Quirky is best known for the Aros Air conditioner, which Matt admired last year. It was the most successful product to come out of Quirky’s great idea for collaborative invention and production. Here's how it worked: The designer pitched the concept to the online community who then helped refine and improve it. The Aros was built by GE and connects to its owner’s smartphone through Wink, a smart home automation system that also happens to be a Quirky product.

Other products were designed and manufactured by Quirky itself, which aimed to become an online retailing powerhouse for innovative products. 

There was a lot to love about the idea. If you were an inventor, you could find the people you needed to help develop your product, to evaluate it and to get it produced. Anyone who has ever invented anything and tried to get it into production and marketed it will tell you that it's incredibly hard to do. (Interested in a backpack, anyone?)

Some Quirky products were hits, like the bendy Pivot Power Bar; others were just a little bit too quirky, like the bizarre Internet-connected egg tray that tells your phone how many eggs you have. Alas, not enough people bought those egg trays or many of the other products that were produced. The crowd-sourced system was unable to predict what was going to be a hit in the marketplace. The Wink smart home system also became a huge cash drain. It didn’t work that well in the first place, and then it had a serious crash this spring, which meant that most of the hubs had to be replaced. 

Now Quirky has given up on producing products altogether, and if anyone in the Quirky inventing community wants to see an idea come to fruition, that idea will have to get picked up by big company partners like GE, Harman and Mattel. As Adam Clark Estes of Gizmodo notes, it's the end of an era:

So say goodbye to Quirky products, as we’ve always known them. We loved those weird but useful things that our friends invented. But now those friends are stuck shoveling their good ideas to boost the profits of giant corporations. It’s the real American dream, unfortunately.
It was a great idea. Unfortunately, even with all that hive mind working together, it was still tough to get a product out the door. And it will be even tougher to get the idea inside the door of companies like GE and Mattel. Most big companies won’t even look at something they didn’t design in-house because if they ever turn out a product that even vaguely does the same thing, they could get seriously sued.

Inventing is a bit like a lottery with a very expensive ticket. The odds of a win through Quirky just got a whole lot worse, and I suspect quite a few of the Quirky community will look for some other way to play the game.

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Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.