The Future may not be here: Skarp Laser Razor Kicked off of Kickstarter

Well, the folks behind the Skarp laser razor that I wrote about last week just got kicked in the gut shortly after they raised over four million dollars (2500% of their original goal of $16,000) in their Kickstarter campaign.  It seems that the folks at Kickstarter decided to suspend the project because it didn’t quite meet their requirement of having an actual working prototype. From the Kickstarter rules:

Projects must be honest and clearly presented.

Our community is built on trust and communication. Projects can’t mislead people or misrepresent facts, and creators should be candid about what they plan to accomplish. When a project involves manufacturing and distributing something complex, like a gadget, we require projects to show a prototype of what they’re making, and we prohibit photorealistic renderings.

To be fair, the Skarp folks did have a prototype, and it worked.  Kinda sorta. It cut one hair at a time, and the fiber optic thread was so fragile that it would break if it actually contacted the skin (see the below video).

The Skarp people addressed this on their new IndieGogo page (where they re-located after Kickstarter gave them the boot):

Many have asked us to show a closer shave with the prototype shaver, and we would love to, but can’t. Here is why.

The prototype in the demo video can’t cut much closer because the hand-made fiber in the prototype breaks when lightly bouncing it off the skin. It’s made of glass and is very thin. It also can’t be mounted with the necessary support to prevent that. The hand drawn fiber that you see cutting hair in the videos has an un-even surface that doesn’t uniformly couple the laser light into the hair over the whole cutting region.

Your support will allow us order the new factory made fiber. Please see the time line in the campaign.

Skarp has managed to raise over $336,000 since they moved to IndieGogo, and it’s still climbing (and they will get their money this time, since this is a “flex-funding campaign).  If this is actually a real thing, they will get their last laugh.  If it’s a hoax, well, they are really pushing their luck now.  I guess they truly believe in it.  So there may be hope after all for the wonderful and painless laser shaving experience… and hopefully the chromaphore-cutting prank laser pointers that I alluded to last week.  If you’re willing to take the gamble, there are still seven days (from the time that I wrote this) to send them your money in hopes of them getting their new optical fibers and getting these razors into production.

Eric Limer at Popular Mechanics won’t be sending in his money, as he believes that the Skarp razor will be “total flaming garbage.”  But even he admits that the science, while vague, is not total garbage:

The sole bit of technical information that Skarp offers about its design, is that the razor uses a fiber optic cable to contain the laser. When a  hair hits the laser, the laser flashes out and cuts the hair. This basic principle is sound, in theory.

To absorb a lot of light energy in a small area (which is what you need for cutting anything), you need not only a high optical power, but also a tightly focused beam,” Professor Quimby told me over email. ​”This means that the laser light must be concentrated with a lens into a very small spot, like a magnifying glass focusing light from the sun onto a leaf to burn it.  I think this is probably a critical aspect of the Skarp design.  If you take even a modestly powered laser and focus it to a very small spot—say around 10 micrometers—then you get a lot of concentrated energy, which could burn through a piece of hair.”

So yes, that demo is not some crazy hoax. The Skarp Laser Razor can totally cut hair. What’s more, is that it’s probably not at risk of blinding you either. The little flashes of laser light that burst out from the fiber aren’t focused, so they probably don’t run the risk of searing your retinas the way a laser pointer might. 

I don’t think I’m going to take the chance on this.  But, at the same time, I hope that the Skarp guys manage to wow and impress us all.


Published from the Inland Empire in California.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *