and convert it to AC power. The idea is that you can then charge your phone or another gadget. The device even captures solar energy. The only catch: Audiovox has discontinued the product and has no plans to release it. “We continue conducting extensive testing on AirPower, the original design of which incorporated three ways of obtaining power for the device: Wi-Fi, solar and traditional,” says Laurie Shulman, an Audiovox spokesperson. Somehow, the Audiovox Airpower still won an innovation award at CES this year.

Christina DesMarais

Sony No Glasses TV

3. Sony no-glasses 3D television 

2010 was supposed to be the year of 3D. Unfortunately, after the World Cup ended last summer and everyone watched Avatar for the tenth time, the programming slowed to a trickle. Now, Sony is touting a new technology called no-glasses 3D television. As the name implies, you can watch 3D content without wearing the goofy (and cumbersome) glasses. 

In two separate demos at CES, the 3D image looked slightly blurry and even headache-inducing. At least Toshiba, who has also recently shown off a no-glasses 3D display, says their product will come out this year in a 20-inch model. “It is important to cool the enthusiasm a little and realize that while it is possible to build such things in the development lab, it is a different matter to have it ready for profitable retail sale,” said Paul Gray, the director of Europe TV Research at DisplaySearch, saying no-glasses 3D is still about five years off.

Jamie Allen Larson

Mouse that Scans Documents

4. Mouse that scans documents 

The LG Scanning Mouse is actually quite brilliant – why not use the peripheral for controlling your computer to also scan documents? A mouse already has a power laser that tracks on just about any surface – most newer models do not need a mousepad. The problem with this gadget is that there is no ship date, no price, and no details about how it actually works. There is a model number though, the LSM-100. In our tests, the mouse would track easily no matter how you move the device. When we asked about when the product will come out, the LG spokesperson told us it is just a concept.

Jamie Allen Larson

Smartphone acts like lamp

5. Smartphone that acts like a laptop 

We really want to believe this one is true. And, according to leaked documents on the Web, the Motorola Atrix smartphone will actually ship on March 1. We’ve even seen the commercial where the phone is scanned through airport security and, under X-ray, looks like a laptop. 

That’s all fine, but Motorola and AT&T have not released any details about price or an official ship date. The phone is highly innovative, though: It can connect to a keyboard so you can run a full computer with a browser, full desktop apps, and even play videos and music. The problem is that Motorola has also not announced any details about these peripherals, when they will ship, or how much they will cost.

Jamie Allen Larson

Cubes Sense Each Other

6. Cubes that sense each other 

Sometimes, an idea that seems brilliant in the lab doesn’t really make sense in the real world. The Sifteo cubes were developed originally at MIT as an experiment. The idea is that each cube is a self-contained computer with a tiny display. The cubes sense each other, so you can play a game where each cube works as a puzzle piece or as part of a larger image. There’s a USB adapter that plugs into your laptop as well for transmitting data. A spokesperson at the company said the cubes will come out later this year, and that the final version will “be very close” to the cubes they showed off at CES. Our guess: the cost of manufacturing each cube will probably run too high and, for now, the apps are not ready.

MIT

kno

7. Educational reader…now taking applications? 

Here’s what we know about the Kno reader: it has already started shipping in limited quantities, is intended primarily for educational use, and has a dual-screen tablet design so you can pull up one document on the left and maybe a class schedule on the right. The oddity: the 14.1-inch tablet is only available by invitation, although you can also apply to order one. “If [someone] is interested in ordering one, they have to submit a request. The company needs to qualify them and determine if they are students, what books they need,” says Kathryn Kelly, a Kno reader spokesperson.

Kno

Remote-Control Tripod

8. Remote-control tripod for a camera 

We spotted this remote control cart for the Casio Tryx camera at CES. The idea is that you attach the camera to the base and then drive it around with a remote controller. Unfortunately, Casio told us the remote control device is just a prop and they have no plans to release it, and it has no affiliation with the Casio Tryx camera, which is itself a bit funky: the camera has a fold out tripod so you can make video calls and take shots of the family. You can also rotate the camera lens a full 360-degrees.

Jamie Allen Larson

Audi E-Tron

9. An electric car that actually looks cool

We’re not going to slam the Audi E-Tron too much. After all, it’s common for car companies to showcase a concept that will never actually appear on the road. And Audi does have plans to release the concept – this spring, a utility company in Munich will start testing the A1 E-Tron. Then there’s the R8 E-Tron, a sports car with an electric engine that should come out around 2012 or 2013. Audi has not released any prices or exact model numbers though, since the E-Tron name describes the engine more than the car. And, if you have seen the nifty-looking Audi Spyder E-Tron, that one really is just a concept.

Jamie Allen Larson

LG Personal Steamer

10. Personal clothes steamer from LG 

Now this is a product we’d buy in a minute: a personal clothes steamer. You put your shirts and suit coats inside, press a button, and then pull them out freshly steamed – no need for ironing! Unfortunately, LG did not respond with any details, such as model number, and from the reports we’re seeing online the clothes steamer is not intended for the US market.

Jamie Allen Larson

Vaporhardware! 10 Cool Gadgets You'll Never See at the Store

Building buzz about a gadget requires a dash of snake oil, a well-worded press release, and a viral YouTube video. And a product, of course. Yet these ten tech devices are all about buzz -- and not actually shipping a gizmo. And they may never actually come out. By John Brandon

More From Our Sponsors