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Businesses Music The Almighty Buck Technology

3D Headphone Startup 'Ossic' Closes Abruptly, Leaving Crowdfunders Hanging (npr.org) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Ossic raised more than $3.2 million in crowdfunding for its Ossic X, which it touted as the "first 3D audio headphones calibrated to you." But after delivering devices to only about 80 investors who'd paid at least $999 to for the "Developer/Innovator" rewards level on Kickstarter, Ossic announced Saturday it had run out of money -- leaving the more than 10,000 other backers with nothing but lighter wallets.

Ossic, which The San Diego Union-Tribune notes was founded by former Logitech engineers Jason Riggs and Joy Lyons, had excited gamers, audiophiles and other sound consumers by creating headphones that used advanced 3D audio algorithms, head-tracking technology and individual anatomy calibration to "deliver incredibly accurate 3D sound to your ears," according to its funding campaign on Kickstarter. In less than two months in 2016, it was able to raise $2.7 million from more than 10,000 backers on Kickstarter. It raised another $515,970 on Indiegogo.
"This was obviously not our desired outcome," the company said in a statement. "To fail at the five-yard line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities."
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3D Headphone Startup 'Ossic' Closes Abruptly, Leaving Crowdfunders Hanging

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I presume they'll be releasing into the public domain all their research notes, designs, prototypes, etc?

    • by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @09:09AM (#56652512)
      Yup, they'll do that right after they return everyone's money.
      • why would they return the money?

        Investment is a risk, not a guarantee.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Buying (hoping to buy?) a pair of headphones through a crowd-funding site is hardly an investment, unless you believe your headphones will become some kind of family heirloom.

          • by EvilSS ( 557649 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @09:56AM (#56652804)

            Buying (hoping to buy?) a pair of headphones through a crowd-funding site is hardly an investment...

            And that's the problem with crowd funding: People don't understand what they are doing and think they are just pre-ordering a product. You are not buying headphones, you are providing capital to a company to make headphones, and as a thank you, they will send you a pair when they are done. It's a micro-investment but since they are not allowed to reward you with ownership due to government rules (like a regular investor would be), they reward you with a product. People need to understand there is always a risk the company won't make it and they will be out their investment with little recourse.

            • Interestingly, in the UK that may not be true. The Spectrum Vega+ on IndieGogo is currently in the middle of collapsing but they've already been sued and the court found that the presence of an expected delivery date among other things meant that it WAS a pre-order legally.

              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

                What redress is there though? They get sued, lose and all the money has been spent on bonuses and legal fees... And of course all the other creditors are lined up for their share too.

            • Well, they are a creditor to the bankruptcy, but that's probably going to get them pennies on the dollar.

            • ROTFL.

              So, its an investment is it?
              Great! Where is the documentation showing that these 'investors' now own part of the company? If enough of them get together they can control it!
              Pity it was not a success, then they could all claim a share of profits!

              Oh, wait, there is none, as it is an unsecured pre-order. At best. Oops.

        • This is not investment. It is a free grant of money where you might get something back in return if the producer decides he wants to.
          • by deek ( 22697 )

            I agree it's a grant of money, but it's not free. There is an effective contract made when you make the pledge. If the development is successful, the producer is legally obliged to pony up the rewards, whether they want to or not.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          Most people seem to stupid to understand that idea. Even many people here seem to be unable to grasp the idea of a risk-investment. Pathetic.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Says an idiot too dumb to know that Kickstarter is not an investment as there is no equity given or debt issued to backers of a campaign. You’re giving money to a black hole in hopes you’ll get a reward and if it fails they owe you nothing. If this was an actual investment these backers would be able to go after them to recover some portion of their investment as a creditor.

    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      Yeah, I’m sure they’ll get right on that...

    • Why would they do that?
      They may want to try the idea again.

    • Actually not a bad idea if portals like Kickstarter were to change their ToS were to enforce this through an assignment contract. Fail with someone else's money, and pony up your IP to the public domain. Then again, do we really want another Haiku?
  • by sqorbit ( 3387991 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @09:09AM (#56652508)
    They can't license this tech to some bigger company? If the product had that much attention being producd why wouldn't some larger audio company want in on it? Unless of course it didn't deliver what the company promised and that is the real reason it's gone.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It didn't have that much attention. Only 10,000 backers.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      From the article: The reason it'd not interest a bigger company is due to the amount of support needed to get it to work.

      After all the hardware, you still need a special driver for every system you're planning on supporting, plus an API for the developers of games, etc. to use for talking to your system.

      They probably vastly underestimated the amount of software development needed to keep the system working, or overestimated the skill/amount of development time game developers would be willing to put towards

  • Deal with it. You invest a certain amount of money, there may be a pay-off in the form of a product that would otherwise not have existed, but there may also not be a pay-off. Stop complaining.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Deal with it. You give away a certain amount of money, there may be a pay-off in the form of a product that would otherwise not have existed, but there may also not be a pay-off. Stop complaining.

      FTFY

      Invest has connotations of being more rigorous than what I see of most crowdfunding

    • there may be a pay-off in the form of a product

      In which case you can just wait and buy the product once it's actually available.

  • This is news? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kaizendojo ( 956951 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @09:44AM (#56652722)
    Finding out that a crowdfund collected a lot of money and then disappeared without fulfilling their obligations is like a news alert that Trump tweeted something controversial today. You know it's coming, just a matter of when.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2018 @09:52AM (#56652778)

    Weirdly enough, I know these founders. They were great people, hard workers, and smart. I got to mess with the prototype a bit and it was pretty incredible; as acoustic engineers they were amazing people.

    But I never shook the feeling that it wasn't going to work. Where did it go wrong?

    1) Ossic got the tech working, but that's not enough to build a successful business. It needs the right product-market fit. The problem I had with their business was it was predicated on the hypothesis that VR would take off creating a market for them to fill. It has not, and their business floundered. Even if it did take off, a game developer would have to build their audio portion of the game around what their system offered for it to provide the full experience, so it was also predicated on developers designing for their headset. THEN people would buy it. That's a tough sell. When VR floundered, they tried to re-position the tech, but it didn't have a good application outside of VR gaming.

    2) Design costs - product engineering always costs more than you think. Always, and if you're not experienced developing hardware it's often 5X what you expect it to be. THis is the hard part with crowd funding: people budget assuming the gross margin on the hardware at scale, but it's the ramp to gross margin (engineering, prototypes, re-engineering, test lots, first batches, then the working capital cost to develop inventory to deliver at scale) that hardware projects die. Ossic's folk are actually quite experienced at product design, but it's in the operational and budgetary side that can be difficult.

    I like these guys, they did the best job they could and did make an interesting tech. It's sad to see folks with such passion and heart go down.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So they made a proprietary audio format, backed by a startup nobody has ever heard of, and it only works with this set of non-existent headphones.

      I just can't imagine where they went wrong. Especially considering the failure of every 3D spatial audio proprietary garbage that came before in the last 18 years. Unless your name is Dolby or Sony, good luck ever getting anyone to support it.

  • At least the guys didn't just leave an almost blank webpage with the word "penis" on it or something.
  • I remember 3D audio being used on in music and theater sound effects back in the 90's. This is not new tech at all, except for the addition of making the audio source track with the image. I can see how this could be a real problem, especially when a SFX of any duration is triggered then has to follow an image's location in the game.
    • back in the 90's. This is not new tech at all

      Except this is nothing like theatre in the 90s and has far more in common with Dolby Atmos (theatre in 2013) than with your example.

      But don't let not understanding what it does or how it works get in the way of your criticism.

    • This is not your typical HRTF.

      They were doing positional mixing inside the headphone, incorporating sensor data from a VR headset to allow for low-latency sound translation. Current VR mixes sound in software, which means for quick head movements, the sound can lag behind noticeably.

      The headphones also had more than one driver per ear, with a custom HRTF to take advantage of them.

      • If your computer can render for VR, it can _certainly_ handle the audiopipe.

        • I never said it was being done in the correct place, but you'd actually be surprised how difficult it actually is to do low-latency audio rendering in software.

          When you render VR, the frame can take several milliseconds to render. It then, at the last moment before going to screen, performs a screen-space transform to account for any head rotation that happened in that short moment of rendering. So they have a way to hide the latency. There's no equivalent transform that can be done with audio, so you're st

          • There is no equivalent transform _necessary_ for audio. Close enough is close enough.

            Even if you're in the middle of snapping your head around during those few milliseconds (call it 11, 1/90th second, one Oculus display frame), I don't think you could turn you physical head more than 5 degrees in a 90th of second (I doubt you can turn your head that fast, not comfortably. Likely throw the headset across the room).

            5 degree direction change isn't going to change the sounds noticeably. If you're being vir

      • So, now tell me.

        WHY would you do 3d positional audio mixing in the headphone?
        HOW do you get the 3d positional information to the headphone?

        Thats the main fail: There is absolutly no problem here to solve: all of this is much better done in the VR system, and they do.

  • I didn't back this, but I have to say I couldn't be too mad about this folding, as it was a reach to begin with - you don't back moon shots expecting every one to fly. You just back the ones you want to see try and enjoy whatever success you find.

  • Without debts? Without responsibility? By working on what they wanted for as long as they were able to do so? By having probably learned a lot thanks to having enjoyed the most appealing version of the best possible learning proceeding (= momentarily tough conditions without relevant long-term consequences, a bit of fear and stress but nothing too serious)? I have no words!
    • Just in case it isn't clear, for me, this is pretty much like watching a fight between two angry baboons at the zoo. Kind of interesting, fun, even perhaps a bit surprising. But certainly not in a position to provoke deeper feelings like angriness, envy, wanting to be part of it, etc.
  • Yep, I'm trying to keep the bitching on articles down to minimum, but how does this even pass for news? And I'm saying that because major news sources broke the story long before SlashDot, so apparently it IS news. Out of seven reasonable, reachable-goals Kickstarters (Which is supposed to be the verified, trustable projects) I've participated in, ONE delivered what they promised, after one delivered my "Beta Tester Ultimate Package" in a broken state after the product was already being delivered at lower p

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