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10 Recent Disastrous Tech Failures

About a hundred years ago, the technology of the world was decidedly different than it is today. Automobiles for the average citizen were just becoming commonplace, TV had yet to be invented, and the idea of the internet would have sounded like madcap witchcraft to even the most astute scientist. But for all the advances we’ve enjoyed with technology and all the ways it’s made our lives better, it’s far from infallible. Tech is failing all the time and there have been some stunning fails in recent memory.

10. Juicero

What do trendy, hip, proactive go-getters love more than anything? If you guessed juice and/or pointless gadgets, you have your finger on the pulse. The global juice market is bearing down on $200 billion a year. So yes, we love juice. Kitchen gadgets rake in around $17.6 billion per year. It’s a match made in heaven to put them together! Or it should have been.

In 2017, Juicero seemed like it was brilliant. A fancy kitchen gadget to make tasty juice. Individual packets of fruit were pressed in an internet connected machine that was backed by some big name investors who put $120 million into the idea.

The machine itself was like a vise that squeezed pre-made veggie and fruit packets with four tons of force to make delicious, fresh juice. And then one day, someone realized you could just squeeze the packets by hand and didn’t need the $699 juice press. When reporters put it to the test, they discovered that they could get just as much juice, and faster, doing it bare handed. 

Even after dropping the price to $400, the Juicero had already fumbled its launch too badly. They went bankrupt after being in business only a few months.

9. Zillow’s A.I.

Zillow is a real estate company that gained a lot of press in recent years for its marketplace dominance. They spent much of 2021 snatching up so many houses that they had to put the kibosh on it for several months. They had suffered a serious technological failure born from a bit of overconfidence and possibly ignorance as well.

Most people never realized Zillow actually bought and sold houses, thinking it was just a forum for real estate agents to list property. The truth was the company was in the business of flipping properties, and they had developed some AI technology to assist them in this task. Their confidence was so high that they were letting the AI make cash offers for properties. That turned out to be a bad idea. 

By November, the company had a backlog of 7,000 houses they needed to get rid of, worth around $2.8 billion. They were forced to shut down their AI algorithm and suspend home buying as a result of its slapdash spending, proving definitively that you can’t let a website invest in real estate across an entire country. 

8. Tesla Bot

Few companies are as well known these days as Tesla. With Elon Musk constantly in the news, the company can’t help but pop up frequently as well, and not always just in relation to the antics of its CEO. Don’t forget, Tesla is still leading the way in the electric car game and they frequently come out with something new and exciting to keep them on the tips of everyone’s tongues.

In August 2021, Tesla held a press event to let the world know that they were working on a humanoid robot. The goal, according to Musk, was to create a machine that can do boring, dangerous or repetitive tasks for humans. So far so good. The problem was the rollout.

For whatever reason, Musk chose to show off the idea of the robot before anyone had made a real robot. So, instead, they rolled out a man in a spandex jumpsuit pretending to be a robot. And then he danced, and it wasn’t good.

Whether or not it was meant as a joke didn’t matter. The company was raked over the coals in the media the next day. Many people chalked it up as a stunt to distract from bad press, but whatever the true motivation, it made one of the biggest companies and one the richest men in the world look foolish.

7. The Freedom Phone

There is a certain subsection of America that will look at anything they find disagreeable or threatening as a direct attack on their freedom. And their response to this attack is to randomly and nonsensically start assigning the label “freedom” to anything they feel supports their POV. Remember when France opposed the Iraq War and someone tried to rename French fries “freedom fries?” It happened. 

In more recent history, the Freedom Phone was designed for supporters of Donald Trump, who wanted to get out from under “Big Tech’s” thumb and enjoy a smartphone that wasn’t going to censor them or push a liberal agenda. It would have an app store with no censorship and even an anti-surveillance operating system. And hey, if those are your politics, that’s great. There’s money to be made appealing to people based on their political beliefs. The problem was that the phone itself didn’t really align with its own politics.

To start with, the Freedom Phone was just a rebranded, cheap Chinese phone. The $499 Freedom Phone was actually a $119 Umidigi A9 phone. Never heard of Umidigi? Neither had anyone else, really. So it wasn’t made in America and the idea that it was surveillance free and censorship free, coming from China, where neither of those attributes is highly valued, turned out to be a bit of a joke. No specs were available on the website for buyers, the OS was replaced with one made by those Big Tech companies, there are huge privacy concerns with their unregulated app store, and nearly every tech website has advised buyers to avoid this thing like the plague. 

6. Quibi

What can you say about Quibi? This is arguably the biggest bomb of 2021, a fact only tempered by the knowledge literally everyone but those involved seemed to see it coming from a mile away. 

The idea behind Quibi seemed to be the merging of traditional TV and film with something more fast-paced and consumable like YouTube and TikTok. Shows were all going to be short, as in five minutes or so so you could watch them during a morning commute, and they featured some of the biggest names in Hollywood like Kevin Hart, Anna Kendrick, Sam Raimi, Idris Elba, and so many more. How were there so many big names? Could have had something to do with the nearly $2 billion in investment money. 

Quibi lasted for about seven months. No one was on board. You couldn’t watch Quibi on a TV, only a cell phone. You couldn’t screencap Quibi shows. It was far too expensive for what it was and, most importantly, nearly everything they made kind of sucked. Critics and viewers alike universally panned almost every show on the platform. 

5. Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 was released at the end of 2020 and was one of the most hyped games in recent years. It even starred Keanu Reeves, for goodness sake. It was also one of the fastest selling games ever, with nearly five million pre-orders before its launch and about 13.7 million sold in total. Sounds like a huge win, right? Well, not exactly.

Around 30,000 buyers ended up getting refunds from the developer because the game was so buggy as to be nearly unplayable. The PlayStation Store also issued refunds and ended up removing the game entirely. 

The game was extremely glitchy on both PS4 and Xbox One. Lawsuits were filed for making the games work so poorly on older generation systems and then hackers stole information from the developer. 

At the end of the day, even when people were able to enjoy the game and had it run perfectly, the game turned out to be okay. Just okay. It never lived up to the hype and a lot of people have mostly forgotten about it since its release.

4. Coolest Cooler

Making a cooler into a tech fail is no small feat. A cooler can literally be a styrofoam box, so a company needs to go above and beyond to make it a failure, let alone one that drags technology down with it. But that’s just what the Coolest Cooler did when it fumbled its way into existence a few years back.

In 2014, the Coolest Cooler was one of the biggest campaigns ever on Kickstarter, which raised a stunning $13 million, a fact no one could have seen coming. Who knew coolers were so popular?

The Coolest Cooler was supposed to be able to charge devices like your phone and feature its own blender and Bluetooth speaker, as well as some other knickknacks. Fast forward to 2019 and the company filed for bankruptcy as the cooler finally went down in flames. 

The CEO blamed Chinese tariffs for ending the product line, but product reviews from 2016 had already pointed out that the cooler was mostly garbage. With a $399 price tag, you’d expect a high tech cooler to at least work right, and this one didn’t. The blender was mediocre at best and the battery life was about four whole minutes of blending.

The cooler never got released during its Kickstarter because the company ran out of money, so backs had to pony up an additional $96 to get one if they still wanted it. Plus, people who didn’t back the Kickstarter and just bought one on Amazon got theirs faster. 

3. Galaxy Fold

Science fiction has enticed us for a few years with the idea of foldable tech. Things like phones or tablets that you can roll up and bend seem convenient because enough of us have dropped or crushed phones and broken the screens to make it a desirable feature. So, based on that, Samsung went ahead and made a screen that you couldn’t roll but you could at least fold. Or that was the idea.

The Galaxy Fold was unleashed in 2019 and it looked kind of like a wallet. You could fold it clean in half and then unfold it and your screen was right there, arguably giving you twice the screen capacity of the size of it in your pocket. The price tag for this remarkable tech was nearly $2,000. Things didn’t go well.

Once Samsung actually let reviewers try out the phones, they failed immediately. It took only a day or two for most reviewers to point out that their folding screens just didn’t work. Some developed bulges, some only worked on one side of the fold. Other reviews removed a protective film because they didn’t know not to remove it and basically destroyed the phone.

After the phone’s release, Samsung claimed to have sold one million units in about 4 months, then quickly walked that back saying the 1 million was what they hoped to sell. Samsung’s CEO later admitted they pushed the Fold out too soon and it was embarrassing

2. Hacked Sex Toys

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By now, everyone knows that they need to protect everything that connects to the internet from hackers because they’re looming around every corner. We all have dozens of passwords to protect everything we own and with good reasons – hackers really will hack into anything. That includes sex toys.

There’s a strong and growing market for adult toys that are connected to the internet to allow remote control by other users for reasons you can imagine all on your own. But the problem is that few of these devices have any security built into them. 

The most obvious security risk is any personal data that can be gleaned by hackers from a connected device. This may not seem like much at first, and may only be embarrassing information related to your use of sex toys. But that’s not all. 

One user on Twitter recently pointed out how their computer had been hacked and someone gained access to their Metamask, a browser extension that lets you access Ethereum and other crypto business. The user lost some NFTs and funds and the only unusual thing they could think of on their network was a sex toy they’d plugged in to charge. 

1. WeWork

WeWork was a tech startup company that helped provide shared office space for new companies and startups. So basically just real estate for businesses, though they also dabbled in virtual spaces alongside real ones and tried very hard to dupe people into thinking they did things when they really did very little. The company would rent large office spaces long term, and then divide up smaller spaces within that property for more short-term renters to use it as their day-to-day office space. Somehow, this idea managed an initial valuation of $47 billion.  

The company got an $8 billion investment from SoftBank and they set about buying office spaces in major cities across the country. They projected the market for their business to be upwards of $3 trillion and no one thought that sounded insane. They got this number by deciding that literally anyone who worked at a desk in a city where they had an office qualified as a potential member. 

The CEO and his wife were notoriously bad at business and almost cartoonishly inept. He worked barefoot and did tequila shots in the office while she once fired someone because their “energy” was off. 

The company’s only real strength seemed to be mismanaging money. In 2018, they lost $1.9 billion off of $1.8 billion in revenue and continued to tank. The CEO had to resign just to instill some faith in the business, not that it worked at all. In 2019, their IPO failed and had to be pulled. In 2021 they reported over $2 billion in losses in the first quarter alone.

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