Skip to main content

Here's what we think are some of the creepiest stories of 2014

There's a great deal that we can do with tech these days, most of which is extremely exciting and inventive.

However, there are also plenty of examples of innovations that are just downright creepy. And we've brought all the creepiest ones together into one place for you. Wasn't that nice of us.

Tell us your thoughts about our top picks in the comments section and let us know if we've missed any out.

Amazon is listening...always - Fadil Pašić

For me, one of the creepiest things I've heard of this year has got to be the microphone / speaker / tube thing from Amazon, called Echo (opens in new tab).

The Amazon Echo is a microphone that's always on, always connected, always listening. And always linked to the Amazon store.

It's in sleep mode (or is it?) until you wake it up by saying its name, Alexa. After that you can ask Alexa questions, like you'd do with Apple's Siri, you can set alarms, make shopping lists, and ultimately, you can shop directly by saying “Alexa, buy me those air conditioned shoes I’ve always wanted”.

Alexa hears you everywhere in your house and every shop becomes an impulse buy, especially when you have an omnipresent digital ear listening to everything you say, just waiting for you to say “God I’d love to buy this”. You don’t even have to open the website, you don’t need to browse. Just spend your money.

Having such a huge shop directly inside your home, listening and waiting, is as creepy as today’s technology goes and has led to many people questioning Amazon's motives.

What’s next? A robotic cleaning lady that can go shopping as soon as you tell her to? Or maybe a drone, following you around the house?

Amazon Echo

Not another bloody wearable - Barclay Ballard

Most of us will have experienced the frustration of our smartphone battery dying, only to have no means of charging it.

However, earlier this year Israeli student Naomi Kizhner revealed an innovative solution (opens in new tab), albeit one that is only likely to appeal if you’ve always wanted to live in a weird, sci-fi reality.

The project, called Energy Addicts (opens in new tab), sees pieces of jewellery inserted through the wearer’s skin so that the flow of their blood can be used to generate electric charge. The jewellery comes with a clip-on wire which can then transfer this energy to a device such as a smartphone.

There are three varieties of jewellery available: The Blinker, The E-pulse Conductor and The Blood Bridge, which attach to your neck, wrist and nose respectively, depending on where you prefer being impaled.

Kizhner recognises the unusual nature of her product, embracing it even. She has claimed that the project raises questions about trans-humanism and how far we are willing to go to in order to stay connected.

While the flow of blood in the human body does provide a renewable energy source that is conveniently always available, injecting yourself just so you can check your Facebook messages or Snapchat pics seems like a step too far to me.

Naomi Kizhner

Snowden's surprise - Darren Allen

What really spooked me this year? Snowden’s (opens in new tab) fresh revelations for 2014 about the extent of global government surveillance certainly served as a further reminder that the internet isn’t as free as you’d think, even in nations that don’t overtly censor the web.

But the most chilling single moment for me was when I saw the Atlas robot back in the media spotlight last month.

Video footage was released of the robot practicing its new balance algorithm provided by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, showing the would-be bot soldier balancing on a pile of bricks, like a Terminator version of the Karate Kid.

In the footage (opens in new tab), as Atlas readjusts its balance, the robot does so by wobbling its limbs about in a very human-like manner. There’s something very sinister about the whole thing - with a screeching alarm noise in the background not really helping on the soothing front.

Watching the thing doing a front snap-kick, and imagining the kind of force that would deliver if connecting with bone, also creeped us out to an impressive degree.

Perhaps the creepiest point of all, though, is exactly why Google has bought up makers Boston Dynamics, and many other robotics firms - and where all this is headed for the future. We’ve got a good imagination, unfortunately, and this sort of thing gets it working overtime…


Big brother is watching - Jamie Hinks

If 2013 was the year that we found out the NSA and GCHQ had been spying on us, doing everything, for years, then 2014 was definitely the year it got a whole lot more weird.

Remember that friend of yours that always insisted that you put a Post It note over the webcam lens? Well, it turns out they were right all along!

Files obtained by The Guardian way back in February showed that GCHQ took part in a surveillance programme known as Optic Nerve (opens in new tab) that picked up still images from webcams used in Yahoo chats and saved them to intelligence databases.

What happens if you’re not even under suspicion of committing a crime? The bad news is they collected those ones as well.

Its nadir was during one six month period during 2008 when it collected images from some 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts across the globe and that included “substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications”.

So the next time you describe a girl or guy coming on to you in a bar as creepy, just remember that GCHQ (opens in new tab) has probably been watching you for a few years in the comfort of your own home. Now that’s creepy.


Eye robot - Sam Pudwell

Despite Barclay Ballard stealing my initial choice with the vein-embedded jewellery, this was still quite an easy decision.

Back in April, we learned about a new kind of video surveillance system (opens in new tab) designed by Texas-based software company BRS Labs.

The difference? This system is run completely by artificial intelligence in the form of a fast-learning machine designed to spot crimes before they even happen.

Unlike other surveillance systems, this one employs a technology known as “artificial neural networks” which mimics human brain function, so it doesn’t depend on a programmer to constantly update it.

It basically monitors an environment, builds up a profile or ‘normal’ behaviour, then determines anything ‘abnormal’ and flags it up to an operator.

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but a whole city run by an all-seeing, intelligent robot brain that keeps learning and monitors our every move is probably one of the scariest things I can imagine. And the worst part is, this system is already being used in some US cities, including Chicago and Washington.

We already have enough surveillance in Britain as it is, but if BRS’s system does make the jump across the pond, we could be looking at even more.


Don't keep droning on about it - Nate Chai

Although there isn't one story in particular that creeped me out, the whole concept of drones with cameras has made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I remember a couple of years ago when remote-control Helicopters hit the consumer market and saw the appeal of piloting a mini-flying machine, but these drones... they make me feel all kinds of weird.

If you look at the market you've got this trend of putting ultra-high resolution camera equipment into drones, which isn't in itself sinister, but when you remember that these drones stream their camera feeds over a Wi-Fi connection, you have no idea who could be watching! Seriously that's want they want, they want to build a network of drones and spy on us all the time 24/7. Drones that follow us streaming every single movement, noise we make and place we go TO THE GOVERNMENT.

Think about it; drones used to be just used in the military, but now their in our homes because we bought them as toys. Tiny ultra-mobile robots, with ultra-high definition cameras watching us as we sleep, waiting to strike. It might not even be the Government, it might be the machines, have you even seen The Matrix, or The Terminator? WAKE UP SHEEPLE... now where did I leave my tin foil hat?