2016's biggest tech failures, according to MIT

2016's biggest tech failures, according to MIT
PHOTO: Reuters

From fake news to explosions of Samsung's Galaxy Note 7, this year has witnessed remarkable setbacks for some of the biggest names in tech.

Antonio Regalado, senior editor for bio-medicine at the MIT Technology Review magazine, charted out eight of the biggest debacles in an article this week; here they are in chronological order.

Lumosity brain games

Photo: Lumosity

In January, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined web and mobile game maker Lumos Labs $2 million (S$2.9 million) for deceiving consumers in its advertising.

Lumos had created a brain-training game called Lumosity that claimed to relieve dementia and ward off memory loss, so for a monthly membership of $14.95, users were told they could achieve their full potential.

But the FTC said Lumosity lacked "the science to back up its ads" and accused the firm of preying on consumer fears of age-related cognitive decline.

Microsoft's AI chatbot

Photo: Twitter

In March, the software giant unveiled Tay, a female artificial intelligence chatbot designed for human engagement.

It was supposed to converse with youth and learn from them to get smarter over time but a day after its release, Tay was posting a number of offensive tweets that included a denial of the Holocaust, a proclamation for feminists to "burn in hell," and brags of drug consumption.

Microsoft decommissioned Tay the very next day.


Photo: uniQure

With a $1.4 million price tag, Glybera is the world's most expensive drug.

It treats lipoprotein lipase deficiency-a genetic disorder that causes fat to accumulate in the blood, potentially resulting in lethal pancreatitis-but since its approval in 2012, the medicine has only been used once amid concerns over effectiveness, MIT reported in May.

"Instead of being a history-making start to the era of DNA replacement, Glybera is a complete bust for its creator, the gene-therapy startup called UniQure," Regalado said.

Volkswagen's "defeat device"

New cars of several brands of German carmaker Volkswagen AG are covered with protective covers before they are loaded for export on a transport ship at the harbour of the Volkswagen plant in Emden, Germany.

Photo: Reuters

In June, the German automaker agreed to pay $14.7 billion to cover legal penalties and the cost of replacing or fixing 475,000 automobiles in the US following last year's emissions scandal.

Volkswagen admitted on Sept 18, 2015 that it used illegal software, or a "defeat device," to manipulate emissions tests on diesel vehicles in the US, sparking investigations and lawsuits across the world, in addition to the resignation of then-CEO Martin Winterkorn.

"Even though the scandal broke in 2015, the cost to Volkswagen of their innovation is only now becoming clear," Regalado stated.

Glowing plants

Photo: Growingplant.com

A company that aimed to make house plants luminesce in the dark admitted failure in July, telling MIT that "it was a poor choice of product."

Back in 2013, the campaign raised nearly half a million on crowd-funding platform Kickstarter and was lauded for its efforts to make bio-engineering more integrated to daily life.

But no glowing plants have been produced yet and the company will be channeling the Kickstarter money into a "more feasible" product: moss that smells like patchouli oil.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

A Samsung Galaxy Note 7 lays on a counter in plastic bags after it was returned to a Best Buy on September 15, 2016 in Orem, Utah.

Photo: AFP

Launched in August, the Korean conglomerate's newest smartphone was banned by global airlines in October amid reports of batteries in the device catching fire and exploding.

Samsung quickly recalled the phones and released a replacement batch, but those also malfunctioned, leading the firm to announce on Oct. 11 that it was permanently stopping all production of the Galaxy Note 7.

Facebook's news feed

Photo: Reuters

August saw the social network laid off employees that curated popular news on the site's "trending topics" section, amid accusations that the workers' selections were biased against conservative US news outlets.

In their place, Facebook automated trending topics, leaving algorithms to select what stories appeared.

As a result, fake news stories surfaced during the US presidential election campaign, and were believed to have influenced the results, placing pressure on Facebook to combat the issue.

Apple Watch

Photo: Reuters

Shipments of the smartwatch plummeted 71 per cent on-year during the third quarter, according to International Data Corporation (IDC) released earlier this month, a clear sign of the product's waning popularity.

Among major wearable vendor, Apple was the only one to see a growth decline, IDC noted.

The tech giant's smartwatch simply does not do enough to make it as popular or profitable as smartphones, Regalado explained.

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