It’s not easy to stay on the cutting edge of technology when the cutting edge is always changing — and can always be counted on to be expensive. Experimenting with a new technology can be intimidating enough, not to mention buying in for several thousand dollars to even conduct the experiment. Maybe customers really do want a personal sales helper robot, like Pepper, to cruise the hallways of their house, or perhaps it is one of those things that sounds cool on paper but ends up being creepy as a live experience.
There’s no way to know without bringing it home and finding out — and bringing home a Pepper will cost a customer $1,700 upfront, with $134 in monthly maintenance costs and $89 in monthly insurance costs for the next three years. That is a lot of upfront cost, unless one is already certain they want a Pepper robot to call their own.
The World Of Wonder
Though not everyone has a robot-specific need, consumers of all kinds face this issue with cutting-edge technology from VR to coffee machines: The world is full of interesting innovations but getting people initially into the technology is tricky, particularly when the buy-in is high.
It is a problem that Alex Berezovskiy, Founder and “Chief Tinkerer” of Wonder, ran into as a tech enthusiast. As he noted in an interview — desire to be an early adopter aside — it was getting really expensive to keep up with all the new products with which he wanted to play. And he realized he wasn’t alone in experiencing this problem.
“At some point it just got expensive. We also realized our friends would often come and ask if we had a spare something. That was the moment it hit us that we could just rent it out,” he noted.
The concept for Wonder was born. Instead of a marketplace where buyers could meet inventors and innovators, Wonder decided to offer a marketplace where renters could meet inventors and borrow the cutting edge options for a fraction of the price.
Berezovskiy introduced Londoners to the firm’s “House of Wonders” event, which gave the wider public a place to come and play with some of the advances available for rent on the platform.
In his keynote address at the event, Berezovskiy noted, “Technology development is accelerating at an exponential rate, and bringing a lot of new products as well as opportunities for people to turn their own ideas into reality. We believe Wonder can be a platform for everyone to learn and experiment with latest advancements and get inspired to create own things.”
How It Works
Today Wonder is still in beta, meaning only those invited to the platform can participate, and those invites are limited to Londoners. That will change in the not-so-distant future, according to the Wonder team, but, for the time being, they are focused on perfecting their efforts.
“Delivering innovative products is a tricky business and we want to make sure we get it right so [as] not to disappoint our customers,” the firm noted in an email.
When the bugs are all cast out — and Wonder can assure it has supply sufficient to match demand — the firm says it will open the platform up to everyone and expand past its London home base. Once that glorious day arrives, the Wonder platform will be open for three types of users.
Renters are obviously the group looking for the goods. They can peruse the Wonder catalog for goods on offer, which, as of today (May 2), includes Microsoft HoloLens, Nintendo Switch, DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Playstation VR — all of which rent for around $10 a day. For higher ticket items, users can also rent access to the Sunbot (a humanoid robot with “penguin-flipper arms and a touchscreen heart) for $667 a week (about $100 a day).
Once the renters find what they want, they checkout and pay, and their temporary technical goody comes in the mail. Wonder promises all goods come ready to “plug and play” out of the box, and come with a “handy” quick-start guide so users can get right on playing with their new toy. Once the time is elapsed, Wonder sends a courier to pick up the item at a scheduled time.
Since high-tech products are known for being somewhat delicate, all goods come insured against accidental damage so that users don’t risk a “you broke it you bought it” situation — though Wonder does request that users treat items as though they are their own.
Fulfilling Renter Needs
To fulfill the needs of renters, Wonder seeks to attract to different groups of suppliers. One group is owners: those who perhaps have cutting-edge technology sitting around, don’t use it often and would like to monetize it. Owners fill out a form about their listing and can usually get approved within 24 hours. They are then guaranteed a rental, as Wonder picks up the first rental — paying about $40 — to take it back to its test site and play with the product (a clever way to get more vetting in).
From there, owners can schedule rentals — and pick-up and drop-off times — through the Wonder service. They can also temporarily suspend their listings if they are going to be out of town or are unable to manage hand-offs with the Wonder courier.
Wonder also works with new-product inventors directly and gives them an opportunity to list their innovations on the platform. Inventors can set their own price, though the site recommends rentals be 5 percent to 10 percent of the full purchase price — Wonder charges a 30 percent rental fee and the lister keeps 70 percent.
Berezovskiy said, “We’re working closely with the creators of products to help them package it in a trial-friendly way. When renting on Wonder, you receive a plug-and-play package, which is simple to use and pre-packaged, so no setup is necessary. We’re making it so that you can just turn it on, and get straight to the point. Simplicity and ease-of-use is key for us.”