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S’pore crowdfunded pet device raises over $1.5 million, but hasn’t been completed after more than a year

A shaggy dog story.

Sulaiman Daud | August 21, 2018 @ 06:48 pm

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Pet owners have been looking forward to the Pebby Smart Ball since 2015.

The brainchild of local firm Sybo Tech Singapore, the Pebby is a plastic ball equipped with a camera that can be programmed to follow pets around.

It’s meant to entertain pets while also providing their owners with a video feed to check up on them.

Imagine BB-8 from the new Star Wars movies, rolling around after your dog or cat. You can see a promotional video below:

The project has amassed US$509,227 from 2,856 backers on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and another US$626,167 on Indiegogo for a massive total of US$1,135,394 (S$1,557,045) as of Aug. 20.

It’s fair to say that this project has gained some interest.

On Pebby’s website, two company office addresses are listed, one in America and one in Singapore:

Screen shot from Pebby.

This is the same address as listed on the LinkedIn account of Sybo Tech Singapore.

Screen shot from LinkedIn.

Delays

There’s just one problem — the project is months overdue and apparently has yet to ship fully functional products to its backers.

The most recent update from Pebby on Kickstarter was from Aug. 3, 2018:

Screen shot from Kickstarter.

However a week passed without any additional updates, and backers were not pleased.

Screen shots adapted from Kickstarter.

Over on Indiegogo, the last update was in June 2018.

Backers were similarly not pleased:

Screen shots adapted from Indiegogo.

Crowdfunded project

One of the earliest mentions of the Pebby Smart Ball was from a Straits Times report in 2015.

Sybo co-founder Hansen Goh and his partner Maksim Kolin were mentioned as raising funds for their project through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter.

It said that the robot will go on sale “next year”, i.e. 2016, at a price of US$240. Kickstarter backers could get it at a special price of US$199 instead.

Backer

Mothership SG reader who wished to remain anonymous was one of Pebby’s backers.

In April 2017, she put in US$124, plus USS$10 extra for delivery, for a total contribution of US$134 (~S$184) on Kickstarter.

Pic courtesy of a Mothership reader.

As you can see from the above pic, she was entitled to the “Super Early Bird Special” which included the Ball, a Smart Collar, a Wireless Charging Dock and a Mobile App, at half price from retail value.

The initial target date for delivery on Kickstarter was July 2017, as you can see from the timeline.

Screen shot from Kickstarter.

Intel chip

However, on June 29, 2017 Kickstarter backers were informed by Sybo that due to the discontinuation of the Edison computer chip by Intel, there would be a delay of “two to four months”.

Pic courtesy of a Mothership reader.

The chip acted as the “brain” for the device, and the discontinuation of the chip meant that Pebby would not be able to get support from Intel nor purchase more chips in the future.

But on July 12, 2017, ST published another article that mentioned Pebby and quoted co-founder Goh once more.

It made no mention of any delays.

Ups and downs

The following is a timeline of the updates posted by Pebby to Kickstarter.

According to our reader, these updates could only be read by backers of the project.

August 2017

In Aug. 14, 2017, Pebby announced that a replacement chip for the Intel Edison had been found. An in-house chip was designed as a replacement.

However this meant they needed to re-design other parts of the device.

Screen shot courtesy of a Mothership SG reader.

But they were confident of keeping to the four month delay.

September 2017

Then on Sept. 27, 2017, Goh and Kolin posted another update, apologising for the lack of “appropriate updates and transparency.” They mentioned that the Intel Chip rollback had led to “ripple affects” affecting other parts of the design.

However, they claimed they would stick to the schedule:

“As communicated in the update of Intel, there will be a 4 month delay in deliveries due to the necessary replacement workaround. We are currently on our 2nd month in this and progress has been on target.”

And asked for patience:

Screen shot courtesy of a Mothership SG reader.

October 2017

However in the very next month on Oct. 4, 2017, Pebby released a revamped schedule with no mention of the Nov. 2017 deadline.

Pic courtesy of a Mothership SG reader.

Instead, there would be a “minor production batch roll out” scheduled for Dec. 2017.

Beta testing

November passed without a mention of the deadline, and Dec. 2017 saw the announcement of a new beta test program to collect information on user experience.

Pebby was looking for beta testers in three countries, including Singapore. They shipped some beta test devices to a few volunteers.

However, there was no new information on the expected delivery date.

Screen shot courtesy of a Mothership SG reader.

Despite updates on the beta tests and technical improvements in January, March and April 2018, there was no new information on the expected shipping date of the finished product.

No refunds for now

In April 2018, our reader sent an email to Pebby, asking for an estimated delivery date and the possibility of a refund.

They replied that because she backed the project on Kickstarter, and did not order directly from their website, she would not be eligible for any refund “at the moment”.

She’s not the only one who wants a refund, as can be seen from the dozens of comments left on both crowdfunding pages.

Pebby have not responded to refund requests on Kickstarter, although they left this message on Indiegogo:

Screen shot from Indiegogo.

Sporadic responses

Some have claimed that the project founders have stopped answering to messages:

Screen shot from Kickstarter.

The current estimated delivery date is in December 2018, as can be seen on the Indiegogo page.

You can still pre-order the device from either Indiegogo or the website itself.

However according to our reader, that delivery date on the Indiegogo page changes frequently:

“Their Indiegogo site also seems to be open for preorders, although I have been watching the delivery dates change from Nov 2017 to March 2018, to July 2018 and latest Dec 2018.”

We have reached out to Sybo Tech Singapore for comment.

Top image adapted from GetPebby’s YouTube page and Kickstarter.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve and his favourite person is Jürgen Klopp. He also writes about film and pop-culture, which you are very welcome to read here.

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