Yo, Brother: 10 More Goofy, Ridiculous Tech Companies
The stunning rise of the Yo app — which does nothing but make a friend’s phone utter the vacuous phrase — has cast a spotlight on one of the sillier niches in the multibillion-dollar app industry. There are more goofy, silly, and downright absurd apps and services than ever, as every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a bad idea can turn to fundraising sites including Kickstarter and Indiegogo to pump themselves up.
With thanks to TechCrunch, Valleywag, and a subreddit with an unprintable name, here are 10 of the most ridiculous apps and services vying for your dollars recently. Not all have been funded, of course; technology projects don’t have a great track record of winning financial backing. On Kickstarter, for example, only 33 percent of projects in the tech category successfully reached their fundraising goals, 13th out of the site’s 15 funding categories (dance and theater projects have the highest success rate).
1. One crazy service that opened its doors in June, only to shutter a week later, was called Washboard. Users could sign up to be sent $20 worth of quarters to use in laundromats — for the bargain price of $27. But the startup attracted fewer than 10 users and shut down last week. “Nearly 100% of the Internet thought Washboard was an absolutely absurd concept,” co-founder Caleb Brown wrote in a final blog post. “I had a very difficult time convincing people the service was even real, but we did have customers that were excited for it.”
2. In the app world, LookFor might be one of the silliest. It’s for meeting up with friends at a concert or other crowded venue. All the app does is flash the screen of your phone in a designated color. The idea is to hold up the phone and tell your friend to look for that color. Beyond assuming the user is tall enough to reach over the crowd, the app wouldn’t work very well if it caught on and a dozen people all flashed the same color. But more than 200 people backed it on Kickstarter, most paying only $1.
3. One of the most ridiculous projects on Indiegogo sought to raise money to print out the entire contents of the Wikipedia site and publish it in book form — sort of like a crowdsourced Encyclopedia Britannica but with 1,000 volumes instead of 26. Thankfully for trees everywhere, the project garnered only about 20 percent of the $50,000 needed.
4. Know anyone who still extends his thumb and pinky finger to signal “call me”? Apparently the goofball gesture is still popular in some quarters. The Handiheadset Kickstarter project sought to produce a giant, plastic hand poised in that gesture that could be used as a speakerphone. It attracted only nine backers when the fundraising period expired this month.
5. There’s some social-science research suggesting that grateful people are happier, so what better to encourage giving thanks than a gratitude-tracking pet rock? How can a rock track your thankfulness? It can’t. But the Pebblestone personal mind coach does keep track of how many times you pick it up and shake it. You could do that every time you want to note a grateful memory, the creators say. The project is still fundraising until July 6 but has already exceeded its goal to raise 100,000 in British pounds.
6. QR codes seemingly appear all over nowadays, allowing anyone with a smartphone to scan and be whisked off to a particular website. So how about promoting your small business by adding a promotional QR code to a pair of jeans or a T-shirt? Kickstarter funders didn’t go for it — the project failed last week after attracting only 2 percent of the required $2,500.
7. Some goofy projects are considerably more ambitious. The “ORBIT” Flying Autonomous Smart Device would combine a smartphone, mini-drone, and digital personal assistant. The fact that you need a phone to use it negates some of the appeal of the phoneless-ness of the device. The inexperienced developer behind the ORBIT attracted only six $1 pledges before the fundraising period ended.