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4 Memorable Product Gimmicks of 2011

Mobile 3-D

Mobile 3-D
The current 3-D trend began in 2009 with James Cameron's wildly successful Avatar, and when we looked more deeply at the cinematic craze last year, one analyst described 3-D as a "gimmick" that Hollywood has historically used to differentiate movies from home entertainment.

So it was perhaps a bit ironic when companies started to bring that same gimmick into the home with glasses-free 3-D technology.

Glasses-free (stereoscopic) 3-D was not a new arrival in 2011. Nor is it necessarily a gimmick: Many people say that the need to buy and wear expensive 3-D glasses is the main reason they won't buy a 3-D TV for their homes, suggesting that glasses-free 3-D TVs might be the best hope for mass adoption.

But the introduction of 3-D technology to mobile devices in 2011 felt like desperation. In March Nintendo launched the 3DS, a mobile gaming system that differed from the original DS in that it offered a glasses-free 3-D display. But sales of the device were poor, leading the company to implement a massive price cut in July. And that comes as little surprise: The addition of a trendy 3-D screen felt like a distraction rather than an enhancement for a brand that's traditionally focused on gameplay and originality.

Meanwhile, HTC (HTC) launched the EVO 3-D phone, which tries to distinguish itself from the dozens of other smartphones on the market with a 3-D screen and the ability to shoot photo and video in three dimensions. When a commercial for the phone implored viewers "Let's make homemade 3-D the next big thing," it felt more like a desperate plea than a serious suggestion.

Critics seemed to agree.

"Ultimately, while 3-D is fun and whimsical, we can't help but think it's just a gimmick," wrote gadget review site Engadget in its review of the phone.

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