Awesome Stuff: Maybe Awesome, But More Info Needed

from the maybe-awesome dept

Given July 4th yesterday, we're taking an extended holiday today as well. We normally post our weekly awesome stuff post about cool crowdfunding campaigns on Saturday, but with the extra off-day, we figured we'd post this one on Friday. Enjoy.

Last week's awesome stuff post was about ambitious projects, which generally meant really "big" projects that others were trying to build. This week's set of projects were all ones I'd considered for last week, but they're "ambitious" in a different way. While the projects we discussed last week were big centralized things with no "products" going to the supporters, the three projects this week are all for products. But the reason I classified them as "more info needed" and possibly ambitious is that they all seem a bit "out there" and my gut reaction on all of them was, "well, that could be cool, but it would help if there were a lot more info..."
  • First up, we've got The Cardboard Bike. It is exactly what it says. The design is really quite impressive looking, though there's little to no information beyond that: how well does it ride? How durable is it? In fact, the project's main video is much more about how the two guys who teamed up to do this have a vision of building all sorts of things out of cardboard and "changing the world" with cardboard. It's a lovely vision, but... it seems like they skip over the first part, about convincing people that the product they're offering, the cardboard bicycle, is actually worth buying. They just keep talking about how cardboard is a "game changer" for building anything. That might be true, but if I'm buying a cardboard bicycle, convince me that the cardboard bicycle makes sense first. They admit that the whole reason they build one in the first place was because everyone said it was impossible, but then they don't explain how they get past the limitations of cardboard. They just leave you wondering. So... more information needed.
    They're also asking for an insane amount: $2 million. Not surprisingly, they're nowhere near that, and are closer to $30,000, though it's an IndieGoGo Flex Funding campaign, so they'll get the money even if (when) they fail to hit the target. Also, if you buy the cardboard bicycle, they say they won't ship until March of 2015. That's a long time to wait... and it suggests that the reason there's so little info is they still have a lot to figure out in terms of how to actually build this bicycle. Still... it looks cool, and it is a potentially awesome project.
  • Next up, is the Wie-Phone, which they claim is the "perfect" phone. It supposedly does amazing things like providing "free communication worldwide." Their pitch says: "Free as anywhere, anytime. Free as no charges, fees, subscriptions or pre-paid cards, no roaming fees, no data plans." But they don't explain how. That seems like a massive giant question mark. They just say: "We are sorry that we cannot disclose details how everything functions, but we have to protect ourselves." That always sets of warning bells. Often (though, not always) when companies are totally secretive about key aspects of what they're selling, and claim to have done something amazing, it means that they're missing something big -- something that people would tell them if they'd just share.

    The phone's "design" looks potentially interesting, with things like four cameras (two front, two back) that allow you to do 3D photos and video, identical buttons on the top and bottom (so it's never "upside down") and a few other things look potentially neat as well -- but it's all renderings. No actual product. Another set of alarm bells go off. The creators claim to have built amazing phones in the past, but they can't show an actual prototype here -- just a rendered design. That's great, but it gives no suggestion at all about their ability to actually make the phone. A rendering is great, but getting from rendering to actually built involves an awful lot of challenges, and many of those challenges could necessitate big changes in the design and functionality, and they give no indication that they're aware of this. Also, it's pretty difficult to decide to buy a smartphone when you can't even see what the final design looks like.
    This project set a target of $225,000, but it appears that the lack of details, specifics or an actual device has kept people from being interested. At the time I write this there were less than 20 buyers and just over $2,000 raised. It is an IndieGoGo Flex Funding campaign, so they'll get the cash either way, but if they only end up with a few thousand dollars, will they ever actually be able to produce anything? More info needed...
  • This last one may be the least speculative of the three projects. It's GlassUp, an augmented reality set of glasses. If that sounds like the infamous Google Glass, you're right -- though their design and focus is somewhat different. Also, kudos to the creators of GlassUp for addressing the Google Glass issue head on, pointing out that they were well into designing the product when Google announced Glass, but decided to plow ahead anyway. They highlight the differences, including that GlassUp is more a notification-only type device -- so seeing info, text messages, email, etc., and it doesn't have a camera for recording (so you don't have the "privacy" fears of Glass). Still, it does seem like there's a lot of information needed. It's not quite clear how these glasses work -- and the images mostly seem to place the glasses strategically at an angle where it's difficult to see the main data mechanism and what that part looks like, which could have a big impact on how natural these glasses actually look. They claim that they're still working on the final design, and promise that it will be small and look great, but... it would be nice to actually see what you're getting.
    This one is looking for $150,000 but just has a little over $6,000 as I write this. As with all of the projects in this post, it's an IndieGoGo Flex Funding project, so they get the money no matter what. Again, it's unclear what happens if they end up with so little money. Do they still go to production? Still, if you're looking for an augmented reality pair of glasses, and are willing to take on the risk, but don't want to shell out the $1500 that is the current asking price for a developer's version of Google Glass, perhaps you might want to check these guys out and see if you think it's worth the risk.
Ambitious projects can be great, but they also can fail spectacularly. All of these projects could be awesome, but they also might never actually deliver a product. To some extent, that's always the risk with any crowdfunding project (some big ones have failed, and many others have been delivered much later than expected). However, when projects have this many questions at the beginning, supporters need to have a high tolerance for risk and the potential lack of payoff.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 9:48am

    The cardboard bike isn't new in the sense the guy holding the bike has been at it years in learning how to cut and fold for strength. He was also featured in an internet news article maybe 3 years ago. Same bike. At that time they had pictures of his bike in assembly stages. Part of the key to getting it to last beyond the first rain storm was coming up with some sort of good paint for water proofing.

    He was trying then to get the word out and I am glad to see he's still at it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 11:42am

    I would personally buy or build a bamboo bike instead. Supposedly, if done right, bamboo bikes can be lighter than carbon fiber yet stronger than steel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    RyanNerd (profile), 5 Jul 2013 @ 12:32pm

    What's worse than realizing you've left your windows down in a rainstorm?

    Crap! It's raining and I left my cardboard bike outside. That's okay I'll call my house using my Wie phone.
    Crap! not sure how/if this thing works.
    Maybe it is not the Wie phone... Maybe my augmented glasses are malfunctioning and not letting me see my phone.

    I guess living on the bleeding edge may not be worth it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 5:24pm

    A bunch of questionable products with no details using flexible funding? I'm not sure awesome is the word I'd use...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 6:15pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 7:12pm

    The new THEFT

    If ANYONE IS STUPID enough to 'invest' in these scheme's (SCAMS), I have a very nice bridge to sell them.

    So you want to make a few thousand dollars, make some outrageous claims, scam a bunch of internet morons, skip town and spend money..

    it's blatant scams like this phone that destroys concepts like crowdfunding, and takes funds away from other 'real' projects.

    It should be IF they don't get the full amount,, they don't get anything.

    And if they get anything, but fail to produce, THEY PAY IT BACK.
    Don't do either of these, Then GO TO PRISON.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 7:16pm

    Cardboard bike

    WHY ???????????

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 8:53pm

      Re: Cardboard bike

      Durable, strong, lightweight, waterproof, and cheap to make. Not a Tour de France machine, but looks like it might get one from A to B without much problem.

      Think, however, I will stick with my aluminum frame stump jumper...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 11:06pm

    Wie = Wifi?

    Technically with VOIP and wifi it could do that just fine. But I have a MP3 player that can do that too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2013 @ 11:52pm

    Cardboard the stuff of legends, great to prototype ideas and to even make some pretty interesting things with it.

    Remember, cardboard is actually cellulose, apply glue to it and it becomes wood, a very porous wood. with he right resin it even becomes water proof.

    The bicycle is awesome I saw it before, but don't think is something people would buy.

    Now a giant cardboard robotic arm Elmo catching.

    We ll now that I would buy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Francesco Giartosio, 7 Jul 2013 @ 3:49pm

    GlassUp eyeglasses

    Hallo Mike,

    we received other comments from people who were afraid we would run with their money. Actually, the same day you wrote this post we wrote as wide and big as possible, in the first lines of the campaign, "Note: We will deliver the products also if we don't reach the target - We've found investors". Probably it arrived just as you were preparing this post, you missed it for a very short time.

    Maybe it was a mistake to make a flexible campaign. We made it flexible on purpose to show that even if we didn't reach the target we'd still deliver the product. Maybe we should have entered a target of $1. We have invested twice the target amount out of our own pockets, and with that we've come to the working prototype, after two years of work. You bet there's nothing stopping us now.

    If we don't reach the target, we'll simply have to give away some equity to one of the many vultures waiting.

    As for the images, we have entered a lot of images, and even 11 (eleven!) videos with journalists trying our glasses on, playing with them, and filming them from any possible angle! Just go to the Gallery section, it's all there: smartphone/x/3553080?c=gallery

    Cheers, Francesco.
    CEO, GlassUp

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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