The Indiegogo campaign for the scientifically untenable Healbe activity tracker hasn't been shut down, but now a co-founder of the crowd-funding site seems to understand just how badly the wearable is affecting public trust in his platform.
In a blog post titled "Trust and the Future of Open Funding," Indiegogo CEO, Slava Rubin, directly addresses the controversy surrounding the Healbe GoBe Automatic Body Manager, which claims to "automatically measure calorie intake" with a simple wristband impedance sensor.
Rubin writes that Healbe is following Indiegogo's "trust guidelines," and mentions that Healbe is voluntarily issuing refunds to backers who request them. This refunds remark seems to be backed up by comments on the Healbe campaign page, where Healbe co-founder Artem Shipitsin is anything but a silent lurker. Shipitsin has been answering questions from the Indiegogo community, defending his product, and promising more scientific validation ahead.
"Nurturing a trusted open platform is our top priority," writes Rubin in his blog post, which also explains Indiegogo's efforts to combat fraud. In shorthand: Indiegogo uses algorithms, in-house experts, and crowd-sourced information from users to vet the veracity of projects and investigate fraud.
It sounds pretty good on paper, but somehow Healbe has already raised more than $1 million, more than 10 times its original goal. And, yes, Healbe's claims are as ridiculous as they sound.
In a March report, I quoted experts who said it is technically impossible for Healbe's publicized technology to measure how many calories are contained in the food we eat. "The physical reality is, this is just ridiculous," said Ries Robinson, a medical doctor who also has more than 20 years experience in developing systems for the optical measurement of body tissue. "It doesn't work at a medical level. It doesn't work at a practical level," Robinson said of Healbe's claims.
It's important to note that in his Indiegogo message board comments, not even Shipitsin supports the claims made in Healbe's campaign promotion. The promotional material states, "Only GoBe precisely calculates calorie intake...Know exactly how many calories you are consuming with no manual logging."
Yet in a comment on his message board, Shipitsin writes, "You are right about time for measuring intake calories from steak and its a reason why we have reduction of accuracy 'for the meal' for low-carb diets."
In essence, Shipitsin is conceding that GoBe doesn't measure protein calories. It seems to be, at best, a glucose-level monitor, which could never tell you exactly how many calories you're consuming. But even accurately tracking glucose levels is impossible with today's simple skin sensors, according to the medical and sensor experts I've interviewed.
If you're even remotely intrigued in the spectacle of a crowd-funding rebellion, you need to jump on over to Healbe's message board, where refund requests are flooding in. Meanwhile, read my report on wearable snake oil. And then we can all wait together for Healbe to show a working product to a growing army of skeptics.