Friday, April 01, 2016

The Downside of Crowdfunding

So, while I recently pointed out a potentially good product to come out of Kickstarter, there are certainly examples of ones that, really, never should be funded on principle. Case in point: I bring you Woollip, the supposed "Smart Pillow,"

Now, take a moment to digest that. These days, you hear "Smart...." And you think of a device loaded with sensors, designed to give feedback, and improve a problem. Think of the Fitbit, a smart pedometer that uses social reinforcement, gamification, and real-time feedback to help you get more exercise. Or the exploding smartwatch market, with dozens of models (Android, iOS, and more), focused on moving notifications out of your pocket and onto your wrist, as well as anticipating what you need to be told about before you need it. Smart devices indeed.

Woollip...not so much.

This is anything but. Instead, you get an inflatable travel pillow, supposedly to help you sleep better on a plane, car, etc. It's design is meant to accommodate different types of sleeping positions. And deflates for easy transport. That's it. Sensors that detect your quality of sleep (a la sleep trackers)? Nope. Ok, perhaps a white sound generator to help you sleep. Nope. How about syncing to your phone to wake you gently in the ideal phase of sleep to ensure you awake refreshed before your trip ends? Um, no.
Instead, you get a cheeky video, and a pillow the size of a kitchen appliance that I am sure will not bother any of your fellow travelers. Not to mention the folly of the inflatable aspect: how many times have you seen travelers frustratingly try to mess with those? Imagine being next to a middle seat dweller who whips out this baby.

Sadly, it has already exceeded the funding level it was looking for.  The true irony for me is that it's "designed" to be used on a plane, and with the tray table down, as well. You know that pocket behind the tray table? It used to contain a relic of the past: Skymall, a "catalog" of items that you flipped through before the days of using tablets or Kindles. Smack in the middle of that ancient tome was an ad for what might look to be a familiar product, albeit with a decidedly worse marketing photo:
There truly is nothing new under the sun. And just because something is marketed as "smart," or appears on Kickstarter, doesn't make it new, useful, or, in this case, even a good idea. 

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