Back in late 2013 Sixense, the company behind the Razer Hydra controller, launched a new project on Kickstarter called the STEM System. The device promised full immersion in VR environments, with 5 tracking points that monitor your position in 3D space. During the campaign, it was expected that shipments would start in July 2014 — however, after several setbacks, the company has yet to deliver on its promises.
On May 4th, Sixense CEO Amir Rubin updated campaign backers as to the status of development, and may have upset a few people. After considerable delays, backers are starting to call for refunds; however, the company has no intention of issuing them.
“For those of you who have requested a refund for your pledge for the STEM System, we want to remind you that Kickstarter is neither a purchase nor a pre-order. As such, we will not issue any Kickstarter refunds.”
These comments sparked considerable outrage from backers, who were quick to suggest that Kickstarter rules require that if a campaign fails to deliver on promises, refunds are to be made available. This assertion is not actually true, however.
Currently Sixense is in the process of sending out prototypes as quickly as they can. The design has not been completely finalized, due to the certification failure. The current plan is to change the system from having 5 internal RF receivers, to having a USB hub with external receivers. The reason for this is that “a system with five RF units embedded in the STEM Base PCB requires assignment of five FCC IDs, which is a long and expensive process. Removing the RF units and placing them on a RF dongle requires only one FCC ID.”
There are still challenges ahead, and Sixense hasn’t been clear on when the product will ship, but as of now the STEM System is still on the way.
Source: STEM System Kickstarter page
Sixense CEO, Amir Rubin, posted a response to the backlash on May 12th.
“I’d like to start off by apologizing for the apparent abruptness of our previous message concerning refunds for KS backers. Our intention was certainly not to offend or upset anyone; we were just trying to be as straight forward as possible with what is obviously a very sensitive subject.
While it’s true that we could improve our communications, the simple fact is that we really are working very hard on delivering the STEM System as quickly as possible.”
He goes on to explain that the rules of Kickstarter have changed since thier campaign was run, and at the time the refund policy was clear.
” And, when we launched our STEM Kickstarter campaign in 2013 the rule regarding the granting of refunds, albeit different from what it currently is, was clear: “A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.” https://www.kickstarter.com/terms-of-use/oct2012″
While this likely not the response that some of the backers were hoping for, his stance is no unjustified. The company has every right to chose not to issue any kind of refund. As of right now the STEM system has fulfilled it’s requirements by not canceling the development of the product.
Source: STEM Kickstarter update #59