If you’re reading our new site, it means you’re interested in tech — which means I probably don’t have to tell you it’s CES time again.

The annual consumer electronics fest kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas, where around 150,000 vendors, marketers, journalists and various other techies will swarm the Strip and marvel at the cutting-edge technologies that will ultimately pervade our lives this year.

Well, not exactly.

A lot of buzzed-about products end up vaporizing moments after CES. Others suffer launch delays, lose momentum or fail to capture the interest of the public.

Still others are actually meant to be mere concepts, showing show-goers what’s possible — if not exactly practical.

At last year's CES, Haier showed off a transparent washing machine. Image courtesy of Gizmodo.

At last year’s CES, Haier showed off a transparent washing machine. Image courtesy of Gizmodo.

Take, for example, Haier’s transparent washing machine at last year’s CES, which Gizmodo appropriately called the “best vaporware of 2013.” While the idea of being able to actually watch the inner workings of this washer — which looked like a cross between a fish tank, the see-through telephone from my teenage years and the inside of a Virgin America plane — was a little bit exciting, the company made clear it was a concept product, keeping expectations low for an actual shipment this year (or even this decade).

Hisense’s transparent 3-D display also generated a lot of chatter. This was a 50-inch screen created for commercial purposes. Physical objects placed behind the display could still be seen by passersby, but, with the help of polarized glasses, images on the screen would pop out. It was reported at the time of the show that the display might ship by mid-year.

A spokeswoman for Hisense confirmed that the product didn’t make it to market this year. So much for “transparency” in 2013 (insert NSA joke here).

It’s not only high-concept machines that end up falling into the vaporware category. The history of DOA tablets is a long one. Last year Vizio showed off a 10-inch Android tablet prototype, which boasted an Nvidia Tegra 4 chip. Vizio instead shipped an 11.6-inch Windows 8 tab this year, and declined to comment on the future of the 10-inch Android tablet.

Vizio demoed a 10-inch Android tablet with a Tegra 4 chip at CES 2013. The tablet never shipped this year. Image courtesy of Technologer/Flickr.

Vizio demoed a 10-inch Android tablet with a Tegra 4 chip at CES 2013. The tablet has yet to ship. Image courtesy of Technologer/Flickr.

Meanwhile, Panasonic’s 20-inch, 4K “Toughpad” tablet, another darling of CES 2013, won’t ship until next month, a year after it was demoed. It costs $6,000.

And who could forget Lady Gaga’s photo-capturing glasses for Polaroid, Skiff’s flexible e-reader and the Saygus Vphone, all unveiled within the past five years — only to vanish like a Snapchat message?

I get it. Things happen. The market changes. Companies re-strategize. Products are re-shaped, re-designed or re-thought entirely.

To be fair, CES in years past has been a launch pad for truly innovative technologies (remember the VHS tape? I do.). Some so-called vaporware items — let’s call them prototypes, to be kind — actually end up being precursors to legitimate tech products, and futuristic technologies end up integrated into existing devices.

Chrome OS laptops were labeled vaporware after CES 2010, but ended up making it to market in the spring of 2011. Mobile DTV gadgets haven’t taken off in a big way, but more and more consumers are certainly watching TV content on their mobile devices. Expensive and inaccessible 3-D TVs filled the show floor a few years ago; now, 3-D is an ancillary feature in many new TV sets.

And, quite a few CES 2013 gadgets I initially wrote off ended up shipping this past year. Snooki’s headphones? You can actually buy them. The iPotty and Hapifork? Gimmicky, for sure, but currently available. Swiveling, brain-wave-reading cat ears? Yes. Really.

But these aren’t exactly transformative products.

Maybe one of these years we’ll see a Google Glass-like device that helps consumers see through the hype, or a wearable that sends a reality-reminding shock when something seems too good to be true. But for now, with CES nearly upon us — as we face the maze of booths, the assault of bright lights, the thousands of beeping gadgets and hype as thick as casino smoke — keep in mind that what happens in Vegas, might just stay there.

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3 comments
SarahWeldon
SarahWeldon

I'd love to see the writer of this article does something else outside of blabbering/writing about technology. i.e - actually make products or at least be involved in the process before she dismiss the validity of the work of those who create. That condescending tone twinkling in her speech might quickly change. 

Dear Writer: While I have no argument on your writing abilities, you have zero understanding of the difficulties, the trials and tribulations that go into designing and building tech gadgets. Some products fail, some succeed and some are just in concept stages but when you call it vaporware, you dismiss the hard work put into making these things. You dismiss the engineers, the designers and all team members involved and you forget about the money spent on getting these prototypes made - just so you, the writer, can enjoy a sting or two (how delightful for you, you probably enjoy pointing fingers at those who create.)

Whom might you think you are exactly? An industry expert of any sorts? You sit at the comfort of your chair (I'd imagine at your local organic gluten-free coffee shop) slurping coffee in front of your laptop as you devise your next mischievous words with a smirk on your face, ultimately landing into some article (or a blog-post) as useless as this while others actually work through many sleepless nights to Create! I'm sure you're grown enough to realize there's no Santa, and neither does a magical work-shop exists. It's women and man working hard to create and deliver you these gadgets. Instead of mocking their life's work, show them with a little bit of respect, or at the very least give them some of the respect you give to your peers.

Your self-sense of importance is astonishing to people like us. You've yourself admitted that previously titled vaporware made it to the shelves, so why not do the sensible thing and wait a little bit before you judge the validity of new technology? I still remember reading an article by a well established self-absorbed tech-writer which argued the internet is going to be out of fashion in a few years time, mocking the people building it. I've been working for a team of which product was presented at CES some years ago, also dubbed vaporware by you media people and yet ended up being reasonably successful. Our team has also failed at some products, and others are simply in waiting for commercialization so you see, we thoroughly understand what it takes. Telling us our work is nothing but hot steam, or smoke is unprofessional.

Oh and apropos professionalism: "to good to be true" is spelled "too good to be true." - If you expect us designers to come with well polished gadgets, do hold yourself to the very same standards. It's okay though, these things happen and it's not a huge error - See courtesy isn't too difficult after all. Perhaps you can extend such courtesy to us as well - we're humans too

Roarshack
Roarshack

If courtesy isn't too difficult then you should have employed more in your comment instead of a metric ton of snark. I'm sure being a designer is difficult, but if a company is going to show off a product and say it's going to be released later in the year then it's fair to see if they hold to that or if they just seem to be using the publicity from CES to simply get attention. And then there are things like that transparent washing machine that are more proof of concept and I think it's good for writers to let people know not to expect those type of things on the shelves anytime soon.

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