(Pocket-lint) – Over the years, gadgets, gizmos and everyday items have been created or dreamt up at a point in time where they wouldn’t be easily consumed by the general public.
Forward-thinking creators, intelligent problem solvers and great minds of their generations came up with some fantastic devices that wouldn’t be appreciated for years to come.
We’re rounding up a few of the best. Some would turn into utter failures, others are visions of current popular tech that were originally envisioned years before but never came to fruition.
Anexperimental Tracked Air Cushion Vehicle
In the mid-1960s to the late years of the 1970s, French engineers were looking to create new transportation machines that included the Aérotrain, an experimental Tracked Air Cushion Vehicle.
This machine was essentially a hovertrain and a variation of the maglev train design. It was designed to ride on an air cushion above the track and thereby avoid all resistance in order to reach unprecedented top speeds. In 1969, a rocket-equipped prototype achieved a record speed of 262 mph.
The design faced numerous challenges not least of which was the need for elevated guideways wherever the train was set to travel. Sudden changes in wind pressure could also cause problems. The project was eventually scrapped due to a lack of funds.
An ergonomic workstation from the 1970s
Back in the days before the modern PC and fancy standing work stations, designers were still managing to come up with weird and wonderful seating arrangements for workers.
This vision of the future included an all-in-one design with a figure-hugging chair, built-in typewriter and even some earphones with extendable aerials. A vision of tech luxury for the time, but perhaps a step too far?
Online games services
Back in the hazy days of the mid-1990s, Sega reigned supreme in the video game world. During this period the company launched an online games service known as Sega Channel. It was essentially a content delivery system that was an early attempt to stream digital content to the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis.
Sega teamed up with Time Warner Cable and TCI to deliver games digitally via standard coaxial cable. For a $15 monthly fee, gamers could attach the adapter to their console and access roughly 50 games. Games needed to be downloaded in order to work and turning the console off would wipe them but it was an interesting early concept. As you’d expect, the technology to support such a system was in its early stages and simple things like noise on the line would cause downloads to fail. Despite that Sega Channel had 250,000 subscribers at its peak before closing in 1998.
An early motion controller
In 1989 the Power Glove appeared on the gaming scene. A snazzy motion controller accessory for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. It was made by Mattel and had traditional NES controller buttons on the forearm as well as a number of other buttons. Players were able to control games through various hand motions.
The Power Glove could detect the roll of a hand and other movement using ultrasonic sounds transmitted and received by the system.
Only a handful of games were released and it was also held back by a hefty price tag and a lack of accuracy. Still, 100,000 units were sold in the US despite the product being discontinued a year after release.
The Power Glove may well have been the predecessor to modern motion controllers and the forefather of the Wii mote.
Ok, so this one might not be as clever or forward-thinking as some of the other inventions on our list, but there’s no denying its greatness. Why isn’t this a thing? Probably due to the uproar against disposable plastics polluting the planet. Still, there’s always Avocado Stick to sustain us.
The original computer
A grandfather of the first computer may well be this machine – the Difference Engine – a device first developed by Charles Babbage in 1822.
This original invention was essentially an automatic mechanical calculator of epic proportions. It could be used to calculate mathematical functions and was deemed to be interesting enough to earn its inventor a grant from the Government to create a working prototype. Unfortunately, metalworking techniques of the time were not quite up to the task and costs spiralled.
Despite the problems, the foundations for future computer systems including the Bombe and others were laid and there’s no denying the machine and its design were impressive. Just way before its time.
An early head mounted display
In the mid-1990s, Sony launched the Glasstron, a head-mounted display with dual LCD screens and earphones. In that decade, the concept was well beyond its time and lacked the technology to properly support it. The standard model came with opaque lenses and an SVGA input. Later models would support an 800×600 resolution and included the ability to work with games like MechWarrior 2 – allowing users to see a vision from within the cockpit.
This headset and others like it were essentially pre-cursors the various VR and mixed reality headsets we’re seeing more and more of today.
Television goggles from 1963
In 1963, avid inventor and tech enthusiast Hugo Gernsback was photographed by Life Magazine showing off his “teleyeglasses” – a precursor to modern head-mounted displays.
Apparently, the idea of television eyeglasses came to the inventor in 1936, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that advancements in tech made his vision possible. The television goggles used small cathode-ray tubes for the display and included a separate screen for each eye, much like modern VR headsets. The large antenna made this device look alien-like and it was certainly well before its time.
An unusual aerodynamic motorbike
At the 2008 Paris Motor Show, this concept vehicle was unveiled. A quirky aerodynamic motorbike design with the driver laying down and essentially holding onto the front wheel.
It looked like something inspired by Tron and would never catch on. But there’s no denying the design is likely well beyond its time. It also no doubt makes for a terrifyingly thrilling ride.
The original electric cars
There is some dispute over who invented and produced the first electric car, but we do know the some started appearing as early as 1859. The first in the United States was crafted by William Morrison in around 1890. That car could carry six-passengers and reach a top speed of 14 mph.
In the years that followed, Detroit Electric, produced 13,000 electric cars up until 1939. These vehicles were well ahead of their time and the human race was far from ready for such advances. We certainly are a bit more prepared now though.
Leonardo da Vinci’s tank
Leonardo da Vinci is well-known for his various talents that included painting, sculpting, astronomy, botany, cartography as well as a flair for the sciences. He was also an inventor who crafted or conceptualised a multitude of designs for tech well beyond its time.
Some of these concepts included things like the parachute and an early helicopter. Considering he was doing this back in the 16th century (he was born in April 1452) it was a staggering feat indeed. One of these visions of future tech included a fighting vehicle that was essentially a modern tank inspired by a turtle’s shell. The design for this tank included a call for reinforced metal plates to protect the occupants, slanting sides to deflect enemy fire and an array of light cannons. It could barely be built at the time, but was an interesting vision of the future of warfare.
An early motorised scooter
The Autoped was an early vision of today’s scooters. This was a personal transport system originally developed in 1915. It bosted a 155cc air-cooled engine and a top speed of 20 mph. This scooter was well ahead of its time and included some neat design features that wouldn’t look out of place on a similar modern device. It came with both head and tail lamps, a horn and even a toolbox. It was also possible to fold the steering column down to make it easier to store.
The Autoped might well have come about as a necessity due to wartime fuel rationing but it wouldn’t catch on at the time – not something that can be said now. Another design well ahead of its time.
The Lexus Hoverboard
In 2015, luxury carmaker Lexus revealed that it was working on a concept of a hoverboard that “used magnetic levitation with liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets” to travel in the way a hoverboard should. The way we’ve always dreamt of. Of course, it’s still not come to fruition, but we can hope and dream.
What you’re looking at is the world’s first amphibious bicycle. Since we’re not all riding on the sea with bikes, you can imagine how well this concept went, but it’s still pretty narly.
When monowheel motorbikes first appeared in the 1860s, it was thought that they could become a genuine form of transport. Fortunately that never really transpired, but people still try to ride them for fun.
Writing by Adrian Willings.