Collusion's crowdfunded iPen is "unusable"

The IT industry is reeling down under after a crowdfunded iPen gadget turned out to be garbage.

It was supposed to be the first gadget to perfect handwriting and drawing on the iPad and to be an Aussie success story, but after raising almost $160,000 on Kickstarter, it was declared unusable.

The project was finished, but months behind schedule and is the chocolate teapot of inventions. It is causing some to question if the Kickstarter model is a useful way of getting products to market.

University of Technology Sydney programmer Stuart Ryan told the Sydney Morning Herald  how he put $299 into the project and received two units, which he describes as “completely unusable”.

He published a video demonstration on YouTube showing difficulty even in drawing a straight line with the pen.

Ryan was one of the more vocal of the 912 other backers who have complained of lag, accuracy and calibration issues and missing features, as well as other bugs.

He complained that Collusion delivered an unusable product, and a piece of software that actually removed features prior to release from what was originally demonstrated.

Then the outfit stopped replying to emails, and input from them on the support forums is scarce.

The pens were supposed to be out in September last year, but didn’t arrive for Ryan until December, while some only received the gadget in February.

Some expected features that were not delivered include importing text and PDF documents for annotation, handwriting recognition, audio recording, offline mode and zooming on the canvas.

The founder of Collusion, Robert Yearsley claims to have raised $1 million extra funding for Collusion from outside investors and he is increasingly targeting corporate customers.

But something weird has happened to the final product since it was first demoed.  In June 2012, the basic functionality of the pre-release demo product worked fine but the final product doesn’t.

Yearsley said the next release of the Collusion software,  which included bug fixes and new features, was undergoing internal testing and would be released in due course.

He blamed Apple which would not accept beta software to the App Store, so the release had to be basic but stable, with updates to come as the company continues developing.

The case is being seen as an example of the dangers of crowdfunding. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is already worried about the risk of fraud carried out through crowd-funding sites and that funded projects may fail to deliver.

ASIC is thinking of regulating Australian-based crowdfunding sites but Kickstarter is based in the US.  Collusion is a US company partly due to Kickstarter requiring project creators to be registered in the US or Britain.