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When tech has too much press, too little lasting presence
Research projects as products-to-be. Remember the iShoe? A hopeful research project, led by Erez Lieberman at MIT who won a prize in 2008 for designing it. It was to be tested by Ohio Health, to be available as a product in 2010 for $100. Someone asked me about it recently – sadly, there is no iShoe for you to buy. Maybe Ohio Health had some difficulty emerge during testing. Of course, there is also no article announcing the end of the iShoe project and concept. People remember it, though, and they confuse it with the now-available GPS shoe.
So whatever happened to…? Well, for one, remember the Gecko Systems CareBot? Here’s a note to their investors on the status of this project – and no, you can’t buy one in the near future. Heard much about that human airbag that was going to help seniors when they fell? Or Independence Labs? Or the web-connected tea kettle (only my blog post remains), or Paro, the robotic seal, out and about still booking event appearances.
Researchers fiddle in the press while Rome burns. Like Erez, who is on to thinking about innovations in genomics and linguistics, other projects beckon. So no shoe is going to warn seniors about an imminent fall even though the CDC says that "among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. In 2009, 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 581,000 of these patients were hospitalized." Too bad, no iShoe or human airbag to help out.
Your past and theirs – all still on the Internet. So if a press release is appropriate to announce an arrival on the scene, don’t we deserve an explanation about the status or departure of projects supposedly intended to help an aging population that needs help (see previous paragraph)? Why did these folks all give up? Something else was more fun? The task at hand was too difficult? Too costly (see CareBot), prospective funders lost interest (see WellCore)? But what about those who learned about these ideas when they were first trumpeted in the press, those who thought they might be useful or even could change the lives of seniors, those deserve a bit of explanation, an online retrospective analysis, maybe even a Harvard Business School case, so that the next bright-eyed graduate student with a press release doesn’t start the same company all over again.