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The worst gadgets of 2017
The fork connects to an app on your phone, which emits sounds at a certain wavelength to help cover up the offending slurp. That’s about it. It has a battery that lasts an hour between charges, and the handle isn’t waterproof, so the prongs need to be hand-washed. To be fair, the Otohiko is only available on pre-order right now, and if Nissin doesn’t sell at least 5,000 units, it won’t make them. Which is probably a good thing, because we’d rather spend that $130 on more ramen.
Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant
One of the most exciting announcements at Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launch event was Bixby, the company’s AI-powered personal assistant. Instead of just telling it what to do, Bixby could supposedly learn your daily habits and patterns and tailor itself to your life. It also promised a visual search feature that uses the phone’s camera to shop, identify objects and translate signs. Samsung even boasted that as complex as Bixby was, it would be as easy to use as your phone’s touchscreen. Unfortunately, however, it just never lived up to its promise.
For one thing, Bixby wasn’t even available for a good three months after the S8 and the S8 Plus came out, which is not a good look for what is supposedly the next driving force behind Samsung’s consumer products. And when it did arrive, it simply wasn’t very reliable. In our “Life with AI“ series, senior editor Devindra Hardawar said it took forever to answer simple commands; sometimes repeating the same command would result in wildly different replies.
Bixby still has a lot of potential, but we’ll have to wait for 2018 for any improvements. In the meantime, why bother with something unfinished when the S8 has another personal assistant (the well-established Google Assistant) already baked in?
Google Pixel Buds
We were initially excited about Google’s Pixel Buds. A pair of earbuds that could translate languages on the fly? That sounded like Douglas Adams’ Babel fish come to life. Ultimately, though, it didn’t live up to the hype. They don’t block out noise at all; fitting them into the case is a hassle (plus it has a tendency to pop open); and the touchpads on the sides of the buds activate way too easily. Even using Google Assistant is a hit-or-miss experience. In his review, senior mobile editor Chris Velazco mentioned how he would sometimes make a request, and it would just hang without any response.
As for that much-hyped translation feature, it works, but only sort of. For one thing, you have to hand your phone over to the person you’re speaking to so they can respond to you. It’s also dependent on a reliable internet connection; anything less will result in a slow response, if any. Plus, the translation relies on Google Translate, which can be overly literal, especially when it comes to idioms and colloquialisms. Translations from non-Roman languages like Chinese and Japanese are especially error-prone. In short, the Pixel Buds aren’t very good headphones, with or without the feature that makes them special.
Hushme voice mask for smartphones
Want to look like Bane while making an important business call? You might want to get the Hushme, one of the most ridiculous gadgets we’ve seen this year. That said, the idea behind it isn’t completely terrible. This mouth-wrapping contraption aims to muffle your voice so as to not bother people around you when you’re on a call — and it prevents them from listening in on your private conversations, too. It even comes with a couple of earbuds, so you can make those calls hands-free.
But Hushme then thought, hey, let’s drown out your voice even further by emitting a series of sounds through external speakers, like R2-D2-style beeping or the more natural sound of rain. That seems to defeat the whole purpose of not disturbing others. Since we last saw it at CES, Hushme underwent a redesign. (It’s now white instead of black, which doesn’t make it any less creepy.) Our jokes aside, it seems quite a few people out there thought this was a good idea: The device has raised over $71,880 on Kickstarter and is now available through Indiegogo for $189.
Check out all of Engadget’s year-in-review coverage right here.