The letdown also stems from actual usage. Google Glass looked like it might change everything, but its significance has been less than that. It's a milestone in wearable computing, but more of a millstone when worn.
Future products? They're still golden, as yet untainted by imperfections. Could Apple's iWatch be anything other than awesome? Unreleased and untested, upcoming products shine in our imaginations. They're everything we hope for, until we open the box.
Ten products from the future follow. They're coming this year, or maybe a bit after that. And until then, they're full of promise.
Apple Mac Pro
After the critical drubbing Apple weathered from the Power Mac G4 Cube 13 years ago, it takes a lot of confidence to abandon the rectangular desktop tower for a black cylinder. So much so that you have to root for Apple to get the new Mac Pro right, even as you struggle to keep from noticing how much it looks like a modernist trash can.
[ Don't want companies like Google snooping on you? Read Google Shares Advice On Wi-Fi Security. ]
Desktop computers are becoming an endangered species in the mobile era, but it doesn't have to be that way. The Mac Pro could keep the flame of traditional computing alive, even if it's clearly not designed for expansion and tinkering. Wouldn't it be great if the new Mac Pro proves three times faster than competing workstations, at half the cost everyone expects? There's no harm in dreaming.
The concept sounds incredible: A device that can track hand motions in the air and turn them into interface events on a connected computer. Leap Motion promises the sort of computer interaction depicted in Minority Report and other sci-fi movies. It will be great if it works as advertised, because touch-screen interaction on a laptop isn't ideal.
Recon Jet Pilot
While Google mulls whether consumers will really buy Glass in some form or another, the future for computerized eyewear looks brighter for specialized applications. Recon Instruments is working on a product called Recon Jet Pilot, or Google Glass for athletes. Jet Pilot, slated to ship at the end of the year, focuses on providing relevant information and services for those engaged in sport. And at $499 through July 21, it costs a third of Glass. That alone makes it worthy of consideration.
Coming later this summer, Memoto is a small, wearable $279 camera that takes photos every 30 seconds, all day long. It relieves the wearer of the burden of deciding which moments are worth preserving for posterity. There's also an optional cloud service so users don't have to manage gigabytes of photos daily. Enjoy your privacy while it lasts.
It's an Android phone with a twist: YotaPhone comes with two screens, a color liquid crystal display (LCD) screen and an electronic paper display (EPD) on the back. The EPD stays on all the time and remains in a visible, frozen state even if the phone's battery dies. So if it's storing a boarding pass or ticket barcode, that information will continue to be accessible, with or without power. Plus, EPDs are great for reading outdoors, unlike LCDs.
A smartwatch really ought to respond to voice and gesture commands. That's the goal of the Kreyos Meteor. How well it works remains to be seen, but you know that buttons and touchscreen controls aren't the optimal input methods for something as small as a watch. The Meteor is expected to work with Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices and has a software development kit for developers. And it's waterproof. It might be just as awesome as it sounds.
Gigabit Ethernet, check. 867-Mbps data transfers via 802.11ac or 300 Mbps via 802.11n, check. A touchscreen, check. Support for ZigBee and Z-Wave home automation protocols, check. What more could you want? A $99 price? That's there too. Securifi's Almond+ router might just make routers fun again! Were routers ever fun? Well, maybe the Almond+ will be a first.
Evado Filip VIVOplay
Parents realize that mobile phones make it much easier to keep in touch with (and ensure the safety of) their kids. But most balk at the idea of giving children mobile phones until they approach being teenagers, particularly given the expense of popular smartphones. Evado Filip has an alternative for the 5-12 set, VIVOplay, a watch with limited communications and tracking functions. The devil is in the details, which haven't been released, but if the company can get the pricing and monthly fee at a level that's reasonable, it could have a hit on its hands.
Oculus VR Rift
Why bother with a stand-alone high-resolution screen when you can experience immersive virtual reality through a head-mounted display? The forthcoming Oculus Rift goggles make gaming up-close, personal and amazing. It also makes gaming rather geeky, but that's just more of the same, isn't it? Developers who order now can get one by August.
You can get phones running Firefox OS right now, but really these are just previews of what Firefox OS could become. Mozilla and its carrier partners have aimed deliberately for the lower end of the market, but their ambitions are high-minded: To connect the under-connected and to nurture appreciation and demand for an open mobile operating ecosystem. It might be years before Firefox OS has meaningful mobile market share, but its mere existence should serve as a counterbalance that keeps Apple, Google and Microsoft from becoming too closed in their respective mobile empires.