Thanks to my job I see customers everyday that come to my office or that I visit during the weekend with new ideas, new technology, new services as well as those who want to enter the market with their new products and they ask me for a design or to validate their idea. Unfortunately most of the time some of their ideas are copied from existing products or in the worst case scenario from startups or concepts taken from Kickstarter which in China is basically a place to steal ideas and develop them before the actual product hits the market.
The biggest problem is not the Chinese attitude to copy (we wrote about it many times), but it’s the ability to choose good ideas in a place that recently has developed the tendency to host the biggest fails in the design industry. I founded (let’s say founded but I meant bought) four (yes 4) products on Kickstarter which never came to my home: two 3D printers (fantastic tech specs at the beginning, standard products for crazy price at the end), wireless independent earbuds (everybody knows what I’m talking about), a self flying drone (in this case promised for 300 US and at the end sold for 1500).
So I started to be concerned about my clients when they come here with the intention to copy some crazy products on Kickstarter. I tried to warn them about the risk of copying (in China you can’t talk about values, it would sound ridiculous) and about choosing the right technology, maybe from a supplier that owns it and not from a reverse engineering process (again nice way to say steal).
The doubt came up to my mind when this guy came to us with a product to design with a bizarre technology that uses so called “smart sensors” which at the end turn out not to be so smart. A two Kilograms heavy glass that can tell you if the water inside is hot or not through an App for iOS and Android…. So that before drinking a glass of water you have to find your phone to know the temperature of the water. Let me add that the “smart sensor” is so smart that just tells you if the water is less or below 50 degrees, so basically if it vaporizes or not.Of course the client was very excited seeing a lucrative market due to the Chinese habit to drink liters and liters of hot water keeping their gastrointestinal apparatuses working 24 hours a day. I must say in years of university lecturing, in which I’ve seen so many projects, this is probably the best useless product ever thought after the “Useless Box” or the “USB Stone”. Kickstarter and other crowd founding websites are a fantastic place to get founded, but many of the projects never come to life for different reasons, among which that a certain percentage of them are just simply stupid.
I just recall the Fish on Wheels (where a fish controls it’s tank on wheels through the apartment), the Turbo Beer Pong (the name reveals everything), the Umbrella that charges your phone with solar panels (really? Under the rain?) or on the same level the Fan Umbrella that uses a huge amount of power to create an air bubble protecting from the water (and weights as a baseball club), and last but not least the so called Intelligent Cup that tells you if the water inside is hot or cold with an led light powered by a battery with a thermal sensor (…really?).Believe it or not all this things have been founded, and this is a problem for the policy of the website which is not my business, but they should be concerned. The real thing that I care about is that in China the ability to distinguish a decent product from some Kickstarter bullshit is not so common. This creates a disaster of stupid, funny, useless products made of mouldings, plastic, electronic parts, that travel on wheels and burn fuel and money, partly copied, partly changed, come on… the technology supplier of some stupid western products have to sell their unsold somewhere.
So sometimes advertising on crowd founding websites are a useless idea is not just a problem of those three Californian guys that burnt a couple of thousands dollars coming from daddy’s savings, but can become a real polluting not to mention a waste problem, especially if some unaware Chinese supplier steps into it. All this added to the Chinese habit to deal with recycling. Beware of that when you put your next idea on this platforms: crowd founding is fantastic, but not always the crowd takes the best decisions…. Politicians in democratic countries know it very well.