(Credit: Uncharted Play)
A power-generating soccer ball designed to provide electricity for disadvantaged children and endorsed by Barack Obama has been revealed to be faulty.
The Soccket looked like a great idea. In just half an hour of being kicked around, creator Uncharted Play said the soccer ball could generate enough electricity to power an LED lamp for three hours, and the aim was to send it to disadvantaged families in North and South America. It generated US$92,296 in funding on Kickstarter and was endorsed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
The balls themselves were sent out in Mexico just over a year ago, but — as discovered by reporter Jennifer Collins for charity investigation website PRI's The World — the balls themselves fell far short of expectations.
Travelling to Cuetzalan in Mexico, Collins interviewed 10 families who had received a Soccket ball. Of those 10, eight of the balls had broken from within a few days to a few months, and became discoloured and ragged very quickly, rather than lasting the promised three years.
Kickstarter backers were likewise disappointed, reporting misshapen balls, rapid wear and tear, usability issues (it "doesn't really work as a ball or a light" according to one user), lack of response from Uncharted Play, and, of course, the balls breaking.
Uncharted Play co-founder Jessica Matthews addressed the issues in a Kickstarter update. "Currently, we are working closely with our overseas vendors and manufacturing partners to improve the durability of the ball, producing a product that is able to withstand the rigours of regular recreational play," she said. "We expect to have our new product ready to begin shipping within two-three weeks' time. We know that is a long time to wait when some you have already been patiently waiting for many weeks...Every effort is being made to make the highest quality product for your enjoyment, and we are sorry that is taking longer than we expected."
Whether this will extend to the families in Mexico whose Soccket balls were not up to standard remains to be seen. A representative only told Collins that Uncharted Play's plans to continue distributing 50,000 balls worldwide annually remained unchanged.