What do we mean when we talk about “products ahead of their time”

  • 7

MKBHD, the fantastic youtuber about technology, published a few days ago a video enumerating some of the latest devices that turned out to be, in his opinion, ahead of their time. For example, Google Glass (which has been with us for ten years!) when a decade later it is still not technologically possible to build augmented reality glasses as such, with a minimally attractive experience —which does not mean that you have to recognize the courage of Google for this type of proposals—. He also mentioned the Motorola Atrix and its early foresight around mobile-PC convergence… albeit with nuances. But we will see that later.

There are cases beyond mobile devices, such as the EV-1, the first electric car made by General Motors in the nineties. They sold less than 2,000 units and five years passed until the authentic electric revolution began to awaken, which continues its course, although slowly. In the software, Vine hooked and captivated us to die prematurely, although in this example perhaps the lousy product direction that was carried out with it weighed more than the fact of arriving too early. Ultimately, she was fully functional and adopted while she lived.

So it might be interesting to define exactly What does it mean for a technological product to arrive ahead of its time?.

early technology

A definition that seems to arouse unanimity is that these products are those whose life and death occurred before a category was born that did achieve success. Gorilla Glass, for example, was born in the 1960s and there was no suitable product to incorporate it (small screens that require high resistance to falls and shocks) until well into the 21st century.

In Brownlee’s examples not all cases fit this description, not even leaving much room for witty interpretations.


Google Glass has continued to evolve little by little and there is still no improved and functional equivalent on the market. There is interest in bringing augmented reality to glasses and there are certain use cases where a priori It makes a lot of sense, but it is an unknown if they will be relevant in the market.

Starting by if the glasses, which as shown there are people paying money and going through surgery to get rid of them, will be so convincing that there is a critical mass interested in wearing them. They can not be an example of “ahead of their time”, at least today. Meta or Snap glasses are very far from the general purpose of those. These simply work as cameras adapted to the point of view and your social networks.

Meta has discovered that the metaverse needs technology that doesn't exist yet (and is going to spend a fortune creating it)

The Motorola Atrix caught the attention of the geeky average for a few minutes but that was the extent of the interest of the vast majority. Other brands have insisted on similar proposals and have never achieved commercial success. Convergence has ended up going the other way. Nor can he be considered ahead of his time.

Motorola Atrix

One of the versions of the Motorola Atrix.

The 100% electric car from General Motors? Although some buts and asterisks can be removed, starting with its autonomy and ending with the recall massive by which they destroyed the vast majority of the units awarded via leasing (although not all), the truth is that this was ahead of its time. Although many decades ago there were electric models, this was the first of the modern era, a vehicle with all the letters. Luck was not on his side and three decades later the Tesla Model S arrived to point the way to an entire industry.

General Motors EV1.

General Motors EV1. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Others not mentioned by Marques: the sony glasstron, a kind of virtual reality helmet that dates back to 1996. It was never heard of again after its fifth version, in 1998, but time ended up giving helmets like this one a fit. Especially, to Oculus.

Europe is lagging behind in the future of the car, electric or not: it cannot sell them in the rest of the world

In a very similar line, also temporary, is SegaChannelthe paid online gaming service that Sega developed in 1993. It used coaxial cable and required agreements with broadcasters. It was much more limited than any current online gaming platform, but we are talking about 1993.


AutoPed from 1915. The date is not an error.

Although perhaps the Autoped takes the cake, an electric scooter that dates back to 1915 and whose handlebars would fall off if it saw that a hundred years had to pass for that same type of product to start destroying cities.

Ahead of their time with all the letters. They had the recipe for success but they cooked it too early and then it was others who took the cat to the water. Sony and Microsoft with online gaming, Xiaomi and Cecotec with scooters and Oculus with virtual reality. Damn haste.

MKBHD, the fantastic youtuber about technology, published a few days ago a video enumerating some of the latest devices that…

MKBHD, the fantastic youtuber about technology, published a few days ago a video enumerating some of the latest devices that…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.