Yes, there is a perpetual motion machine on Kickstarter. No, it doesn’t break the site’s rules

Once upon a time, every crowdfunding campaign that went live on Kickstarter was vetted by the site’s team. That lent backers the feeling they were in a safer space than, say, Indiegogo to spend their dollars.

But then Kickstarter introduced “Launch Now” in June, which allows projects to be posted as soon as an algorithm (instead of a human) gives them the go ahead. Projects now need to meet just three rules:

  • Projects must create something to share with others.
  • Projects must be honest and clearly presented.
  • Projects cannot fundraise for charity, offer financial incentives, or involve prohibited items.

Hardware projects also need to meet additional requirements, such as showing a prototype instead of just a rendering. Together, those rules changes allow for a broader scope of projects to seek funding on [company]Kickstarter[/company]. But they do much less to prevent the failures that have regularly slipped past Kickstarter’s vetting process — impossible hardware goals, poorly organized teams and downright scams.

The Scribble pen's creators claim it can write in any color. Photo courtesy of Scribble.

The Scribble pen’s creators claim it can write in any color. Photo courtesy of Scribble.

Kickstarter took some heat last month for the Scribble pen: a writing device that could supposedly match any color with its ink. People quickly found flaws in the video showcasing the pen’s ability, building the case that the magic-seeming pen really needed to be magical to work. The Scribble team removed the project after Kickstarter requested more proof that the pen was real.

This week, an even more outlandish project went live: a “self sustaining electrical turbine generator,” AKA a perpetual motion machine. If you’ve ever taken a basic physics class, you might have noticed that is, um, impossible.


But the project actually doesn’t break Kickstarter’s rules. Backers who pledge $250 receive a baseball hat, holiday cards and a poster — not a perpetual motion machine — and that’s only if the campaign reaches its goal of $10,000.

“Yes, if you’re not offering the device, you don’t need to show a prototype,” Kickstarter communications director David Gallagher wrote on Twitter. “The fate of this one is up to backers like you!”

It’s another strong reminder that every project on Kickstarter is not a sure deal. Vaporware and scams happen. In the end it’s on the backer, and not Kickstarter, to make sure their money is going to a sound cause.

So if you’d like to support one man’s pursuit of an impossible device, go ahead. At least it’s better than potato salad.

A screenshot of the perpetual motion machine Kickstarter.

A screenshot of the perpetual motion machine on Kickstarter.