Kickstarter backers beware.

Crowd funding sites like Kickstarter are wonderful. If you have a splendid idea, you can turn it into reality without laying down a cent for it yourself.  They allow you to get money together from people like you and me for a product that doesn’t even exist yet. It allows budding inventors that do not have the resources, but do have a good idea, to get their product to market.

It does mean however you’ll have to convince the people to part with their hard earned money. You’ll have to have a product that speaks to those people and you’ll have to sell it hard. If you can do that, you’re a long way towards funding your dream..

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Sometimes though there are campaigns where the product being funded for is dubious, to say the least. Most of those campaigns do not reach the threshold necessary to unlock any money raised. People are smart and know how to spot a bad investment. Sometimes though, they do not. I’ll discuss two of the campaigns that I regard as bad investments for two different reasons.

Wheels reinvented

Square Wheel

If you have any one who is trying to sell you something under the slogan that they reinvented the wheel, you should probably think twice about handing them over your money. Especially to people who claim to have come up with a superior shape to the circular wheel. I am not saying that they haven’t made improvements, but it’s most likely they have not.

Enter the Shark Wheel. A wheel that is claimed to be Faster, Better and have better Grip. Oh.. And it looks square to boot..

This Kickstarter campaign is raising funds to develop and produce skateboard wheels that they claim are superior to conventional skate wheels. In reading through the campaign and comments section though (or their website for that matter) they don’t really have any science to back up their claims. From a side view the wheels look circular but with three distinct flats. This wouldn’t make them very comfortable at low speeds as they’d bounce, or at least spot wear very fast. The fact that these wheels ‘fit’ in a cube is pretty much a fluke. And it doesn’t add any benefits at all.

They have a picture of a bicycle wheel up that they are developing as well. But the wheel essentially looks like a wheel that has had quite a beating while having been parked at the local train station for a while. Anyone who had a bicycle wheel where a few of the spokes have failed can attest that a wobbly wheel doesn’t bank very well and is (apart from badly balanced thus bouncy) an uncomfortable ride in corners.

What these skate wheels would offer though is the ability to mix and match colours and materials in one wheel. Plus you automatically end up with grooves which could help with the rolling resistance and dirt. Apart from that, you really are throwing money down the drain if you back this campaign. My two cents anyway.

Kickstarter campaign for Square wheels: Link here

Controlling animals with your smartphone

Roboroach

Now this Kickstarter campaign one is just a little bit disturbing.

This campaign is raising funds to develop kit sets that allow you to control a cockroach with a smart phone. The campaign title alone should ring an alarm bell already for being just outright ethically wrong.

Controlling the cockroach involves an intricate process to attach the controlling hardware onto the roach as described here (from Wired);

To give a rough idea, the insect is first anaesthetised by being plunged in ice water. Then, because they’re covered in a seriously inconvenient (for the purposes of this experiment) waxy substance (it keeps them hydrated and is what makes the little suckers so slippery) the scientist must sand down its pronotum (a plate-like cover on the insect’s thorax). The connector, with its three electrodes, is then superglued onto the pronotum. One wing is pinned aside with silly putty, and a needle used to pierce the exoskeleton at the thorax for one of the wires to be fed through. This is superglued in place, before the cockroach is plunged back into the ice water to prevent any recovery, after which the antenna are almost completely snipped off and the electrodes glued into the hollow that’s left. Hot glue is used to “temporarily place” the backpack on once the cockroach is recovered and alert (by some time the next day).

Essentially, getting this kit of [sic] the cockroach is going to be quite the operation. Even if it were successfully removed, the cockroach would presumably be given a death sentence, with no long antenna to feel out its surroundings. The fact that the backpack is touted as being reusable instils images of backpacks being peeled off the diseased after they’ve been orientated into oncoming traffic — if still intact.

If you are still reading this and not skipped reading the above because you’re squeamish, you are probably also flabbergasted by the horrendous handling of a live animal. I know that I am. I am even more surprised by the fact that this campaign actually made it through the Kickstarter pre-selection process. The way I see it it is condoning animal cruelty for the sake of pseudo science. The campaign creators have carefully pasted their website full of their answers around ethical questions that their audience might have, but they cleverly dance around the issues.

They say they sell these kits for the greater good and better understanding and respect for the animals. I’ll cut this short and say that this sounds to me like a justification for them to make lots of money.

Personally I would hate to see my son being able to buy one of these kits or being exposed to an ‘experiment’ with them at school. Anything that involves hurting or mutilating animals just to see how they work is nonsense and plain wrong. Our kids should not be taught that this is ok.
So I do hope that many of you will write to Kickstarter to have this campaign removed to avoid more animals from being mutilated just so they can fatten their wallets. Where does it stop? Would our furry pet rabbits be next?

Kickstarter campaign for RoboRoach: Link here

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