25 Most Embarrassing Technological Failures

Posted by , Updated on May 23, 2024

Over the last thirty years, new technology has lead to amazing new products. The breakneck pace of innovation forced many tech companies to take great risks. Sometimes these ideas were ahead of their time, but people just weren’t ready for it. Mostly, though, they weren’t any good in the first place. Ready to see the devices with eggs on their face? Here are 25 most embarrassing technological failures.



QR Codes

qr codesSource: http://marketingland.com/the-death-of-the-qr-code-37902

QR Codes were supposed to be a technological marvel that would revolutionize the way companies marketed to consumers. Unfortunately, the inconvenience and internet connectivity requirement made it too difficult a process. They may be everywhere but few actually use them.


Playstation EyeToy

eyetoySource: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/6-pieces-of-failed-playstation-hardware.html/?a=viewall

When the Playstation EyeToy came out for Playstation 2 in 2003, webcams were just becoming popular. No one really understood what the device could do or was for and it didn’t help that few games were compatible or it.



tivoSource: http://www.curiousmarketeer.com/2015/09/case-study-why-tivo-failed/

While TiVo created great brand marketing, it didn’t understand its customer or the industry it was working within. Instead of working with cable companies, it worked against them, and soon people would just get a cable company provided DVR rather than go to the store to buy a TiVo. Instant streaming eating away at the cable industry didn’t help much either.



blackberrySource: http://business.time.com/2013/09/24/the-fatal-mistake-that-doomed-blackberry/

For a time, Blackberry was the prominent smartphone in the market. But most of the people who used them were business people. Once the iPhone came out and attracted average consumers, the Blackberry suddenly looked like an ancient piece of technology. Failing to anticipate the shift in the market, Blackberry fell like a brick.



pebbleSource: https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2016/12/16/why-did-pebble-fail/

While Pebble was able to get to the smart wearables market faster than most other companies, they weren’t able to capture enough of the market before FitBit and Apple. Pebble failed because it was squeezed out and made irrelevant.


Oakley THUMP Sunglasses

oakley thumpSource: https://www.engadget.com/2007/11/05/oakleys-split-thump-the-relentless-pursuit-of-fail/

Back in 2004, Oakley released a combination of sunglasses and a Mp3 player. Sometimes combining two different devices can lead to a great product. Sadly, with poor sound quality and questionable fashion, the Oakley THUMP wasn’t it.



mpaquestSource: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Google-Maps-so-well-designed-compared-to-MapQuest-Bing-or-Yahoo-Maps

MapQuest started out as one of the premier internet browser maps but over time Google Maps dwarfed it in every way, including performance, API, and coverage.


Sega Dreamcast

Sega-dreamcast-setSource: http://www.goliath.com/gaming/10-reasons-why-the-sega-dreamcast-failed/?streamview=all

After the abysmal release of Sega Saturn, Sega was determined to make a strong comeback. The Dreamcast made an impressive launch with non-stop advertising but design flaws, financial woes, and the upcoming release of the Playstation 2 inevitably killed its momentum and became their last console.



AOLSource: http://fortune.com/2015/01/10/15-years-later-lessons-from-the-failed-aol-time-warner-merger/

America-On-Line, or AOL, was the largest internet service provider in the United States. The company’s success made it a corporate behemoth, but their merger with Time Warner and inability to keep up with broadband technology lead to their demise.



altavistaSource: https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2421516,00.asp

We’re not going to mince words, AltaVista was a gargantuan dumpster fire of failure. Originally the project was just like Google, but two years earlier. It indexed the entire web, cached it, and even had name recognition. But no one thought you could monetize search engines back then and its owner, Compaq, had no vision. After it was sold from company to company like an unwanted puppy, it ultimately got shut down by Yahoo!


Google Wave

google waveSource: http://www.eweek.com/cloud/google-waves-failure-10-reasons-why

Google Wave was supposed to be an all new communication tool for internet users, combining email, social networking, and instant messaging. At the time, it had tons of hype surrounding it but failed to get off the ground because it was too crowded with features, didn’t have consumer appeal, and lacked power user support.


Lumosity Brain Games

lumositySource: https://www.fastcompany.com/3055127/lumosity-must-pay-2-million-after-unfounded-brain-game-claims

When Lumosity hit the scene, it made huge claims about its effects on brain health, saying it would make people better at work, school, and reduce conditions like Alzheimer’s and ADHD. However, after a major study was released saying Lumosity doesn’t do anything close to what they stated, they had to pay $2 million for violating FTC rules. We’re pretty sure no one plays those infuriating games anymore.


Qualcomm's Flo TV

FLO-TVSource: https://gigaom.com/2010/12/20/flo-tv-fail/

Flo TV, developed by Qualcomm, was mostly made for television junkies in mind. The technology allowed for a constant link to live television on a mobile device without WiFi or cellular data. You just needed a subscription. It was a good idea in theory but ended up failing due to the high cost of the device, the subscription, and the fact that no one actually watches television on a mobile device. In the end, consumers didn’t have a good enough incentive to get the device or use the service.


Palm Treo

palm treoSource: https://www.theverge.com/2012/6/5/3062611/palm-webos-hp-inside-story-pre-postmortem

In 1996, the Palm Pilot was a decent success in the personal organizer market. However, years later as smartphones grew in dominance, Palm failed to capture the market with their own smartphone devices like the Palm Treo.



napsterSource: https://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/09/legacy-napster

There’s no arguing Napster completely revolutionized the music industry, making Mp3’s a popular way to listen to music. In that regard, it was successful. However, as a long sustaining technology, it failed faster than most, coming to the scene in 1999 and eventually getting shut down in 2001. Rather than legitimately offering a music service like iTunes did later, it merely created a business around piracy.


Samsung Galaxy Note 7

samsung galaxy note 7Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/22/business/samsung-galaxy-note-7-battery-fires-report.html?mcubz=0

Today, the last thing anyone expects when they’re using a tablet or smartphone is for it to catch fire or explode. Unfortunately for Samsung, and the poor user of a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, it did just that. As news reports of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 catching fire and burning to a crisp accumulated, Samsung originally blamed the battery. But, even when they tried to fix that problem, it still caught fire. Turns outs, their extreme design decisions were the main culprit. In the end, they had to recall the device entirely and lost about $6 billion.


Apple Pippin

pippinSource: https://www.polygon.com/2015/9/8/9277273/what-is-pippin-apple-tv

Today, the iPhone dominates a large chunk of the mobile gaming market with its giant library of third party apps. However, in another time, they had a video game console that didn’t do quite as well. It was called Apple Pippin, released by Bandai. While the system was quite powerful and innovative for its time, the lack of marketing, brand recognition, and few games made it fall pretty quickly. The Playstation released soon after the Pippin and crushed any chances it had of making ground. Eventually, Steve Jobs put an end to the project in 1997.


The Daily

the dailySource: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/12/why-the-daily-failed/265834/

With the rise of the iPad, News Corp. started a digital newspaper called The Daily to get a head start in a new potential newspaper market. However, with no one sharing its stories, it’s isolation on the iPad was its ultimate downfall.


Microsoft SPOT

Microsoft SPOTSource: https://www.bit-tech.net/news/microsoft-kills-off-smart-watches/1/

Before the Apple Watch, Microsoft hopped into the smartwatch market in 2004 with the Microsoft SPOT, standing for “Smart Personal Objects Technology.” Clever. After five years, Microsoft pulled the plug and its hard to understand why they didn’t do it sooner. With a clunky design, $800 price tag, and a required $9.99 subscription to MSN Direct, the “smartwatch” didn’t exactly take off.


Nintendo VirtualBoy

virtual boySource: http://www.digitalspy.com/gaming/retro-gaming/feature/a562419/virtual-boy-retrospective-nintendos-disastrous-foray-into-vr/

At this point, Nintendo’s foray into VR back in the 90s is the stuff of legend. The VirtualBoy was a total disaster. The device didn’t have any good games, caused eye strain and migraines, and was difficult to play. They only moved 350,000 units and was quickly scrapped soon after launch.


Google Glass

google glassSource: https://www.forbes.com/sites/siimonreynolds/2015/02/05/why-google-glass-failed/#1822999551b5

Initially, when Google Glass was revealed, many saw plenty of potential. However, after years of development, the tech never got off the ground. With poor marketing and communication to consumers, a high price tag, and no mainstream product launch, Google Glass was essentially dead on arrival.



myspaceSource: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/30/how-myspace-fell-apart_n_887853.html

Started in 2003, MySpace skyrocketed as the top social network on the internet. It had potential to become a dominant force in the tech industry but when it was sold to News Corp. in 2005, it fell hard and fast because News Corp didn’t know how to innovate it. With an opening in sight, Facebook overtook it in 2008. MySpace lost 40 million unique visitors in a short period, lost its founders, laid off a majority of its employees, and became a relic of the internet.


Motorola ROKR E1

MOTOROKRSource: https://www.technobezz.com/the-apple-products-that-totally-failed-in-the-market/

The Motorola ROKR E1 was a bizarre combination of Apple’s iPod and Motorola phone. It allowed people to connect to iTunes and use the iPod software. However, it failed because it had slow sync times and a 100 songs upload limit.



ouyaSource: https://www.tomsguide.com/us/ways-ouya-console-failed,review-1881.html

After it’s majorly successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $8.5 million, the Ouya looked like a potential slam dunk, but only faced increasingly high obstacles in a very competitive market. While it had a good price point at $99, it didn’t have any original games, a good controller, or a market to speak of. Turns out, no one really wants to play a console full of games they can play on their cell phone instead.


Oculus Rift and New VR

Person wearing VRSource: https://www.cnet.com/news/3-big-reasons-vr-failed-to-revolutionize-pc-gaming/

When new virtual reality technology hit the scene in the past few years, many believed it would revolutionize how we play video games. People marveled over the Oculus Rift, the PlayStation VR headset, and the HTC Vive. However, there’s already concerns these projects are major failures. With expensive headsets and few big games being developed for the hardware, there’s little incentive for consumers to bite. And maybe, just maybe, no one wants to look like THAT person with THAT thing strapped to their face?

Image Credit: 1. Shutterstock, 2. Ouya via Crappy-games.wikia.com used here for illustration purposes. No free image available. It’s believed this image falls under fair use under United States copyright laws. 3. Matt Ray via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 2.0, 4. Jim Whimpey via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 5. Mikepanhu via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 3.0, 6. Gregorios Kythreotis via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 2.0, 7. Microsoft SPOT via gigaom.com used here for illustration purposes. No free image available. It’s believed this image falls under fair use under United States copyright laws., 8. The Dialy via Tidbits.com used here for illustration purposes. No free image available. It’s believed this image falls under fair use under United States copyright laws., 9. Public Domain, 10. Samsung Galazy Note 7 via fox-news24.com used here for illustration purposes. No free image available. It’s believed this image falls under fair use under United States copyright laws., 11. Njahnke via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 4.0 , 12. Public Domain, 13. Qualcomm’s FLO TV via intomobile.com used here for illustration purposes. No free image available. It’s believed this image falls under fair use under United States copyright laws., 14. Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0, 15. Ivan Chew via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 16. Brent Payne via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0, 17. Public Domain, 18. Asim Saleem (Asim18) via commons.wikimedia.og CC BY 3.0 (white background added). 19. Richard Masoner via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0, 20. Jeff Dlouhy via Flickr CC BY 2.0, 21. Pebble Technology via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 1.0, 22. edans / Enrique Dans via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY 2.0, 23. Jared C. Benedict via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 3.0, 24. Public Domain, 25. Akiry via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 3.0. Featured Image: Loïc Le Meur via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY 2.0.