After a bizarre decision to completely shut down their Kickstarter campaign rather than simply produce a better product video, the team behind the Scribble Pen went virtually radio silent for over a week despite repeatedly broken promises to relaunch their campaign. They finally broke that silence today revealing some unsettling changes to their project.
Author’s note: Portions of the research for this project were provided by reader K. Thank you for your help.
Every few weeks, we see another crowd funded campaign trying to revolutionize the way we look at our wrists to see the time. While most of these products aim to add new features to a standard watch, Ritot claims that they can display the time in a whole new way. Not content to look at the simple display of virtually every watch ever made, Ritot is trying to take it a step further with a watch that projects the time on the back of the hand.
Presumably, using the back of a hand provides a larger “screen” for displaying the time and other information, but anyone who’s tried to read a PowerPoint slide in a sunny conference room can think of at least a dozen problems with this solution. Instead of providing demonstrations of their unique solution, all Ritot has managed to produce is misleading graphics and shady details about their level of progress. This is one campaign where I wish I had a chance to dive in earlier, but with just three days left in the campaign, it’s better late than never.
The long anticipated Scribble Pen finally launched this week to immense if very short-lived success. The project became wildly popular back in June when they first announced their product to the tech media, but several delays prevented them from launching their fundraising campaign until Monday this week.
The team’s marketing efforts paid off though as the pen, which allows users to scan colors off objects and then reproduce them in ink, reached its $100,000 goal in just a few hours.
Unfortunately, this magical ink/pigment mixing pen raised a few concerns among backers (this author included), and the comments section of the project quickly became filled with requests for a better demonstration of the pen’s capabilities. The project’s video contained just two short clips of the pen drawing which many believed didn’t demonstrate the main feature of the pen which is the ability to change colors quickly. Concerns were largely over how long it took the pen to change color and how much ink was wasted in the process. Continue reading →
In a backers only update this week, the team at Carbon released drawings showing some more details on their proposed solar panel design. As you may recall, the team’s solar powered wristwatch had a solar panel barely large enough, at its best, to charge a 650mAh battery in 8 hours. We brought up concerns that creating a hole for the requisite watch movement to poke through the panel would require the panel to be split into a number of smaller panels as it’s impossible (or at least very hard) to drill a hole in a monocrystaline solar panel. This would reduce the effective size of the panel due to the gaps between the sections drawing into question the original 8 hour charge time spec.
Ch00f and I recently had the pleasure of talking with Olga Khazan of the Atlantic on the subject of dubious crowd-funding campaigns. Her article, which specifically targets health products, is an outstanding review of the challenges we face more generally.
If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to give it a read.
If the “Internet of Things” is going to live up to the hype, hardware developers will need to fully embrace the metaphor and all it implies. Let’s be honest, most projects these days are a variation on a theme: take a few sensors, add a 2.4 GHz radio, think up a snappy name, and claim to be “the world’s first <really specific application>.” However, despite the underlying similarities, each has its own custom app and interface, making it impossible to design a common “browser” that allows users to navigate from device to device.
If this landscape sounds more like cable TV than the Internet, that’s because it is. Providers are competing to herd users into their particular walled-garden.
Some day, a central authority will define a common standard like what the Bluetooth SIG has done with their heart rate profile (among many other examples) and things will improve. In the meantime, hardware developers continue making grand promises that assume they succeed in the winner-take-all competition for users.
As a backer, this is a HUGE leap of faith – even if the product ships, we may receive only a shadow of its potential usefulness, like buying a media player to find out it only plays HD-DVDs. And unlike retail, crowdfunding has no refunds and no returns.
A few weeks ago a new device entered the ever-widening bluetooth beacon market on Kickstarter. Unlike the competition, the new iFind from WeTag Inc. promises that it can offer all of the features of a standard bluetooth beacon without ever needing a battery charge or replacement. This bold feature is relatively unexplained leading to a large amount of online skepticism. In an attempt to cut through the controversy, we were lucky enough to conduct a short interview with WeTag’s CTO Paul McArthur. While his response did help us to attach more concrete numbers to the company’s claims, we are still unconvinced that iFind is a viable product.
Continue reading →
Though we only covered the Neptune Pine in passing when discussing how some campaigns like to quote publications that summarize their own words, some of their recent project updates have created quite a stir that deserves brief discussion.
“Energy harvesting” is a very attractive buzzphrase. The market for devices that can soak up unused energy and put it to work has been steadily growing over the past few years. Many wristwatches available today don’t need batteries or winding. They can glean energy from the motion of the user’s wrist or the light of the Sun.
A wristwatch is a fairly low-power device that lends itself to this kind of technology, but the Carbon wristwatch plans to do much more than just keep time. While the technology isn’t too farfetched, it’s the business decisions of the team that draw the potential success of this product into question.
Continue reading →