There's no doubt that crowdfunding can be a wonderful thing. New ideas that might otherwise struggle to make it to market can be pitched directly to the consumer, and if the demand is there, those ideas can go on to change their fields. On the flip side, some ideas struggle to find an audience for a reason. Here are a few of our favorite bullets that humanity narrowly dodged.
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Despite heavy competition in the category, the Audiopill manages to top the list of things you shouldn't swallow at a music festival. The campaign promised (or threatened) a "techno party you can't escape," because the music is, like, inside you, man. Literally.
You better clear your schedule before taking this jagged little pill, because once it's down the gullet you're in for a 10 hour gastrointestinal adventure. The Audiopill pulses at up to 143 beats per minute, to let your insides feel what the artist behind it calls "music." And when his idea of art is the beauty of prolapsed anuses, we're not sure we really trust his judgement.
So, 143 beats per minute. For 10 hours. That's 85,800 internal gut punches. No wonder he warns that "you may regret your experimental courage," and admits that doctors told him to "never ever swallow anything like this."
The Indiegogo campaign asked for €150,000 to inflict the Audiopill onto the world, but didn't attract a single taker. Maybe because a similar effect can be achieved pretty easily with a day-old burrito.
Candwich, the Sandwich In A Can
While on the subject of questionable ingestibles, we'd be remiss not to mention the Sandwich In A Can, aka the Candwich, which truly ups the game on depressing instant meals. Are sandwiches really that hard to come by that we need to be canning them? Mark One Foods thinks so.
The can proclaims it's "great for lunches!" and the candwiches are claimed to stay 'fresh" for over a year, but if your significant other packs you one of these, we'd expect it to be accompanied by a note explaining why they won't be there when you get home.
Maybe we shouldn't be too hard on the creators though, since they actually are working to donate food to the needy.
The Indiegogo campaign is currently still running and may actually hit its $10,000 target. Pledges start at $15 for a six pack, while $150 gets you the Doomsday special of 60 Candwiches. That's a 30 day supply of sustenance and sadness, and when that runs out, well, you'll likely welcome death.
Burntwood Alien Watch Tower
Cannock Chase, UK, sounds like a pretty exciting place to live with its reputation as home to an all-star monster cast of werewolves, ghosts, sea serpents, Bigfoot, demon dogs and, of course, aliens. One plucky stargazer wanted to capitalize on that reputation by crowdfunding the Burntwood Alien Watch Tower, which coincidentally took the form of a new deck for his house.
Armed with "one of the highest points in town" and an off-the-shelf telescope, the campaigner was so confident in the tower that he estimated a delivery date of August 2017 for humanity's first contact with extraterrestrial life.
Of course, every crowdfunding campaign has its risks, and at the top of Burntwood's list was the possibility that aliens might be spotted somewhere else first – most likely by a rival Alien Watch Tower in the nearby town of Smethwick.
The Kickstarter campaign raised a grand total of £33, falling a tad short of its £25,000 goal.
The Aten Interstellar Space Vehicle
While some people are happy to sit around on their new crowdfunded deck and wait for the aliens to come to them, others are more proactive. Apparently, the only reason we aren't all zipping around in our very own interstellar spacecraft right now is because the government is hiding the technology from us. Luckily, there's no shortage of Kickstarter campaigners offering their own solutions.
Relativity Research says it's developed Aten, a real-life flying saucer that travels across the universe by distorting space time without using a drop of fuel. And all this from a small start-up in San Francisco. We can tell they're legitimate because of all the diagrams and a seven-minute campaign video featuring dramatic music over blurry shots of stars and planets.
In contrast to the billions of dollars that NASA and other space agencies tend to spend on sending robots to Mars and the like, Relativity's Kickstarter campaign set out a budget of $25,000. Apparently, the Aten could revolutionize the future of space travel and physics as we know it for about the cost of a Toyota Camry.
It raised $146.
Skarp Laser Razor
In the cutthroat world of shaving technology, companies are constantly trying to one-up each other on unnecessary innovations. In a perfect world, your 12-blade, swivel-headed, vibrating, exfoliating, face-massaging razor would've been replaced by the Skarp Laser Razor.
Bucking the industry trend of throwing in more blades, the Skarp did away with them completely, in favor of a laser. It was claimed to be able to cut hair by harnessing a particular wavelength of light, without burning the hair or skin, completely irritation-free, waterless, with a long life and no need to replace parts.
If it sounds too good to be true, well, that's because it was. The demo footage employed all the shaky handicam techniques of a Loch Ness Monster video, raising the suspicion of backers and Redditors. Even so, the campaign raked in over $4 million, smashing its humble $160,000 target. That is, until Kickstarter itself shut the project down, stating it was "in violation of our rule requiring working prototypes of physical products that are offered as rewards."
In response, Skarp scuttled over to Indiegogo and raised half a million there. Now, over a year into production, reports say that the Laser Razor does actually work – but just barely. With the company admitting that it's probably not going to hit its 2016 delivery date, it looks like Big Razor doesn't have to worry just yet.
Fish on Wheels
Goldfish are one step above a house plant in terms of maintenance, and that's their entire appeal. Sure, they're not great company, but at least you don't have to fish-proof your house. Until now.
The Fish on Wheels combines the responsibility of a real pet with all the companionship of a Roomba. This four-wheeled accident-waiting-to-happen is actually controlled by the fish itself, with a mounted camera tracking its mindless movements in the tank and steering the contraption accordingly.
Lest it become Meals on Wheels or a fish out of water, it's probably not suited to households with a cat. Or children. Or low-lying electronics. Or one single stair.
That obviously ruled out the majority of the world, since the Kickstarter campaign managed just €5,000 of its €40,000 goal.
The above examples barely scratch the surface of questionable crowdfunding campaigns, so let us know of any others that have caught your eye, and hopefully not your cash.