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The Mind-Reading Gadget For Dogs That Got Funded, But Didn't Get Built (ieee.org) 66

the_newsbeagle writes: Crowdfunding campaigns that fail to deliver may be all too common, but some flameouts merit examination. Like this brain-scanning gadget for dogs, which promised to translate their barks into human language. It's not quite as goofy as it sounds: The campaigners planned to use standard EEG tech to record the dogs' brainwaves, and said they could correlate those electrical patterns with general states of mind like excitement, hunger, and curiosity. The campaign got a ton of attention in the press and raised twice the money it aimed for. But then the No More Woof team seemed to vanish, leaving backers furious. This article explains what went wrong with the campaign, and what it says about the state of neurotech gadgets for consumers.
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The Mind-Reading Gadget For Dogs That Got Funded, But Didn't Get Built

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:33PM (#53709137)

    "Where are my testicles, Summer."

    • I find it ironic that in per country breakdown of project delivery rates, Chinese projects are the most succesful. It os true for the most mid tier projects, and it comes to 95% for projects above 1m

      • by Anonymous Coward

        China is trying to move forward to greatness, not backwards like some other countries.

  • by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:48PM (#53709179) Journal

    She also said that NSID shifted attention to other projects and basically forgot that it had promised to build a canine mind-reader. “We missed a lot of emails, so we’re really sorry about that,” Mazetti says. “We had a restructuring at the company, and we had an absent-minded engineer in charge.”

    No, you ignored a lot of e-mails. You had people trying to contact you for two years. "Missing e-mails" is believable when it's less than five. It's really not necessary to continue lying to your backers.

    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @11:07PM (#53709243) Homepage

      The more damning part is that they claim to have spent more than they received on the project, before simply forgetting about it. How do you go into the red and be so far into the red that you can't make a profit on the product, and then also forget about it? It seems unlikely compared to simply having chosen to drop the project and not having told anybody.

      I mean, you're spending money working on it, you have some part of your R&D area set up with whatever you're spending that money on, at some point you have to have decided to shelve the project and put the stuff away. That isn't an accident or an oversight at the time it is happening. If they forgot they did it, that would have been weeks or months after they decided not to deliver, and decided not to communicate that.

      • Startups. The goal is rarely to become profitable. Sometimes it's a way to keep some people off the street as long as they know a friend who's a smooth salesman who can con the venture capitalists.

        • This is the problem with other people's money (OPM.) I don't think it much matters if the money comes from crowd funding, tax payers, or more traditional investment, when money comes from someone other than a paying customer (that values your goods or services, now, more than their money, now) there is often times a disconnect.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:58PM (#53709215)

    The reason people like dogs is that no mind-reading tool is ever necessary. It's always immediately obvious what's on their mind.

    • The reason people like dogs is that no mind-reading tool is ever necessary. It's always immediately obvious what's on their mind.

      How true! Now, a mind-reading device for a cat...that's something I would help crowd fund. Then again, if you are going to crowd fund something, it should at least be possible to build, so maybe not.

    • Where's the ball? Where's THE BALL?! BALL!
  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @11:10PM (#53709261)
    I'm not even a dog owner or dog lover and I can usually tell the difference between the "hi, let's play" bark and the "hi, I'm going to eat your face for lunch" bark. Oh, and the bark while looking at the door usually means "I need to go bend a biscuit", while hanging around the dinner bowl while barking generally translates as "feed me you ignorant bastard". That bark whenever the doorbell rings generally means "Danger, Will Robinson. Danger"!
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @11:23PM (#53709293)

    I didn't RTFA, but it's obvious what happened. I can sum it up using two old quotes:

    1) A fool and his money are soon parted
    2) There's a sucker born every minute.

  • Gullibility (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @12:38AM (#53709511)

    Gullibility: it has no lower limits. People that invested in this should immediately consult a doctor to see what kind of head injury they have.

    And the hucksters that were supposed to build this thing made me laugh:

    She also said that NSID shifted attention to other projects and basically forgot that it had promised to build a canine mind-reader.

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight....they just "forgot" about that mind-reading machine they were building. Sure, that's totally believable.

    Like one time I was building a nuclear-powered orbital weapons platform, I went to make a sandwich and got sidetracked, and years later I was like, "Heyyyyyyyyy, what ever happened to that orbital weapons platform I was building?"

  • by spiritplumber ( 1944222 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @01:31AM (#53709635) Homepage
    This frustrates me.

    I did an indiegogo in 2014, hit around 300%, bought a lathe and a drill press and a 3d printer, and delivered all the units within 90 days.

    After that I decided to start selling my invention through regular channels... and discovered that crowdfunding is radioactive to investors unless you hit more than 1000%. Most people told me that what I had already invented, built, and sold was unfeasible.

    One person even told me that it was unfeasible AFTER it had made a hole in his desk.

    Why do grifters ruin it for the rest of us?

    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @02:17AM (#53709733) Journal

      I feel for you, that sucks. Having said that:

      > Most people told me that what I had already invented, built, and sold was unfeasible.

      I've owned a few companies built aroundv things I created, one that did over a million dollars in sales.

      Later, I found out that I didn't own an investable business as much as I owned my JOB. My creations paid my bills for 15 years. I worked, I took home a paycheck. The question for an investor is:
      If I give you a million dollars today, can I reasonably expect to get back $200,000 each year for a few years, then also get my million dollars back within five years?

      The long term average in a broad-based, fairly safe mutual fund is about 9%, and you can get your investment back whenever you want to. For a risky investment in a new business to make sense, it has to offer much better than 9% returns, and the ability to get your principal back in a reasonable time frame.

      Also, to "go big", I learned, you'll have much higher costs than you have as a hobby/small business. You'll need to put 25%-50% of the retail price into sales and marketing, another big chunk into taxes, admin staff, regulatory compliance, insurance, etc. So something that costs $100 to make and sells for $200 isn't viable on a large scale - to sell a shitload of them at $200 each, your marketing expenses will be at least $70 each, often more if you're going through a retailer. To go big, the item that sells for $200 better not cost more than $40-$50 to produce.

      What I owned was a decent job for myself, but not a feasible investment for an investor who could instead make 9% in a much more diversified, and therefore much safer, investment. I wonder if your situation may have been similar.

  • the article is SEO for NEUROTECH, page source is loaded with NEUROTECH mentions in the text body and source (neurotech)

    No More Woof sums up the current state of neurotech products intended for consumers

    Why didn't they just save us all some time; instead of sugarcoating vapourware and trying to be all hip and NEUROTECH, call it SNAKE OIL like we have been for hundreds of years already.

  • They should've funded a brain-scanning gadget for Apple IIs.

    https://hardware.slashdot.org/... [slashdot.org]

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @02:49AM (#53709797)
    Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter try to make it seem like you're pre-paying for a final product, but you're not. You're investing in a business concept - basically you're a venture capitalist. If it works, you'll get your product. if it doesn't, you'll get nothing.

    Crowdfunding is actually worse than venture capitalism. With the latter, you the investor get part ownership of the company, so if it becomes successful (e.g. Oculus VR, Pebble) you share in that success. With crowdfunding, all you get is a shiny trinket. If you even get it at all. All the risk, none of the rewards.
  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @03:33AM (#53709887)

    This is why science education matters for the general population, even though most of them will never work in a scientific or engineering field. It immunises them against ridiculous claims and scams.

    I'm no neurologist, but I know that EEG contacts don't work through fur - and I've seen plenty of photos of laboratory animals with shaven heads, or narrow probes that pass through the fur and through the skin in a way that most dog owners would not permit.

  • >"Like this brain-scanning gadget for dogs, which promised to translate their barks into human language."

    It would be better if the device could convert barking desire into silence, or maybe reduce the volume by 75%.

"Live or die, I'll make a million." -- Reebus Kneebus, before his jump to the center of the earth, Firesign Theater

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