Here's a crowdfunding campaign that merits skepticism—yet has netted $350,000 on a $25,000 goal. Are backers being had?
A startup called ShiftWear claims they can produce sneakers wrapped in a flexible HD display that can change patterns on the fly. They're saying they'll be ready by next year, and here's what their kicks will allegedly be able to do:
Those are some bold claims. Waterproof, machine-washable, charges the internal battery wirelessly and by walking? Sharp-eyed viewers will note that the display is even depicted to wrap around the eyelets for the laces, which ShiftWear offers as the $1,000 version; lower-priced models starting at $150 will apparently only have the display on a portion of the sneaker.
Readers of the campaign page will note that the company claims the flexible e-paper display has "up to 30 days battery life." But the company has no prototype.
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The last time we heard about flexible displays was when LG announced they'd begin mass producing their monochrome EPD (Electronic Paper Display). That was in 2012. But the much-ballyhooed displays were subsequently integrated into only one commercial e-reader, Russia's Wexler Flex One. Any of you ever seen one, or used one? Probably not; it was discontinued the following year.
A consumer electronics giant like LG was only able to produce a monochrome flexible display and could not gain any traction. Now ShiftWear is claiming they can produce a full-color flexible display and that they'll have it on people's feet by Fall of 2016.
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Is that even possible? Perhaps. But there's a key difference between Kickstarter and IndieGogo that we fear may be being exploited here:
Kickstarter famously banned renderings back in 2012, stating that "renderings that could be mistaken for finished products are prohibited.... If an obvious simulation or photorealistic rendering is spotted during…review, that project will not be allowed to launch. If a simulation or photorealistic rendering is discovered after a project launches, that project will be canceled."
Two years later at least one news outlet reported that Kickstarter's "ban on simulations and rendered product images has…been removed," and that "projects [can] be listed even without physical prototypes." That's simply not true in all cases: Kickstarter's current Rules page clearly states
When a project involves manufacturing and distributing something complex, like a gadget, we require projects to show a prototype of what they're making, and we prohibit photorealistic renderings.
Indiegogo has no such stipulations.