The infamous, but greatly-hyped Scanadu Scout prematurely departed this Earth shortly after midnight on May 15 in the year of our Lord 2017, to join the likes of Google Glass, Amazon Fire Phone, and the Nintendo Virtual Boy in Gadget Flop Heaven. It was just over 27 months old.
The Scanadu Scout was conceived in the mind of Walter De Brouwer, a Belgium-born entrepreneur and semiotician. With the fanfare of a messianic arrival, he announced the Scout’s coming on November 29, 2012. While it received much media attention for being seen as the prophetic fulfillment of a much-anticipated Star Trek Tricorder, some were skeptical with the announcement’s flashy animations and underwhelming demo.
The imminent arrival of the Scout continued to be hyped, despite the lack of additional signs of its coming. But it continued to gain believers, and raised a record $1.7 million from 8,800 backers on Indiegogo, each paying between $199 and $529 for the promise to one day receive its blessings and goodness. And while no flashes of light ever appeared in the sky to proclaim its coming, venture capitalists still gave $10.5 million in funding to declare their allegiance to Walter and his sensational gadget. The date foretold by the prophecy of Indiegogo eventually came and passed with no arrival, but Walter masterfully continued to make assurances of the Scout’s coming, so its followers still did not doubt.
The Scout finally arrived into the world in February of 2015, nearly a year after the prophesied date. Its followers were overjoyed; its attractive design and high-tech features conveyed a sense that this device was truly the future. Its followers quickly forgot the fact that they had given several hundreds of dollars and waited over three years. They overlooked the fact that their personal health data would be shared and used for the company’s own research. And, they overlooked the fact that its arrival was accompanied by an undisclosed mortal curse from the FDA that would ultimately lead to its demise.
In December 2016, the Scout announced that it would cease to exist in May 2017. The Scout gave no clear reason for its departure, other than a vague statement: it was an investigational device that the FDA would no longer allow to live. Its father, Walter, had already abandoned the Scout back in April 2016 to father another child. More surprisingly, the Scout gave its loyal followers no hope for its future; no blessing for their seed-faith offering, no returns from the 5.6 billion health data points they contributed, and no commendation for their faithfulness during its short time on Earth. As a result, many of its believers deserted, turning to social media and forming a protesting movement known as #Scamadu.
The Scout leaves behind two still largely unknown sibling devices whose arrival was announced at the same time as the Scout in November 2012. It leaves behind its creator, Scanadu, who to this day continues to receive seed-faith offerings from its remaining adherents. Most notably, the Scout leaves behind a legacy of duped consumers, who have learned from its example to be extra discerning when it comes to backing crowdsourced medical products, as there’s little accountability, health information privacy concerns and regulatory hurdles can quickly deal a mortal blow, and the gadget can fall victim to the same fate as the Scout.
Plans have been made for the Scout’s remains to be interred as expensive plastic paperweights, objects for target practice for a variety of weapons, and mediocre hockey pucks. Donations to the family in memory of the Scout are not encouraged.
Scanadu Scout, may you rest in pieces (literally).