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Wednesday, 8 February 2017 | MYT 6:00 AM

Photo Kit: Kickstarter cable conundrum

Smart cable: Sadly, we will no longer be able to purchase the Triggertrap smart cable and dongle as the company has gone out of business.—Triggertrap.com

Smart cable: Sadly, we will no longer be able to purchase the Triggertrap smart cable and dongle as the company has gone out of business.—Triggertrap.com

These days I've been a little less enamoured with Kickstarter projects, thanks to the failure of many high profile projects that have failed on the crowd-funding platform.

You see, no matter how promising or plausible the project is, to my mind, there are more failures than successes when it comes to tech products launched on crowd-funding platforms.

So why am I talking about this in my photography column?

Well you see, I recently ordered a smart camera cable and dongle from a company called Triggertrap — the cable is a pretty cool product which allows you to connect your smartphone to your DSLR remote port.

As you may well imagine, connecting a camera to your smartphone allows you to use the smartphone as a souped-up remote control that can do many things, such as utilise your phone’s microphone to trip the shutter release when it hears a sound such as clap.

Another interesting feature is that it can utilise your smartphone’s GPS to detect distance travelled so, for example, you can have the Triggertrap trip the shutter and take a photo after a certain distance has been traveled.

The thing about the Triggertrap cable is that it was the result of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign in 2011 and the company has since built up a relatively successful business selling the said cable and dongle combo.

I held back buying one of these cables for quite a while because it was relatively expensive for the number of times when I was likely to use it.

However, it was recently on sale and I decided to take the plunge and purchase one from the Triggertrap website and waited for mine to arrive.

That's why I was quite surprised when a couple of months later, I get an e-mail from Triggertrap telling me that they have been unable to source the cable for my specific camera and have cancelled my order and refunded me my money.

A few days later the penny dropped — I got an e-mail from Triggertrap’s CEO that the company was closing down its business because of heavy debts incurred when the company’s Project Ada Kickstarter project failed.

Project Ada? In case you haven't heard of Project Ada, the story goes that after successfully selling the Triggertrap smart cables, the company embarked on a more ambitious project called Ada which was intended to be a smart trigger that uses modular sensors to detect the environment and trigger the shutter.

So for example, if you fit in a laser sensor, you could utilise it to trip the shutter when, say, a bullet passed in front the sensor.

Similarly, an infrared sensor could be utilised to sense and take a photo when an animal passed by in front of it. 

Project Ada was actually a hit on Kickstarter — the campaign far exceeded its original US$79,000 (about RM350,000) goal, bringing in US$464,000 (about RM2.06mil), and it looked like it was going to be another successful product for Triggertrap.

Unfortunately, reality eventually hit when the company spent five times too much money on its prototype and eventually found out that the parts for the final product were going to be more expensive than initially budgeted for.

Despite getting a bit more financial help, Triggertrap had to eventually throw in the towel and cancel the project altogether.

Unfortunately, the cancellation of Project Ada resulted in a domino effect of failure for the company which it has evidently never been able to recover from.

So that's the end of that. 

While it's sad that a company like Triggertrap has fallen, it's also a cautionary tale for the rest of us to beware of projects that promise too much.

I've come to believe that without massive research and development budgets afforded by big multinational companies for creating complicated electronic products on top of relatively short delivery dates, most Kickstarter projects of this type are destined to fail.

In fact, Triggertrap is just the latest in a growing list of companies that have been successful on Kickstarter and yet were unable to build a profitable business from that.

So what do you think? Do you have any stories of projects you've supported on crowd-funding platforms that have failed?

Tan Kit Hoong (tankh@thestar.com.my) is a journalist who's been an enthusiastic photographer longer than he's been reporting tech news and this monthly column allows him to ramble on about cameras and photography.

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