The intersection of technology and pop culture is nothing new. In the early 2010’s, a glut of tech companies appointed celebrities to bring their…unique vision to their products including Microsoft, BlackBerry, Polaroid, and Intel. The latter is the most significant because unlike other celebrities, Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation, will.i.am, took that ball and ran with it with a tenacity and indomitable spirit that we here at Android Authority can’t help but admire.
January 2011 was a fateful stop for Black Eyed Peas and solo artist William Two-Dots. William has always had a passion for technology that has led him to create some of the most spectacular failures we have ever witnessed. Intel gave him the mouthpiece and presumably the money to start playing on this technological swing set. We have been humble benefactors.
looks like it was scraped off the bottom of Liberace's shoe - CNET
Two-dots’ interest in technology eventually led to the formation of his own company, i.am+. Its first product was the foto.sosho camera case for the iPhone 4S. This camera case would allow you to modify the iPhone’s camera with one of three lenses – standard, wide-angle, or fish-eye. It also came in a variant that included a slide-out landscape keyboard. Certainly, these were both can’t miss technologies but sadly the $475 camera case did not live long. Obviously it was just way ahead of its time.
Lexus NX car-mera
Then in September 2014, Double Dots teamed up with Lexus to design an SUV, the Lexus NX. This SUV would also include four 180-degree cameras for panoramic photos and videos on the go. No more would you have to grab your cell phone to snap a picture of scenic 158th street on your commute to and from work. Your car could snap that photo for you and share it via a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone. Or at least that would be the case, if this car ever went on sale. Which it didn’t. Is it still ‘failure’ if you plan to fail? We tend to think not. I mean, who hasn’t dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into concept cars on a lark, right? Big Willy is no different.
This is what a wearable nightmare looks like -- Mashable
Next, in November of 2014, we got the Puls. No, that is not a typo, that’s inspired. The Puls was a
smartwatch, er, smartcuff that didn’t require a connection to a smartphone. It cost $400 and got about 5 hours of battery life. The best thing about the Puls is that it is designed to detect your mood after listening to 20 seconds of your voice. I mean, who wouldn’t want to talk to their wrist for 20 seconds so you could know your own mood? Of course, for some reason, it kept returning the result “annoyed”. Genius.
Plus, you have to admire the passion of someone who, 18 months later in May of 2016, released another smart
watch cuff, the Dial. This cuff bore the same voice assistant – AneedA, with 100% more Brittney. The Dial came with a music subscription to i.am+’s music service, and was sold with a 2-year contract to UK carrier Three, who also exclusively sold the accessory. Did I mention it’s only sold in the UK?
Naturally, The Independent says the watch improved over a 6-month time frame. So there’s that. It may be a little premature to call this a “failure”. The book has not closed on the Dial just yet.
Following that, also in November but this time in 2016, William released his latest venture – Bluetooth headphones called “Buttons”. Those are still being sold in the i.am+ online store, along with disturbing videos of Will’s famous friends, one of which is seriously in need of a hug, a beer, or both.
I don’t know what it is about these headphones, but they seem to put a lot of Will’s friends into a bad mood. Maybe they lack Will’s creative vision. Maybe they need a Puls.
This brings us to the news of late – i.am+ has purchased smart home platform Wink. Wink is one of the more popular smart home platforms, and now will.i.am has it in his sights. Previous forays into fashionable tech have been, well, bold, and I’m certain Wink will be another benefactor of will.i.am’s innovation.
Statistically speaking, he should have gotten something right by now
That being said, will.i.am seems to like releasing products in November during even years, so it’s possible we have over 14 months before we see the next piece of… technology that will.i.am and i.am+ will bring. In the meantime, we can all take a step back and really be proud of the impressive list of failed technology that one rapper has descended upon the world. Statistically speaking, he should have gotten something right by now, but he is still relentlessly pursuing that commercial success.
The intersection of tech and pop culture rarely yields products worth mentioning. Beats by Dre, and Trent Reznor at Apple Music are probably the most notable successes. But most of the time celebrities that endorse technology are caught using an iPhone a couple of months later and nothing comes of anything. When tech and culture collide, it’s anyone’s guess what the result will be – flagship or failure.
But there is one thing we can be sure of; will.i.am will keep on trying. It’s what he does. Sure, he hasn’t updated the description on his technology page for over five years, but that’s because he’s too busy driving innovation…well, ok, we’ll say “forward”.
And bless him for it. It’s that kind of tenacity that you don’t see very often any more. In a world of Netflix binging and minuscule attention spans, one man stands above the rest, putting his admittedly questionable knowledge and skills to the test, year after year, project after project. It’s an endless quest for that one product that finally, finally will not suck.
will.i.am, we salute you.