Good Thinking

Five products only a nerd could love

Five products only a nerd coul...
Glass has been in a closed beta for "Explorers" since 2012, but will they cross over into the mainstream?
Glass has been in a closed beta for "Explorers" since 2012, but will they cross over into the mainstream?
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Eskuche's Control line of headphones make what seems old, new again
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Eskuche's Control line of headphones make what seems old, new again
The line of retro headphones start at $59.95
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The line of retro headphones start at $59.95
The design is inspired by classic industrial design of the 1960’s and 70’s Stereo and Hi-Fi eras
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The design is inspired by classic industrial design of the 1960’s and 70’s Stereo and Hi-Fi eras
Eskuche's Control v2 BLU
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Eskuche's Control v2 BLU
The Galaxy Mega towers at over six inches tall
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The Galaxy Mega towers at over six inches tall
The Samsung smartphone is basically a stretched out Galaxy S4
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The Samsung smartphone is basically a stretched out Galaxy S4
The Mega is also larger than the Note 3
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The Mega is also larger than the Note 3
The Mega is not for everyone
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The Mega is not for everyone
Google Glass will be available to the public in 2014
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Google Glass will be available to the public in 2014
The guts of Glass
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The guts of Glass
Glass has been in a closed beta for "Explorers" since 2012, but will they cross over into the mainstream?
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Glass has been in a closed beta for "Explorers" since 2012, but will they cross over into the mainstream?
PengPod's first run was crowdfunded
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PengPod's first run was crowdfunded
Open source and an open book
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Open source and an open book
PengPod can boot either Linux or Android
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PengPod can boot either Linux or Android
Solowheel is a portable motorized unicycle
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Solowheel is a portable motorized unicycle
Footstands fold up to increase portability
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Footstands fold up to increase portability
Solowheel's steep learning curve and price are obstacles to mainstream adoption
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Solowheel's steep learning curve and price are obstacles to mainstream adoption
Solowheel has been around for a few years but is rarely seen around
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Solowheel has been around for a few years but is rarely seen around
Solowheel pros do exist
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Solowheel pros do exist
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One of the perks of writing about technology and innovation is the opportunity to get your hands on all sorts of new products, usually made by folks with a vision of how their new gadget will change the world. The downside of this privilege, however, is the knowledge that many perfectly fantastic products will never become household names, no matter how deserving they might be. With that in mind, I wanted to pay tribute to five products that, unfortunately, I fear only total nerds like myself will ever truly fall in love with.

Of the five products I've selected here, three of them are not likely to ever be topics of mainstream cultural conversation, another is a sibling to a similar product that has been modestly successful, and the final product is something that has garnered lots of mainstream attention – mainly as a curiosity – but seems unlikely to me to ever become a global bestseller.

Solowheel

This motorized unicycle is half as dorky as a Segway (which still makes it pretty dorky) and twice as hard to use. The process of learning to use a Solowheel is frustrating, tiring and a little painful, but once you've got the hang of balancing on the thing, it can be an exhilarating delight. But then you need to learn how to turn it.

Solowheel is a portable motorized unicycle
Solowheel is a portable motorized unicycle

For those with patience and US$1,500 to spare, the Solowheel could just be the closest thing to a futuristic hoverboard available right now. Unfortunately, the price, learning curve and general quirkiness of the thing will likely prevent a Solowheel-powered personal transit revolution taking place in the foreseeable future.

Pengpod

Pengpod is one of the better grassroots personal technology stories of recent years that no one knows about. The brainchild of a family operation based in Florida but made in China, this crowdfunded line of tablets is fully open source and can run Android and Linux operating systems.

PengPod can boot either Linux or Android
PengPod can boot either Linux or Android

Much like Linux itself, Pengpod seems destined to never become first choice for the masses in the face of competition from behemoths like Samsung, Google and Apple, despite its power and nearly infinite open source possibilities. If the world were filled with nothing but nerds, we'd surely all be living a Linux-fueled life, and this would be the tablet of choice for such a Utopian society, but alas...

Eskuche headphones

Eskuche's line of retro-styled headphones are bulky, funky, and perfect for hipsters looking to reclaim something from those painful years of youth and re-brand it as a fashion statement.

Eskuche's Control v2 BLU
Eskuche's Control v2 BLU

Anyone who came of age in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – or went to an especially underfunded school in a later decade – surely remembers these stuffy, sterile headsets from various "listening stations," filmstrip machines and even record or cassette players of the era. They seem to have been forced upon educational institutions and certain audiophiles of the times.

Unfortunately, I think the negative associations of this design and the increasing quality of smaller headphones might keep Eskuche from fully returning this look to the mainstream.

The Samsung Galaxy Mega

When I spend a few weeks with a new smartphone for the purposes of reviewing it, I'm usually already over it and looking for the next big thing coming down the line by the time I need to send the device back. Surprisingly, Samsung's stretched-out version of the Galaxy S4, the Galaxy Mega 6.3, has been the phone that I've had the hardest time letting go of so far.

The Mega is also larger than the Note 3
The Mega is also larger than the Note 3

Despite the fact that its specs are lesser than those of its successful siblings, the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3, the Mega's thin profile and huge screen made it a device that I loved reaching for. I'm also a big fan of the Nexus 7, which makes me think that 6 to 7 inches must just be my personal usability sweet spot,

However, the most common response I was met with when using the Mega in public was downright (and sometimes cruel) mockery. The world simply isn't quite ready for a phone this big, especially if it doesn't come with a stylus... and that's a shame.

Google Glass

I've had no more than a few minutes of actual hands-on time with Google Glass, and it's far more well-known than the other products on this list, but I felt I had to include it because it seems the perfect example of a nerd's dream device that may never catch on.

Google Glass will be available to the public in 2014
Google Glass will be available to the public in 2014

There's been so much hype around Glass that it's helped to fuel a burgeoning backlash long before the augmented reality specs have even been made available to the general public. The idea seems to be to allow many months to get the public (and developers) accustomed to the concept, but the clamor for Glass still seems to be largely limited to the nerdy elite of early adopters, while everyone else rants about privacy concerns and the questionable aesthetics of Glass.

I really hope I'm wrong about this one. I think a major, stylish redesign could go a long way towards making Glass a best-seller, but my sense right now is that non-nerds are most definitely not on board yet.

Let me know in the comments below and @ericcmack what you think of these selections, and which products I've left off the list that you think deserve a place here.

View gallery - 19 images
7 comments
ei3io
Glass may seem nerdy now but make no mistake,, Steve Mann the first inventor and adopter of this started developing Wearable Computers at MIT in the 1980s and so the eye plus voice and some subtle touch Input/Outputs will become the future for human civilization.
But possibly only after convergence accommodation disparity is solved.
pomaikai
Eric, if you could suggest my idea to the folks at Samsung to make a flexible screen that allows the Mega to fold lengthwise into a triangular bar, it would fit the ergonomic form of a handset, with better approximation of the speaker and microphone to the user. It might even de-nerd it, I think.
John Ward
On the other hand, Google glass may be the best thing since sliced bread. I would think that those doing field service, those doing telephone support, and those whose job entails constant interaction with a host would find them almost indispensable.
HighPockets
Dude, I'm 72, but a techophile. Can't claim to be your kind of techno-nerd, but I am a happy user, and if they get the price of this puppy down a bit, I think it will spread widely and rapidly.
Zaron Gibson
Pengpod sounds pretty good, I'll have to check it out. Thanks.
nutcase
Unfortunately PengPod has gone down the tubes. https://pengpod.com/blog/latest
Del1
Glass looks nerdy becos it's just been bolted on to existing eyewear. If the eyewear was designed from ground-up to be a wearable computer, it could be made to look cooler.
The camera could be made to disappear between the brows, the rims will have all the computing stuff crammed in and the handles be the batteries.