The Ritot smartwatch is an interesting product that looks like something right out of the movie In Time with Justin Timberlake. It seems a lot of people also love the idea, as the Ritot has raised over $300,000, well in excess its initial goal of $50,000.
But can the Ritot do everything it claims? Judging from the information on the Indiegogo, there's some major technical challenges the company claims to have solved, but won't actually show how or demonstrate they've solved them. In fact, they make some bold claims while showing blatant Photoshops of stock photography.
The projector size - Japan's Explay announced back in 2010 that it had created a pico projector that was just 7mm thick. This is the kind of projector that would be small enough to fit in a wearable but there's still room required for Bluetooth, battery and the circuits to control the projector.
Daytime usage - The pico projector by Explay only produced 14 lumens. A quick search online reveals that it takes a few thousand lumens to clearly see a projection outdoors. Generating this amount of brightness also brings up the obvious question of battery life.
Projection angles - Even if they got a projector inside the wearable, the angle of projection as depicted in their mockups, doesn't seem right. The watch has its projector no more than a centimetre above the wrist. It seems a projection at this angle would make the numbers look distorted and nowhere near as clean as the Photoshop mockups.
The Ritot is not the first, and will not be the last questionable product to be successfully crowd-funded. The Healbe Gobe claims to be able to non-invasively read your blood glucose, which if true, would be worth billions. The problem is that well established and respected doctors almost unanimously agree it's snake oil. Dr. Zubin Damania, a Stanford-educated, Las Vegas-based doctor even went as far as saying, "that's some straight Ghostbusters, Peter Venkman bullshit."
In general, there are three major red flags that should warn you a product on Indiegogo might be a scam. The Ritot smartwatch raises all of these red flags.
1. Flex Funding
Building a wearable such as this requires a set amount of money. In order to get the components required, as well as ship devices, you need a set amount of money otherwise you simply won't be able to make the economics work. I know this first hand, having worked with a hardware company that raised over $300,000 on Indiegogo.
If a company is telling you they're going to ship a hardware product such as this, and they have flex funding for $50,000, you should be very skeptical. In essence they're saying, "even if we only get $500, we'll make it work". That's a lot of money for the company to swallow and they should at least be transparent about how they plan to make up the difference financially.
2. Mysterious Founders
When a company comes out with a somewhat revolutionary product, the founders will almost certainly have a recorded past online. The nature of startups is that since most fail, you can expect any startup founder to have at least some documented history.
This is a problem with Ritot. I can't seem to find anything about the team online. As far as I can tell, none of them are on LinkedIn and the founder seems to have only appeared on the Internet after the Ritot crowd funding campaign. The two team members who have created Indiegogo accounts, haven't even connected to any social networks to verify they are in fact real. Also, of the 115 Twitter followers, not one of them is named Ivan Powell (the founder).
A good Team page for a product would feature its team members' social media accounts so that their resume and experience speak to the product's viability.
3. No Demo
The Ritot team has apparently been working on a prototype for six months. How come there isn't a single piece of documented evidence of this? There are mockups and something that vaguely looks like a prototype, but no video or anything that shows a real, non-Photoshopped, projection. Any company that can't show you a working prototype should make you very suspicious.
Figuring out who is responsible for protecting the consumer, or even whether the consumer needs protecting, is a very old problem. While Indiegogo could arguably be blamed for letting these scams through their system, caveat emptor should also apply. What's probably most important is that consumers stop giving these people money. Follow the above system for spotting red flags and save your money for awesome companies that will actually deliver.