15 Tech Tales That Gave Us a A lot-needed Snigger in 2020

Goodbye 2020 and good deliverance! Before we slam the door on this tumultuous year though, let's try to bring a smile or two by repeating some of the more amusing tech stories that have landed on Digital Trends' pages in the past 12 months. Here's a round-up of the weirdest, wildest, and most amusing bizarre stories we tell this year. Enjoy!

A.I. fail as the robotic TV camera follows the bald head instead of the soccer ball

Inverness Caledonian broadcast games with a robotic camera programmed to follow the ball in their Scottish second division games. The commentator had to apologize when the camera kept mistaking the bald linesman's head for the ball and just followed him up and down ???? pic.twitter.com/RqIt2FYvAr

– Roger Bennett (@rogbennett) October 29, 2020

While Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has clearly made amazing strides in recent years, the technology is still prone to the occasional breakdown.

Take part in this football match in Scotland between Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ayr United. Inverness played behind closed doors due to the pandemic and decided to use a robotic A.I.-powered camera to broadcast the clash live. While the camera was supposed to automatically follow the soccer ball, it clearly had other ideas.

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Invite a horse named Eddie to your next Zoom conference

Peace N Peas

When Zoom became the video conferencing software of choice of 2020, some quick thinking entrepreneurs in North Carolina came up with the absurd idea of ​​offering a range of animals for surprise guest appearances during Zoom calls. Mambo, the donkey, Eddie, the horse, and various ducks and chickens are available for a fee of $ 50.

One of the creators, Francie Dunlap, said if you're feeling a little mischievous, the animal's display name could be in the name of “the coworker who never logs in, or the coworker who asks too many questions, or the boss who does that Organized meetings at all. "

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An old television set crashed broadband for an entire village for 18 months

Broadband connection for the 400 residents of Aberhosan, Wales, went down at exactly the same time each morning. But nobody knew why. Ultimately, a long-standing investigation found that an aging television belonging to a married couple from the area triggered a large surge of electricity and messed up the internet for everyone in the village.

"It found residents turned on their old TVs at 7 a.m. every morning, which in turn turned off broadband for the entire village," said engineer Michael Jones.

When the couple was informed of the problem, they were "ashamed" that their old invention had caused the village's connectivity problems. You have agreed not to use it again.

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This backpack-sized inflatable e-bike is the most ridiculous transportation idea to date

Poimo bike 1Tokyo University

The electric Poimo bike is as crazy as it is brilliant. Before you can ride it, you need to inflate it first (the bike, not the wheels) before attaching parts like the wheels, battery and handlebars. That's right, the Poimo is an inflatable e-bike – certainly the first in the world.

If carrying a chunky, foldable two-wheeler is too much of a hassle, this quirky jig that, when deflated, fits neatly in a small pocket, may be just the thing (though you may need a different pocket for the wheels, the battery … ).

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This self-driving racing car could have done with a driver

Roborace is the world's first driverless / autonomous motorsport category.

This is one of their first live broadcasts.

This was the second run.

It hit a wall right away. pic.twitter.com/ss5R2YVRi3

– Ryan (@ dogryan100) October 29, 2020

Building an autonomous vehicle is a diabolical endeavor, as demonstrated by this disastrous start to a competition with self-driving racing cars.

When the driverless engine tried to leave the network during the first live broadcast of Roborace – a racing series for autonomous vehicles – the car turned off a standing start and hit a wall.

"Oh no, the start did not go according to plan," said the commentator as the self-driving vehicle familiarized itself with a concrete block.

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The terrifying monster wolf robot wants to scare off bears

NHK news

It's designed to scare off bears, but there's a good chance it'll scare some people off too. Why? Well, it probably has something to do with its bright red eyes, exposed teeth, and an audio track that could have come straight from The Exorcist.

On the outskirts of a city in northern Japan, some “Monster Wolf” robots have been set up to protect the local community from unwanted bear visits.

The robotic wolf's design is based on a real one that roamed part of Japan more than 100 years ago before it was critically endangered, although we're pretty sure it didn't have those bright red eyes.

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If you miss the office, this awesome website has you covered

Creative agency for children

Berlin-based Kids Creative Agency knew that some people who work from home during the pandemic might miss the familiar, soothing noises of the office, so they developed an awesome website to recreate the atmosphere of your workplace .

The customizable "office noise generator" offers everything from the soft hum of the photocopier to the bubbling of the water cooler to the click of a colleague typing on his keyboard. And all of this with a calming background for the muted conversations of employees from all over the office.

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Thanks to gait analysis, scientists know exactly how silly Monty Python's gait is

Monty PythonBBC

There are certainly few things more stupid than John Cleese's goofy walk. Almost five decades later, the Monty Python star's maneuvers continue to amuse themselves. In fact, the walk is so insane that it inspired a team of researchers at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire to figure out exactly how much more stupid Cleese's walk is compared to normal human walking.

Research has focused on what is known in the industry as "gait analysis". The team used video-based motion analysis software to find that Cleese's gait is exactly 6.7 times more exaggerated (or sillier) than a normal human gait.

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The French broadcaster publishes obituaries of famous people that are very much alive

Movie star Clint Eastwood has been very much alive and not dead as of December 2020 as the French website suggested. Wikicommons

In an embarrassing misstep, Radio France Internationale (RFI) accidentally published on its website the obituaries of around 100 celebrities who were still very much alive, including movie star Clint Eastwood, former American President Jimmy Carter, Queen Elizabeth II and football legend Pele .

The prematurely published articles have also been published on the partner platforms including Google, Yahoo, MSN and Flipboard.
The long-standing French public radio service, which broadcasts worldwide and has tens of millions of listeners, has attributed the unpleasant error to a "technical error".

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Parallel parking has never looked so cool as it did with those record breaking stunts

This year Guinness World Records recognized several incredible drivers for their remarkable ability to parallel park in unusual ways. Forget the regular maneuver of slowly entering the room with mirrors and a series of careful back-and-forth movements – British stunt driver Alastair Moffatt likes to approach the room at breakneck speed – backwards – before braking, sliding and turning the vehicle into space Room.

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Deepfake Queen Elizabeth II performs a TikTok dance in an alternate Christmas message

Here Queen Elizabeth II has a dance for TikTok as part of her traditional Christmas message. OK, it's not quite what it looks like, but this fake face-swapping video from a UK broadcaster may have fooled you for a minute (at least until the 94-year-old head of state starts strutting her stuff).

The Alternative Christmas Message has a number of jokes, but it also warns people to be extra careful when looking for news sources online. “If my message has one topic today, it is trust. Trust what is real – and what is not, ”the fake Elizabeth tells the audience.

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Because 2020 is not crazy enough, a robot mouth sings A.I. Prayers in Paris

Don't be alarmed, it's just a disembodied robotic mouth singing algorithmically generated Gregorian-style prayers with the voice of Amazon Kendra.

The prayer (above) is a rather strange-looking robotic installation that the German-born American artist Diemut Strebe created in collaboration with researchers from CSAIL, MIT's laboratory for computer science and artificial intelligence. It includes a silicone nose and mouth, various robotic servos and motors, and state-of-the-art A.I. Neural networks that are used to create original prayers. Strebe spoke to Digital Trends about why he created it.

If you're not nervous, see it in action above.

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Formula E team rolls marble races during the postponement of the pandemic

Marbles runJelles marble runs

What do you do when a global pandemic ruins your motoring season? Get the marbles out, that's what.

This is exactly what Formula E team Envision Virgin Racing did recently when it teamed up with Jelles Marble Runs (an established YouTube channel that has been running the little glass balls since 2006) for a planned seasonal event called “Marbula E " referred to as . ”

The first race, which took place in the spring, quickly generated hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. It's surprisingly fascinating to see the marbles roll across the track, thanks in part to the enthusiastic racing commentary from Formula E regular Jack Nicholls.

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This rotating cell phone actually works – and you can buy it too

A rotating cell phone.Justine Haupt

It may be hard to believe, but this phone actually went on sale in 2020. And sold out.

The bizarre handset, known as the “rotating cell phone”, was created by Justine Haupt, an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. And yes, it actually works.

People looking for something very simple on a sophisticated smartphone will surely love this device, as will those with a keen sense of humor.

The above design is no longer available, but the good news is that Haupt is currently working on a refined version due out in spring 2021.

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These hilarious ads from the 1980s and 1990s show how far mobile tech has come

Speaking of fancy phones, let's finish with a feature that landed on Digital Trends in 2020, showing off some absolutely shocking designs from years past. Here we see the phones in mainstream TV commercials that have valiantly tried to make them look cool.

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