Considering how many iconic gadgets emerged in the 2000s, it’s no surprise that some ended up being overlooked and, in hindsight, should have been a lot more popular than they were. In an era that brought consumers tech like the Nintendo Wii and the iPhone, it’s fair to say the 2000s was a decade of innovation and an amazing time to be a tech enthusiast.
However, it was also a highly competitive market for the very same reasons. So, it’s likely that true tech enthusiasts will fondly remember some of the products that didn’t quite take off in the same way as those cool but ubiquitous 2000s gadgets. Cool concepts like the Segway and hybrid electric cars were mocked as gimmicks whilst gadgets that should have been revolutionary like HD DVD discs failed to really capture the public imagination. That’s how some amazing ’00s gadgets ended up a lot less popular than they deserved to be.
Although a toy marketed towards children, Mattel’s Mindflex deserves credit for being a completely unique gadget in the way it claimed to actually measure brainwaves using EEG technology. Measured by an enclosed headset, the objective was to use the power of the brain alone to move a small ball through an obstacle course.
Along with the Force Trainer, a gadget from Uncle Milton Industries that utilized EEG technology with a Star Wars twist, Mindflex was released in 2009 with no shortage of interest from a tech industry eager to see fun applications for an entirely unique technology. However, like the countless failed Google projects, even the backing of a huge company like Mattel couldn’t get EEG technology to really make a mark on the consumer tech world.
9 HD DVD Players And Discs
Blu-Rays have been around for so long now that it’s hard to believe they were ever the subject of a format war, but that’s exactly what played out in the 2000s. Compared to Blu-Rays, HD DVDs were a natural progression from the standard definition version, providing comparable quality to blu-ray but in a format that would be much easier to convert to.
Their main problem was their smaller storage capacity and that, along with a bitter war between the factions centered on Sony and Toshiba (via MentalFloss), soon meant blu-rays began consistently outselling HD DVD movies. Whilst some would tout this as a victory for a format with higher potential, it’s also worth noting how expensive blu-rays have fallen out of favor in the age of streaming. HD DVDs could have presented the perfect solution thanks to their lower manufacturing cost but they never had the chance to achieve that promise.
Standing as proof that trying to corner a very specific mark can actually hinder success, Cybiko is a gadget from 2000 that’s most likely to be remembered by 2000s kids who were won over by the flashy adverts aimed at teens. With its two-way radio text messaging system and tons of games, Cybiko unintentionally predicted the direction in which mobile phone technology would go in the following decade.
Cybiko’s limitations might explain why it chose to lean so heavily into the teen market, with a maximum range of 100 meters meaning its texting was still more of a novelty than a practical mode of communication. Even so, with wireless chatrooms not unlike contemporary apps for talking with friends and an MP3 add-on, Cybiko seems so far ahead of the curve in terms of mobile phone technology that it’s hard to believe it couldn’t have also struck a chord with an adult market.
7 DK Bongos
Before Guitar Hero shot to massive success with the idea of using a musical instrument as a video game controller, the DK Bongos was released in 2004 as a gadget with the exact same concept. A pair of Bongo-style drums that connected to the Nintendo GameCube, DK Bongos deserved more recognition as a great gadget for their fun factor alone.
In a decade when unique controllers like the Nintendo Wii-Mote became everyone’s new gadget obsession, the DK Bongos were only held back by a lack of integrated content. With three Donkey Konga titles and just one non-rhythm game title in the form of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat actually working with the DK Bongos, it’s little wonder they stayed a niche video game accessory. Given the sense of fun and creativity behind them though, the DK Bongos deserved better.
6 Toyota Prius
In a decade when electric vehicles were still failing to impress consumers with subpar performance numbers and a complete lack of infrastructure, hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius seem to have presented the perfect solution. Whilst the Toyota Prius is the market leader in the hybrid electric vehicle market (via Toyota), it still arguably deserved better.
That’s because the Toyota Prius suffered from image problems that detracted from its true potential. Though modern EVs present a cheap and more environmentally friendly solution now, the Prius’ extra bit of practicality should have made it the go-to for any environmentally-concerned consumers in the 2000s. Unfortunately, it became associated with a particular stereotype of pretentious environmentalism which likely detracted from its mainstream appeal.
5 Sony Rolly
The 2000s was an era where the MP3 format took over the world and iPods led the charge. However, their overwhelming dominance had the downside of detracting from other cool MP3 products that came out in the same decade. One of those was the Sony Rolly, an MP3 player that also doubles up as a dancing, egg-shaped robot.
Released in 2007 with a heft price tag that likely reduced its chance of success, Sony Rolly came packed with features, from practical ones like Bluetooth connectivity to more fun ones like a vertical control mode and its colored LED bands. Whilst iPods made digital music cool and Apple products continue to be the most anticipated, the Sony Rolly made listening to music fun so it deserved better than to have been quietly discontinued a few years later.
4 Kodak Zi8
Flip Video became a force to be reckoned with when it came to portable video cameras in the 2000s but the Kodak Zi8 was more than a match for it in a ton of ways and yet it didn’t quite receive the same level of recognition. Both are impressively small handhelds and both were capable of recording good-quality HD video by the late 2000s, something not to be sniffed at.
Whilst Flip Video thrived because of its user-friendliness and claims of being incredibly easy to use, the Kodaki Zi8 offered a lot more options and customizability for tech enthusiasts that don’t mind getting to grips with something a little more complicated. Better cameras can be found on even affordable phones now, making the Kodak Zi8 seem like a relic, but it deserved better than to be in the Flip camera’s shadow.
Whereas self-balancing electric scooters in their modern form, or “hoverboards” as they’re sometimes referred to, didn’t appear until the early-2010s when they became a highly-coveted cultural phenomenon, Segways have been around since 2001. With their bulkier design, it’s easy to see why they never became a “cool” gadget in the same way, but the Personal Transporters are arguably more practical.
It’s especially surprising that Segways didn’t become more popular given that there was no shortage of hype surrounding the vehicles when they first appeared on the market. The hype ultimately backfired as the Segway became the subject of mockery from the likes of South Park and The Office which, along with the vehicle’s dorky design, meant it failed to win over general consumers in the way many hoped.
2 Game Boy Camera
Perhaps the best forgotten video gaming accessory, the Game Boy Camera was initially released in 1998 but is most likely to be remembered by 2000s kids that managed to get their hands on one at the start of the decade. An attachment to the Nintendo Game Boy that allowed the users to take and edit photos, the Game Boy Camera foreshadowed how cell phones would eventually become everyone’s primary photography tool.
Though it might seem awkward and plasticky, the Game Boy camera perfectly suited the aesthetic of the Game Boy and it more than justified its cost with a ton of cool features like a 180°-swivel camera for taking selfies. Paving the way for cameras and photo-editing to make their way into everyone’s handheld devices, it should have been a world-beating gadget but most Game Boy users ended up going without.
1 Oakley THUMP
The Oakley THUMP might have been a 2000s gadget that would still be used today if it had been more popular, as its fun concept of combining an MP3 player with sunglasses still stands out. They might not be the most practical or innovative gadget ever made, but Oakley THUMP sunglasses deserve to have been more popular for their novelty value alone, especially when MP3 players were still relatively new.
Unfortunately, it’s also easy to see why the Oakley THUMP didn’t become more popular. As they also provided quality lenses with UV protection, the sunglasses were expensive, but their futuristic design had a tendency to look cheap when seen close-up. Add in the fact that the earbuds don’t exactly seem comfortable and it’s no surprise consumers were wary. Then again, the Oakley THUMP received enough interest that they’re still making them today, so it’s not all bad news for the original music-player sunglasses.
MORE: 10 Gadgets Every ’80s Kid Was Obsessed With