This Towel Day (May 25, 2016), a celebration day for Douglas Adams and of course The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, I have had an email about a technology that claims to be the Babelfish itself from the series. Douglas Adams created the concept to allow various humans and aliens to interact with each other without having to worry about the languages spoken around the Galaxy. Other great Sci-Fi creations have their own way of dealing with this. Star Trek just ignore the whole issue, and get on with it with the likes of Klingon. Star Wars just allows aliens to either speak English or random wordage. Doctor Who uses the Tardis to apparently creating brainwaves which do exactly the same as the Babelfish. Billie Piper wasn’t a big fan of this intrusion, but as somebody who travels around the world, I have definitely been waiting for one of these devices for ages.
I’ll let you watch the video before I go on:
How much, you may be wondering? Well, the great deals are all gone already on IndieGogo, but you can still get the regular priced item at a mere cost of $200 USD. Sound amazing? A lot of other people thought so as well. They were only after $75,000 on their campaign, and when I got the email around 5 hours ago it claimed to have passed around $800,000. As I type this, it has already crossed $1.2 million, and a refresh on the page will show you even more advances in buying. So far there are 5414 people who have already committed to buying one of these. All of this has happened in a matter of hours!
So how does it work? The image below goes through the various steps.
So far so good. However, for some weird reason, I feel this is all a bit (Babel)fishy!
Here are some of the reasons why:
- I agree that the hardware provides the magic in terms of noise cancelling and such like, but why is it not being sold as just a software package as well? I am sure most travelling businessmen would love to have something like this available to them in a phone. People would pay good money for this, without the hardware. Why package the hardware in as well?
- $200 USD for such a device with all of the technology behind it sounds too good to be true. I feel like there is a bigger company either funding this or we don’t have the finished product for review. This was in the case of the Raspberry Pi. They have (had) Broadcom funding the whole thing, and it has been an immense success. The cost of a computer for only £35 was driven thanks to the R&D investment from a big company. If there is indeed a big company behind this, then this is a marketing ploy (see section on ‘Why Crowd-funding below). Once again, if this was just an app and it worked as well as it looks in the videos, I would still pay $200 USD for it, without the hardware.
- The CEO of the company is not available to take interviews.
- Andrew’s LinkedIn Profile doesn’t talk about anything else at all. Just Waverly. Some of the other people have not really mentioned Waverly on their profiles, despite being connected to each other on there. Not a serious problem, but just something to look at.
- The small matter that they have an immense amount of orders to fulfil now, which means that it will be rather difficult for anybody, with no matter how much money they will now have in the bank. A lot of crowd funded companies have either failed, or had massive delays when they have had such success. The biggest story of them all being that of Pebble.
- And the biggest question: Why are they crowd-funding this?
- The simple answer is normally the easiest. With a success like this, it has to be all about marketing. They have definitely made waves by having such an amazing campaign.
- In the world of start ups, such amazing products are normally sold to private investors way before they get out in the public. Sometimes a crowd funding campaign is only there to attract their attention. An example of this was LaForge Optical, who came up with a Google Glass improvement, made massive waves in the crowd-funding world, and suddenly got ‘acquired’ and pulled their campaign.
- A lot of big companies use crowd-funding campaigns too. This is a mix of acquiring a bit of capital to make the product as well as using it for marketing, or throwing out risky products towards the average joe. This is not really a problem, but I am just putting it out there.
- I have no way of predicting this, or knowing any more than what they have already said, but assuming everything is as they claim, I still find the predicted timelines to be rather optimistic.
Now one main concern I had initially when I saw this was if the technology in the form existed. We do not really have any demos apart from the highly polished videos, which could have been edited to make the device look good or truthful. Various components have already existed for this technology, so this is not a far fetched idea, but the current format seems a rather highly advanced product. While I am not saying it doesn’t exist, I am still finding it hard to see why such a technology has already not been acquired by one of the bigger names such as Intel, IBM or such like.
I feel like I am being rather harsh on them here, and they are trying to give the masses a really exciting product. However, based on my experience with start ups and engineering, I feel like I needed to write all of this down and give the general public my own 2 pence on the issue. At the end of the day, $200 USD is not too much of a price to pay for such an exciting product, but I will probably wait till it actually comes out before I invest.
Please do let me know of your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below, or via Social Media.