Back in October 2013 Sixense completed a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign for its virtual reality (VR) compatible motion controller, the STEM System. The crowd-funding effort raised $604,978 USD, well over its initial goal of $250,000. During the campaign the company had predicted a July 2014 shipping date for those that pledged enough money to secure a kit. Due to a range of complications, that date has since been pushed back multiple times, with backers still waiting on their kits almost a full year later. Sixense’s latest production update has now arrived, providing further insight into when kits might arrive, but also being met with some backlash from the community.
The update, posted on Kickstarter, reveals that STEM is still building and shipping prototype STEM Systems as quickly as possible. Currently the company is awaiting the arrival of new circuit boards to implement into its STEM Base, which has failed its FCC testing. As a result, the company is adjusting the STEM Base’s design to include radio frequency (RF) dongles that connect externally via a USB hub. “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,” the company explains. “Removing the RF units and placing them on a RF dongle requires only one FCC ID.”
Sixense CEO Amir Rubin signed off the update by thanking supporters, but also noting that it would not be issuing refunds for backers that continue to wait. “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,” Rubin stated. “As such, we will not issue any Kickstarter refunds.”
While comments from backers have generally been accepting of the delays, these last comments sparked some backlash from the community.
“You do need to refund backers if you don’t deliver,” one backer by the name of Ben Wilson wrote, “it’s been nearly a year since it was supposed to deliver so I’m pretty sure that this is an adequate timeframe. As far as I am concerned Sixense has not fulfilled their promises or rewards and I don’t really trust them to do so.
“Have some respect for the backers and refund them if we request it.”
The comment has even attracted the attention of other developers, such as Bossa Studios co-founder, Henrique Olifiers. “I’m deeply disappointed by the constant delays, but was supporting you until I saw your belligerent wrap up to the last post, regarding not refunding those who are asking for it,” Olifiers wrote. “This is a disgraceful behaviour from any company — and in particular one that relied on everyone’s trust to get this project off the ground.
“You should know better than being this arrogant towards people who has given you more than a year of their patience on top of their money.”
It’s not the first time that Sixense has fallen out with a developer; Technolust studio Iris VR announced it was dropping STEM support in March 2015, noting: “My hand has been forced on this for a number of reasons. First and foremost being the lack of development hardware. I can’t support hardware I do not have access to. As far as I can tell, nobody has access to it. I have made several attempts to speak to the Sixense CEO in person and have been very put off in general. After trying (and owning) other motion control solutions, I am less than impressed with the STEM hardware in general regardless.”
So far, Sixense has not issued a response to these complaints. VRFocus will continue to follow the STEM System’s progress, reporting back with any further updates.