Q&A: Steven Zhang, Lead Engineer for CALM.—a Wearable ECG Device Serving Unmet Mobile Health Needs

I touched base with a member of HWTrek’s community of creators,  Steven Zhang, who is the lead engineer for CALM., to learn more about the project and its development. CALM. is currently available for pre-order via Indiegogo, where the team has successfully raised about $39,000 (390% of its goal) and has been certified by Arrow Electronics.

Please introduce yourself and your project?

I am Steven Zhang, Lead Engineer for this project. We have made an affordable wearable ECG device, which we are targeting sports users at first, with intention of expanding to healthcare applications down the road. CALM. is for competitive endurance athletes.

What’s the inspiration for your project? What problem does it solve or address?

We saw an unmet need in the healthcare industry, for affordable wearable mobile health solutions that serve everyday monitoring and screening roles. Similar products are either 10 times more expensive or too big and clumsy to be useful.

We decided to target sports before healthcare because most of our team are triathlon enthusiasts, and we decided to provide training safety and sleep analysis for the sports market, while we iterate and go through regulations for healthcare (medical) use.

What solutions did you use for hardware design?

We used Autodesk Fusion 360 as well as Altium.

What solutions did you use for prototyping?

Hardware: 3D printing and small PCBA services

Electronics: Nordic Semiconductor nRF52 Development Kit, Analog Devices AD8233 Evaluation Board, a cheap Chinese ECG signal generator called SKX-2000, and a Hantek oscilloscope.

Mechanical: Anet A8 3D printer

Software: Balsamiq, Sketch.app, ionic framework, Amazon AWS

We skipped a lot of traditional prototyping steps, went straight to a small batch of PCBA samples, and did not make any breadboarded prototypes. We also went straight from 3D printing to injection molding and skipped CNC.

What resources have you used for sourcing and supply chain management?

We used Octopart and Alibaba.

What were the most difficult things to source for your project and how did you source them?

A cheap, reliable, and fast provider for plastic injection molding. We discovered Protolabs, and they had what we need, albeit with some restrictions. Their online quote and DFM system made it possible to go from CAD to plastic faster and cheaper than going back and forth via email and site visits to a traditional injection molding provider.

What tools, if any, do you use for real-time collaboration on your project (with team members and partners)?

For real-time collaboration, we used Autodesk A360 and Skype.

What have been the significant challenges or obstacles you’ve faced on the project? How were they resolved?

Getting the team to agree on unique creative designs. Using 3D printing significantly improved the process by being able to create multiple prototypes, and iterating quickly.

What challenges have you faced in the development of CALM. that are specific to the design and development of a wellness/health device?

Differentiating with existing players like Fitbit, Garmin, and communicating the differentiation to a crowd who are interested but not professors of fitness. We are always asked, even internally, “How is this beneficial to the normal person, who wants to stay fit?“ We are in fact, not targeting a “normal person”. Our target is competitive athletes. Trying to satisfy a broad audience often leads to scope explosion and being mediocre (less focused) at the main purpose.

What are the takeaways and lessons learned from working on this project that you’d like to share with other wellness/health device developers?

There are plenty of untapped niches for wellness/health. Don’t try to cater to everybody with mediocrity, create something that does one thing very well, and you can always add sub features later.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time to the beginning of your product development?

Buy a 3D printer early on.

If you are planning a new version of your project or future devices, what will you differently?

We will be making accessories that expand the usage models for CALM. – such as waterproof accessories for swimming. We will also be working towards a medical model.

We all know the phrase “hardware is hard.” Is there something that was much easier than you had initially thought when you started out on your hardware journey?

No, hardware IS hard.

What trend do you see that is changing your sector/industry or what shift would you like to see happen?

More streamlined regulatory scheme for wireless communication devices, and medical devices.

What’s next for your project?

Ramping up mass production for this model, and kicking off development of our next model.

We are also continuously working to improve our analytics algorithms.

And now for something completely different, fun questions…

What are your ‘go-to’ sources for tech information and news? 

Engadget

What’s currently on your playlist, what are you listening to these days?

I am not a music fan.

What fuels you (coffee, tea, or….)? When you’re low on creative juice, what is your #1 method to get back on track?

A good sleep and energy drinks!

What do you recommend (place to go/see, what to eat) for a visitor to Tokyo?

Japan is very seasonal, research seasonal activities before coming. Cherry blossom in the spring, fireworks in the summer, food festivals in autumn, and hot springs in the winter.

What gadget would you love to have from your favorite science fiction film or book?

Geordi La Forge’s bionic eyes (Star Trek The Next Generation)

This is a screenshot of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s character Geordi LaForge from the episode Suddenly Human. It is used for identification of, and critical commentary upon the fictional character “Geordi LaForge”

If you are working on an IoT healthcare device or want to transform your existing device into a smart, connected one, check out our opportunity to jumpstart your project through our 5-day Asia Innovation Tour – Connected Health Solutions – that will take you and more than 20 other global connected health innovators on visits to manufacturing facilities, certification labs, top-tier medical companies, distributors, healthcare market research firms, and discussing product development strategies with more than 500 industry leaders at the HWTrek Meetups in Shenzhen and Shanghai. This event is free admission. We will arrange and cover the costs of a single company representative, local transportation to visiting companies, institutions, and factories. However, please be aware you need to cover your flights and accommodations, and possibly need to apply for a visa. Learn more and apply here.

How Portable Gaming Wearables Create a Truly Immersive Experience

VR headsets, such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive or Sony’s PlayStation VR are probably the first things to come to mind when thinking about gaming wearables. Despite the literally game-changing immersive experience they offer, VR headsets lack important features of truly wearable devices, such as portability, usability, and a fashionable design, which create additional obstacles to the product development process. In the following, we review how companies could overcome these obstacles and create portable, user-friendly and stylish gaming wearables that pave the way of how we will play video games in the near future.

Avegant Glyph: Bigscreen experience in headphone form

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In contrast to VR headsets, the Avegant Glyph simulates a large screen by projecting an image through millions of micromirrors directly to the retina. The main application uses include movies and video games on any HDMI supporting mobile device and laptop. The Glyph can even be used as an FPV viewer for camera-equipped drones. During the prototyping phase, Avegant developed the optics and circuit boards, while Tekna made ergonomic and aesthetic adjustments. Challenges included finding the right headset size for various head shapes as well as reducing weight, size, and part count.

With a Kickstarter campaign raising $1.5 million, multiple awards and a current collaboration with United Airlines, the Avegant Glyph is a technological and commercial success. (One of the co-founders represented the company as a participant in HWTrek’s first Asia Innovation Tour in 2014.)

If you are looking for DLP solutions for VR headsets with millions of micromirror arrays, then start by connecting with an expert from Texas instruments on the HWTrek platform. If you are looking for a completed solution, we recommend getting in touch with SuperD on the HWTrek platform.

The Omniwear Arc gives gamers a sixth sense through haptic feedback

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Initially developed for football helmets to prevent players being hit, the Omniwear Arc consists of 8 haptic sensors, which send out signals to the gamers, revealing the enemy’s position. Gamers need to pair their mobile phone with the Arc and point the camera lens at the game’s minimap. In the prototyping phase, the number of sensors was reduced from 30 to 8, and the product design was changed from a skullcap to a necklace, as users asked for a smaller and more stylish solution.

The initial Kickstarter campaign of October 2016 was canceled, which might be related to a limited support of only 2 compatible games. If this challenge is solved, the Omniwear Arc has the potential to become a valuable companion to professional video gamers in the following years.

If you’re interested in creating a device such as Omniwear Arc and are in search of sensor solutions, you can reach out to Japan’s MegaChips—a fabless manufacturer creating tech for value-added mobile & IoT industry applications. They offer the frizz solution, a next-generation sensor-hub LSI for wearables and smartphones with high-end arithmetic processing and low-power consumption

For joint design manufacturing support, you can start your project development journey by connecting with an expert on the HWTrek platform such as Rone Phoenix Nest, which specializes in providing an overall design solution, including project evaluation, design & development, and supply chain management for IoT wearable devices. Also check out our interview of Roger Li, COO of Rone Phoenix Nest: “Turning Amazing Wearable Designs Into Amazing Products.”

Ubisoft O.Zen uses biometric data to improve respiration

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Published by Ubisoft France in the end of 2015, the O.Zen is designed to improve one’s breathing, resulting in stress reduction and a healthy heart rate. From 2009 to 2015, Ubisoft worked together with Neotrope to develop the wearable heart rate sensor as well as a breathing game, which analyses and makes use of the user’s biometric data. In 2013, Ubisoft teamed up with Souffl to test the marketability of the solution.

The results of the market studies suggested to publish O.Zen for mobile devices instead of computers and to follow an early adopter acquisition strategy, which is often pursued by start-ups. Since October 2015, the O.Zen is available in France. With the O.Zen, Ubisoft pioneered the usage of biometric data inside video games. Biometrics is still a new concept to video games. However, the amount of potential application uses is huge: Using the gamer’s heart rate to influence the shooting accuracy or holding one’s breath in an underwater level are examples, which we might see in the near future.

If your biometric device project development journey is just kicking off, consider reaching out to an expert on the HWTrek platform providing a full package of services from product ideation to mass production like JoyMed Technology, which can provide product/electrical/mechanical design, verification, and contract manufacturing services.

For ECG/EEG sensor solutions for your biometric device project, look to experts on HWTrek such as RichPowerWell Being Digital, and Neurosky.

If you’re looking for an expert to help develop a connected wellness app or heart rate sensor for a device biometric device project, you can connect with Neotrope on the HWTrek platform.

The GEAR controller enables amputees to play video games

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George Levay lost both hands and parts of his facial skin as a result of a meningitis infection 5 years ago. The idea to develop a video game controller for the feet came during a simple class assignment at the biomedical engineering department of the Johns Hopkins University. Levay and his fellow students Adam Li and Nhat Tran formed the GEAR (Game Enhancing Augmented Reality) team and developed the first prototype, which consists of adjustable padded footwear and 3 sensors to pick up foot movements, such as tilting and raising the heels. The PCB enables each shoe to control 8 buttons, which could eventually increase up to 20.

With the help of Johns Hopkins, the GEAR team could file a provisional patent and won the $7,500 grand prize in the 2016 Intel-Cornell Cup for innovative applications in the area of embedded technologies. Currently, the team is looking for a licensing agreement with a big company to make their invention accessible to a wide audience.

For a project like the GEAR controller, you can connect with an expert on the HWTrek platform from Murata for sensor and control switch solutions. Kyoto-based Murata focuses on the design, manufacture, and supply of IoT electronic components, including sensors & modules.

In addition, consider reaching out to Japan’s Taiyo Industrial for flexible printed circuit FPC boards that meet needs for fine-pitched circuitry.

An outlook to a truly immersive gaming experience

While VR headsets took almost the entire spotlight of gaming wearables in the recent years, these case studies show that there is much more to expect in the near future. I cannot wait for the day when I am flying at 30,000 feet to the next CES show, put on my mobile VR headset including limb movement sensors, hold my breath and control my heartbeat, while my shirt gives me haptic signals from all directions. Innovative gaming wearables are an indispensable ingredient to bring a truly immersive gaming experience to the next level.

Internal Resources

Turning Amazing Wearable Designs Into Amazing Products Interview with Roger Li of Rone Phoenix Nest

Accelerate IoT and wearable device development time with Hexiwear

The Buzz: Fashion and Wearables

External Resources

Wearables are Changing the Future of Games

10 Potentially Game Changing Wearable Technology Innovations

(This post was written by a guest writer)

Popular Consumer IoT Devices on SoftBank’s +Style Platform

SoftBank launched its +Style platform in 2016 connecting IoT hardware device makers with Japanese consumers who are keen on adopting the hot, new technology into their lifestyle. At the beginning of 2017, SoftBank introduced the +Style as a program on HWTrek to attract the developers of cool IoT devices to the Japanese market.

SoftBank’s +Style has collaborated with ARM Innovation Hub to feature products developed with ARM technology. Six products that use ARM technology are currently available for sale on the +Style platform and four have been offered for pre-order on the crowdfunding section of the platform. For more innovations developed with ARM technology, check out the ARM Innovation Hub.

Planning: Participatory product planning

The Planning component of the +Style platform provides an opportunity for hardware companies to connect with potential consumers of their products during the planning and prototyping stages of their product development. The most talked about project in the Planning component of +Style is a consumer smart health device project called Ketto, developed by Tokyo-based E3 Enterprise. Ketto measures blood sugar, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels. It received more than 120 comments and more than 150 people favorited the project.

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Quantum is Tokyo-based open innovation corporate startup studio that supports the development of innovative IoT products from the product planning and design stages through to business development and strategy. Connect with Toshi Shiwa, Chief Engineer at Quantum, on HWTrek to learn more.

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Arrk Dison specializes in manufacturing industrial design models and product prototypes including appearance model, function model, silicone mold, temporary vacuum casting, CNC machining, and SLA laser light modeling. To learn more about their services, connect with Sam Liao on HWTrek.

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The Smart Aluminum Bag is a sophisticated, craftsman smart briefcase from Tokyo-based Garret Interior. The designer is considering a number of features that include smartphone charging, LED light, GPS logger, and locking mechanism controlled by a smartphone app via Bluetooth connectivity. The project idea was favorited 38 times and received 33 comments.

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Crowdfunding: Raising money for product production or testing the market

The two most successful campaigns crowdfunded on +Style are Beam, a smart LED light projector, and Code Horizon, a connected, real-time strategy board game. IoT hardware developers can leverage crowdfunding on SoftBank’s +Style platform to help ease Japan market entry and help to speed go-to-market strategies.

The Beam, which raised 1,346,600 yen, is a smart projector that fits in any light socket (E26/E27 type socket compatible) and can also function as a lighting fixture with its 12 LED lights and is controlled via an iOS or Android app. The Netherlands-based Beam Labs initially raised $759,656 on Kickstarter before testing the Japanese consumer IoT market via +Style. It runs on Android OS, features both Bluetooth and WiFi wireless connectivity, and has two built-in speakers.

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Code Horizon is a real-time strategy board game, developed by Yokohama-based Mira, that knocks down enemies by deploying realistic robots, VRO (Valkyrie Rover), on the table and virtual infantry units on the iOS/Android application, using all the tactics while identifying the speed change situation. The VRO robots use ARM Cortex M0 processors and are wirelessly connected to the player’s iOS or Android device via Bluetooth 4.0. The project’s campaign raised 527,800 yen on the +Style platform and also raised $30,407 on Kickstarter.


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Tokyo-based Kiluck provides planning, product, mechanical, and PCB design services and prototype consulting. Connect with Yaoxuan Zeng, who is responsible for Global Marketing at Kiluck, on HWTrek to learn more about their services.

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Shopping: Purchasing products unavailable in Japan

The shopping or e-commerce component of the +Style platform gives consumers the chance to purchase the latest in innovative IoT products that are not yet available in the Japanese market. Some of the most popular devices on offer for sale include a web-connected video camera that can dispense pet treats remotely called Furbo, TrackR bravo, which is an item tracking device backed by a Crowd GPS network, and a wireless robotic button or switch pusher called MicroBot Push. Slovenia-based Ulla Lab’s, a member of the HWTrek community, sells its Ulla personal hydration monitoring device that attaches to a user’s drink to monitor hydration and issue reminders to drink more water. Ulla was developed with ARM technology.

IoT hardware developers looking for assistance in developing a cloud-based network such as TrackR’s Crowd GPS can look to ACCESS on the HWTrek platform. Tokyo-based ACCESS is a provider of advanced IoT software development and solutions. Check their profile and connect with Takashi Sasaki here.

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Together with SoftBank’s +Style program, HWTrek provides a complete end-to-end hardware development ecosystem—a one-stop shop—for IoT hardware innovators collaboratively working to manage their product development, connect with manufacturing and supply chain industry experts, and bring their connected device projects to market in Japan.

Check out the +Style program page on the HWTrek platform to learn more about +Style and connect with SoftBank +Style representatives Jack Akita and Masato Furuno.

Interview with Johann Kok, Founder of SeeBox

Over the course of the past two years, HWTrek hosted 80 hardware creators and accelerators to visit Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen on Asia Innovation Tour 2016 (April), Asia Innovation Tour 2015 (August), and also on the first tour in April 2014. We’re organizing the next tour in November 2016 to Shenzhen, Osaka, and Kyoto. You can register on the HWTrek platform and create a project to apply to join the Asia Innovation Tour Winter 2016 cohort destined to meet manufacturing industry experts, see assembly lines in China and Japan, and gain insights about their consumer markets for smart, connected devices.

We reached out to a participant in our third tour HWTrek Asia Innovation Tour (Spring 2016), Johann Kok (Founder of SeeBox) to learn more about his project and his insights.

While on tour in Shenzhen, Johann had this to say: “I really enjoyed this trip; it was extremely insightful. I’m here with the main goal to establish relationships for future manufacturing and sourcing.”


Please introduce yourself and your project?

SeeBox is a unique ground-breaking tool and platform designed to educate children in physics and create the next generation of electronic and software engineers. Access to proper education in the region has left Africa with a skills gap that will hamper economic growth. Furthermore, there is a global shortage of engineers that will only become more pressing as technology use expands.

SeeBox is a gamified educational tool that is fun and easy to use by both children as well as students, offering unique benefits and no teacher required. It is also a cloud-based monitoring and control system, with application in the test and measurement environment. SeeBox has won numerous innovation awards, among them the educational category at the African Entrepreneurship Award in October 2015.

What’s the inspiration for your project? What problem does it solve or address?

SeeBox has huge potential for alleviating the growing international technology workers shortage. We want to change the way children are taught electronics because the existing methods are not producing enough professionals. This is especially relevant in Africa, where there is a dire shortage of technical skills, as well as a lack of technical training infrastructure.

The next disruptive technology confronting civilization is going to be artificial intelligence, as in robots. AI software will take over jobs of call center operators, and even advisory roles like law practitioners. AI cars and buses will drive themselves, factories will operate without human workers. Like all disruptive technologies before it, e.g. the industrial revolution, AI will bring creative destruction. It will destroy many jobs but will also create new jobs requiring different skills. Those who saw it coming will have prepared their children with the necessary skills as technology workers. SeeBox has the potential to empower young people to become participants in the coming AI economy, instead of victims.

What solutions did you use for hardware design?

Was done in-house by our own engineers.

What solutions did you use for prototyping?

Low-volume PCB printing and population, 3D printing for the enclosures.

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What resources have you used for sourcing and supply chain management?

Components are sourced from suppliers everywhere. PCB manufacturing is done in China and population is done by a local company. It is envisioned that later on as the volumes increase this could be outsourced to China as well.

What were the most difficult things to source for your project and how did you source them? 

The MOQ on many electronic components created a problem.  We ended up buying them from places like Digi-Key.

Is your team co-located or do you work with remote team members?

We work from a central office. Some of our engineers work from home some days and only come into the office few times a week.

What tools, if any, do you use for real-time collaboration on your project (with team members and partners)? Dropbox and Google Docs

What’s the greatest challenge working with a team? 

What have been the significant challenges or obstacles you’ve faced on the project? How were they resolved?

Financial and cash-flow constraints. We self-funded a part of the project. The Africa-wide competition we won in 2015 assisted greatly with the prize money enabling us to complete the project.

What are the takeaways and lessons learned from working on this project that you’d like to share with other hardware companies?

Perseverance, very hard work, knock on all doors and be willing to challenge yourself to learn new things and do what is necessary for the project to succeed. It will take over your life for a while 🙂

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time to the beginning of your product development?

Select your contractors and workers extremely careful. Don’t just assume that everyone is motivated, driven or even honest.

We all know the phrase “hardware is hard.” Is there something that was much easier than you had initially thought when you started out on your hardware journey?

Nope, it was pretty much all hard!

What trend do you see that is changing your sector/industry or what shift would you like to see happen?

The trend towards technology in education and the widening skills gap in education, with a growing need for technically skilled workers, and many traditional careers set to be replaced by AI and automation. SeeBox is well-placed to address the problem, by enabling more learners to be prepared for training in a technical career path.

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What’s next for your project?

SeeBox is now at commercialization stage. Development will continue, however, so we can expand the educational offering of the SeeBox.

You joined the HWTrek Asia Innovation Tour to China this past spring, what did you learn or what are the significant takeaways you have from the experience?

I build valuable contacts for when we are ready to outsource our production to China. I also established connections to future suppliers.

What are your ‘go-to’ sources for tech information and news? (Do you have any recommendations for a must-read/watch/listen to article, book, blog, film, or podcast, etc.?)

Dataweek, PC Mag, and several LinkedIn groups.

And now for something completely different, some fun questions:

What’s currently on your playlist, what are you listening to these days?

Mostly classical music.

What fuels you (coffee, tea, or….)? When you’re low on creative juice, what is your #1 method to get back on track?

I take a walk.

What do you recommend (place to go/see, what to eat) for a visitor to Johannesburg/Pretoria (anywhere you’ve lived that you’d like to share)?

It depends on what someone is interested in. If you like nature, culture, and history, in Pretoria I would say Union Buildings, Voortrekker Monument, Botanical Gardens, Groenkloof nature reserve, and Sammy Marks museum.

What gadget would you love to have from your favorite science fiction film or book?

I would like a holodeck room like in Star Trek.

Interview with Zoran Grabovac, CEO of PetBot Inc: ‘Petificial Intelligence’

Over the course of the past two years, HWTrek hosted 80 hardware creators and accelerators to visit Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen on Asia Innovation Tour 2016 (April), Asia Innovation Tour 2015 (August), and also on the first tour in April 2014. We’re organizing the next tour in November 2016 to Shenzhen, Osaka, and Kyoto. You can register on the HWTrek platform and create a project to apply to join the Asia Innovation Tour Winter 2016 cohort destined to meet manufacturing industry experts, see assembly lines in China and Japan, and gain insights about their consumer markets for smart, connected devices.

We reached out to a participant in our third tour, Zoran Grabovac (CEO of PetBot) who joined the HWTrek Asia Innovation Tour, Spring 2016, to learn more about his project and his insights. PetBot successfully raised $136,517 on Indiegogo in October 2015.

When asked to comment on the tour while in Shenzhen, Zoran had this to say: 

“I’m really enjoying this trip with HWTrek. It’s been a blast. What I really like about this trip with HWTrek is [that] we’ve seen a ton of factories, suppliers, and people that can help us bring this to reality and get into people’s homes and get them connecting with their best friends.” “I am here to source suppliers for manufacturing, more specifically for plastic tooling and trying to bring our product to reality from the prototype stage. We’ve been graciously accepted by HWTrek to join Asia Innovation Tour and it’s been a fantastic show so far. And Kingbrother is really a part of that. It seems they really support startups, especially startups like us who have relatively small volume. We really just want to prove our product, get it into people’s hands, get them using it. And it seems to be a fantastic place to do so.”


Please introduce yourself and your project?

My name is Zoran Grabovac – I’m the CEO of PetBot Inc. PetBot is a device that creates meaningful 2-way interaction between people and pets using artificial intelligence (or ‘petificial intelligence’, as we call it). We let people see, speak to, and treat their pets, and we let pets send selfies to their humans.

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What’s the inspiration for your project? What problem does it solve or address?

The inspiration for PetBot is really the smartphone. We all have the ability to interact with each other in a million different ways using our phones, but we have no way of doing the same for our pets. This especially becomes a problem when you have to leave your pet at home alone while you go to work or run errands. Not everyone can afford an expensive pet-sitter, walker, or daycare – which is why we came up with PetBot.

What solutions did you use for prototyping?              

When testing our idea and creating prototypes, we mostly used a combination of ABS and SLA-based 3d printing for the exterior casing and the Raspberry Pi for electronics.

What resources have you used for sourcing and supply chain management?

We used a combination of resources for sourcing and supply chain – mostly HWTrek, Alibaba, and personal networks.

What were the most difficult things to source for your project and how did you source them? 

The most difficult thing to source wasn’t really any specific part of our project, but more of a general attribute. By far the biggest difficulty was finding reliable partners for every step along the way. There are so many organizations out there that are technically able to provide what you’re looking for, but very few that are proactive, reliable, and work with you to make sure your needs are accurately identified and met. It is very important that your partner work with you to make sure your scope of work is accurate and clearly identified and that they don’t hesitate to tell you when you’re wrong, particularly if it’s your first time doing such a project.

Is your team co-located or do you work with remote team members?

Our team is mostly remote.

What tools, if any, do you use for real-time collaboration on your project (with team members and partners)?

We’ve used a ton of tools, but the ones we rely on the most are Google for Business, Slack, and Skype. Between these 3, we can reliably work on more or less anything from anywhere.

What’s the greatest challenge working with a team?

Communication. It’s an essential part of everything…keeping each other informed of what’s happening, making each other aware of issues, and generally making sure that communication is clear is the biggest challenge to working with a team just like any other relationship.

What have been the significant challenges or obstacles you’ve faced on the project? How were they resolved?

The most significant obstacle we’ve faced was a significant delay caused by one of our external partners. The partner was not only delayed in delivering the work but also delivered something of poor quality that had to be modified afterward to bring it up to par (at an additional cost). This caused us issues with our customers and investors, as our timelines were pushed quite significantly. The only resolution to something like this is, to be honest with everyone involved. Explain the situation as it is, and people generally will respond well.

What are the takeaways and lessons learned from working on this project that you’d like to share with other hardware startups?

There are 3 things I would tell anyone who is interested in a hardware startup:

  1. Don’t hesitate to pay a little bit more for peace of mind. Hiring a consultant to help with something might add 10% to your costs, but it will save you 99% of the problems and time. It’s more than worth it, just make sure you stay on top of them and demand frequent updates.
  2. Never do it alone. Unless you are an expert in hardware and have done it a million times before, don’t do any part of the project without input from someone who knows what they’re doing. Also ties in with point #1.
  3. It always takes twice as long and costs twice as much. Always.

We all know the phrase “hardware is hard.” Is there something that was much easier than you had initially thought when you started out on your hardware journey?

I personally thought it was much easier to design for plastic injection molding than it actually is. The physics involved are interesting and there are a ton of little tricks to make sure something comes out well.

What’s next for your project?

Delivery!

You joined the HWTrek Asia Innovation Tour to China this past spring, what did you learn or what are the significant takeaways you have from the experience?

Coming from a non-engineering background, I learned a ton. Seeing the factories first hand, being able to ask questions and see the process as it happens opened up a new world of knowledge for me. Not only did I gather a ton of contacts from possible sources, but I got to visualize how the processes work and how our product could fit into them. On top of this, I got to spend many hours on the bus with fellow hardware startups, exchanging ideas, thoughts, advice, and concerns about our respective projects and industries.

And now for something completely different, fun questions:

What are your ‘go-to’ sources for tech information and news? (Do you have any recommendations for a must-read/watch/listen to article, book, blog, film, or podcast, etc.?)

It depends on the topic. I get 99% of my tech news from friends on social media and general news websites (BBC, Google News, etc.). There are enough people in my network that follow the latest tech news that I can scan my feed and get all the general tech news I need. Aside from that, I read books and follow people depending on the topic – the latest I have to admit is Gary Vaynerchuk and social media marketing. I identify with his style, and social media is something I’ve always been interested in.

What fuels you (coffee, tea, or….)? When you’re low on creative juice, what is your #1 method to get back on track?

This might be heretical, but I don’t drink any caffeine. I drink herbal teas occasionally, but I get all of my energy naturally. I work out generally 4 days a week to energize my body and mind. Music helps to keep me motivated and focused. If I feel like I’ve hit a wall and can’t power through, I’ll play some Battlefield to switch gears mentally before going back to it.

What do you recommend for a visitor to Toronto or Sarajevo?

You can’t go to Toronto without visiting the CN Tower…the view is breathtaking, and if you’re particularly adventurous you can even walk outside (while strapped in with plenty of safety, of course). The Ripley’s Aquarium nearby is also a really interesting place to see, and Yonge-Dundas Square always has something going on (when it’s not frigid outside).

Sarajevo is a beautiful city with a very rich history. If you find yourself there, make sure to go to the Bascarsija district and have some cevapi…I’ve had the dish elsewhere, but it’s never as good as the original.

Accelerate IoT and wearable device development time with Hexiwear

Hexiwear is a development platform for IoT and wearable devices. It is designed to help hardware creators and entrepreneurs with rapid prototyping so that they can efficiently produce innovative IoT products that keep us connected and transform the ways in which we live.

In the rapidly developing world of IoT and connected devices, the market demands faster lead times from design to delivery. Keeping up with the market forces can be challenging. Especially since most developers are still using tools and production methods that are not up to date.

Hexiwear is an IoT and wearable development solution complete with everything needed to take data from sensor to cloud. Hexiwear significantly reduces the development time and the time to market for your project.


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Applications for HWTrek Asia Innovation Tour 2016 are open! Learn more and apply here.

 


What do you get with Program Hexiwear?

Through Program Hexiwear on HWTrek, NXP is offering free FREE samples of Hexiwear, which are specifically designed for you to accelerate your Project development. Once your application is accepted, we’ll connect you to the HWTrek Expert pool with expertise on Hexiwear. They will provide you with a consultation that enables you to fully utilize Hexiwear for your Project. For more information and to apply, check out the program page here.

Inside Hexiwear
Inside Hexiwear

Last month we interviewed Mohit Kedia from NXP Semiconductor about Hexiwear. You can read the interview in full here.

Specifications

Jam-packed with sensors, Hexiwear enables you to quantify yourself and the environment around you. See the technical specs below:

  • MCU: NXP Kinetis K64x MCU (ARM® Cortex®-M4, 120 MHz, 1M Flash, 256K SRAM)
  • BLE: NXP Kinetis KW4x (ARM® Cortex®-M0+, Bluetooth Low Energy & 802.15.4 Wireless MCU)
  • 3D Accelerometer and 3D Magnetometer: NXP FXOS8700CQ
  • 3-Axis Digital Gyroscope: NXP FXAS21002
  • Absolute Digital Pressure sensor: NXP MPL3115A2R1
  • 600 mA Single-cell Li-Ion/Li-Polymer Battery Charger: NXP MC34671
  • Light-to-digital converter, Digital humidity and temperature sensor, Heart-rate sensor
  • 1.1” full color OLED display
  • Haptic feedback engine
  • 190 mAh 2C Li-Po battery
  • Capacitive touch interface
  • RGB LED

The Hexiwear development kit also includes a complete software solution with open source embedded software, cell phone apps and cloud connectivity. You also get endless flexibility with Hexiwear via the more than 200 additional sensors that are easily connected through click boards

Hexiwear is infinitely expandable with the ecosystem of 200+ click modules
Hexiwear is infinitely expandable with the ecosystem of 200+ click modules

Hexiwear, with its rechargeable battery, OLED screen, sensors such as optical heart rate, accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope, and expandable ecosystem with more than 200 modules to choose from, is an excellent tool for IoT and wearable device development.

With limitless applications, what will you build?

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If you are already developing a device with Hexiwear we’d love to hear your story. Ping us on Twitter.

Who will become the next wearable chip overlord?

In the evolution of wearable device chipsets, there are generally three types:


 

  1. Mobile chipsets: early on existing mobile chipsets were used to develop products. For example, Samsung Galaxy Gear used Exynos 4212, Google Glass used OPAP 4430. The advantage is an effective use of an existing platform with rich features.
  2. Microcontroller (MCU) based products: such as Pebble Watch and FitBit One bracelet that are based on MCUs as the core to develop the product. The advantages being low power consumption, simple operation, continuous data collection and transfer to the Host side. Intel Curie and ARM Cortex-M architecture MCU products are developed out of this concept.
  3. Smart wearable device chipsets developed specifically for these applications: Intel’s solution for wearable devices, Intel Edison, is dual-core. The dual-core chipset supports Android system high-performance computing and real-time OS and wireless communication. Qualcomm launched the Toq processor, with ARM Cortex-M3 architecture, tailored for wearable device products. Broadcom introduced the BCM4771 processor with integrated GPS. Ingenic’s JZ4775 integrates CPU, Flash, LPDDR, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM, NFC and pressure sensors, temperature and humidity sensors.

We’ll be introducing a number of notable wearable chipsets and development kits below, including ARM Cortex-M0, NXP Hexiwear, MediaTek MT2523, Intel Curie, and Ingenic M200, as well as relevant experts on the HWTrek platform with whom you can directly connect.


ARM Cortex-M0

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ARM Cortex-M0 processor is an entry-level chip widely used in simple control and computing applications.

Last year, ARM announced a much-loved thing, the release of the Cortex-M0 processor and preferential licensing fees to support startups and other manufacturers of chip development process. Specifically, customers have free access via the ARM DesignStart portal to Cortex-M0 processor tools including Cortex-M0 SDK and ARM Keil MDK development kits. In addition, the Versatile Express FPGA development board – designed to accelerate the prototyping stage – is available at the low price of $955. However, licensing the Cortex-M0 processor from ARM for commercial production costs $40,000.

Chinese startup MYIR Tech Limited commented, “the low cost, low power consumption and relatively simple Cortex-M0 is ARM’s most licensed processor. Many large manufacturers such as ST, Freescale, and NXP have introduced Cortex-M0 core-based products.”

“The Cortex-M0 is a very elementary thing; it probably cannot do complex applications. But, it has its advantages in simple applications, such as for Bluetooth modules, because of its low price and low power consumption. Of course, free development tools are still very tempting for engineers,” added MYIR Tech.

Source: Leiphone

Looking for a Cortex-M solution or expert? Check out one of many on the HWTrek platform:


NXP Hexiwear

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Hexiwear is a new generation of IoT development platform designed to speed time to market. It uses a compact design with on-board ARM® Cortex®-M4 120 MHz MCU with built-in Bluetooth Low Energy 4.1 and integrated sensors, including temperature, pressure, humidity, light, optical heart rate, accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope, rechargeable battery, and 1.1″ full color OLED display. It also features a package of open source embedded software, mobile apps, and cloud connectivity. With a selection of commonly used sensors onboard that allow the developers to build a complete hardware device in the shortest possible time afters selecting which sensors to use, creators can concentrate on software and application development. NXP Hexiwear also includes a docking station through which it can be quickly expanded with more than 200 click boards™ sensor and other modules.

Using NXP Hexiwear, with respect to software and hardware, supports going from prototype to mass production, avoiding the difficult problem of going to mass production from Arduino. Users need only change the layout and small parameters to suit the product appearance. This allows the product to better support all requirements and quickly move to mass production.

Source: www.nxp.com

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Fancy a chance to score a free Hexiwear sample to accelerate your wearable device development? Learn more and apply here. Also, check out our interview about Hexiwear with NXP’s Mohit Kedia here.


MediaTek MT2523

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MediaTek’s MT2523 chip, featuring GPS and dual-mode Bluetooth low energy system-in-package (SiP), is primarily designed for smartwatches and other wearable devices. The SiP integrates CPU, GPU, GPS, Bluetooth BLE, MCU, PMU (power management unit) and other chips. Furthermore, MediaTek enables smaller form factor devices than Android Wear consumes less power, and be used for more than one week when fully charged. The built-in Cortex-M4 coprocessor handles most tasks in standby mode without booting the more power consuming main system. With respect to display assembly, MediaTek provides the MIPI-DSI standard interface, so there’s not much required of the creator.

Source: news.smzdm.com

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MediaTek LinkIt™ Assist 2502 development platform offers device developers a professional environment in which to design and prototype the software and hardware for Wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This SoC works with MediaTek’s energy efficient Wi-Fi and GNSS companion chipsets also. This means it’s now easier to create devices that connect to other smart devices or directly to cloud applications and services. Learn more about MediaTek solutions for IoT and wearable device development here or connect with one of their experts.


Intel® Curie™

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At the core of Curie is Intel’s own Quark SE SoC with 384 KB Flash, 80 KB of SRAM memory, and clocked at 32 MHz. Designed as a solution for ultra-low power consumption smart wearable devices, Curie is equipped with a combination of power management IC, DSP, six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope sensor, supports low-power Bluetooth technology, and wake-up function. However, based on the module and Curie development board, it is more suitable to non-wearable smart devices. According to Intel, it is positioned for “fashion, sports, and life” applications. Though adding the development board significantly increases the size to provide more comprehensive interfaces, a full CPU, memory, and Flash components, making it more suitable to makers and embedded developers.

Before Curie, Intel launched the Edison and Galileo Arduino development boards, both equipped with the Quark SoC. Because of high price and running the Linux operating system, they didn’t draw much attention. On the foundation of the previous two development board, Curie was improved with a smaller form factor, price reduced by half, and running a small real-time operation system, making it more suitable for beginners.

Source: Leiphone

Intel Edison2
Intel® Edison is a development platform for IoT and wearable devices. It is designed to help hardware creators and entrepreneurs with rapid prototyping so that they can efficiently produce innovative IoT products that keep us connected and transform the ways in which we live. If you are interested in an Intel solution for wearable development, you can learn more and connect with an expert here.


Ingenic M200

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Among China’s IC design companies, Ingenic was the earliest to focus on wearables. The greatest feature of Ingenic chips is their ultra-low-power consumption and higher performance per watt. The 40 nm process Ingenic M200 Wearable Processor Unit uses the micro-architecture design XBurst CPU core. The 32-bit dual-core XBurst CPU includes the 1.2 GHz XBurst-HP core and 300 Mhz Xburst-LP core and consumes 0.07 mW/MHz of power. It features a voice trigger engine that can wake up the system from standby/sleep mode, supports 720p video and 3D graphics acceleration along with MIPI camera interface and internal ISP image processing functions, and supports LPDDR2 memory. The slim package size of 7.7 x 8.9 x 0.76 mm (with a chip thickness of only 0.76mm) makes it suitable for any wearable device. The M200 WPU solution biggest advantage is long battery life. Ingenic Glass is superior to Google Glass in battery life, heat dissipation, operating temperature, size, and cost.

Source: Leiphone

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This Solution is brought by the Ingenic Semiconductor, a fabless technology company, designing CPUs for mobile and consumer System-on-Chip (SoC) solutions. They offer an array of powerful devices for IoT development. Learn more about the M200 solution or connect with an expert from Ingenic here.

Interview with Chris Zhao-Holland, CTO/Managing Director of Tivitas Interactive—creator of Sinister

HWTrek sponsored 30 hardware creators and accelerators to visit Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen on Asia Innovation Tour 2015 in August—and also in April 2014. We’re doing it again this spring. Register on the HWTrek platform and create a project  to apply to join the next Asia Innovation Tour 2016 cohort destined to meet manufacturing industry experts, see assembly lines, and gain insights about China’s market in April 2016.

We reached out to Chris Zhao-Holland (CTO and Managing Director at Tivitas) to learn more about the development of Sinister. Chris participated in Asia Innovation Tour this past August.


HWTrek: Please introduce yourself and your project?

I’m the founder and development officer of Tivitas Interactive, an awesome group in Ontario, Canada. Our first project is Sinister, which is a new kind of peripheral. It’s not meant to replace the keyboard, but augment it like the mouse did 50 years ago. We think of it as a hybrid device that utilizes the accuracy of a mouse with the intuitiveness of putting your hand on a controller to maneuver in games. By plugging any mouse into Sinister’s USB port, it convinces the computer that the pair functions as a single controller and you’re able to play any games without downloading any new drivers.

fea-home-intro-sinister

Furthermore, the device has unique buttons and wrist rest curves to support a left hand comfortably, while having all the necessary buttons in a personalized layout, thanks to our interchangeable, cross platform modules that we call Flux Elements. Users can further customize Sinister’s appearance and button layout by upgrading to new Elements over time. Customers will be able to buy a device that they can configure to match their playstyle. We have replaceable ‘Skins’ which will change the look of the product, vibrational haptics to create physical feedback, swappable magnetic Flux Elements that can be upgraded as the customer desires and a smart phone APP to control options and link our Internet of Things.

My game style rank:

  1. Story
  2. Tie: Visuals; Gameplay
  3. Sound (so underappreciated in games)
  4. Experience and innovation
  5. Multi-player

HWTrek: What’s the inspiration for your project? What problem does it solve or address?

NEED.

hand-gaming-customization

All my life I was a console gamer, however due to 4 main reasons, 5 years ago I decided to transition over to the PC.

  1. Indie games are more prevalent on PC because:
    1. The barrier to entry do not include large fees (i.e. MS Xbox and Sony PS). Indie, by definition, are mostly individuals, or small groups, they don’t have the spare resources to enter the console platform;
    2. The community tries to perpetuate indie development through programs, such as Steam Green Light;
  2. Console controller: while really comfortable, doesn’t work for all game types, such as RTS (real time strategy). This is what the STEAM Controller tries to solve.
  3. Until recently, all new consoles generations used ground breaking technology, capable of pushing the highest-end performance for games, for the time period, and always sold at a loss, made up by licensing and game sales. When I heard the announcement details for this generation’s console (XBOX one, PS4), I was disappointed. They are not pushing the envelope as in past and changing the business model. It wasn’t all bad, just not sticking with the traditions that got the industry to the current scale. At the time of the announcement, I was already anxious as the typical 5 year life cycle had passed by 2 years, and not having best possible graphic hardware was disappointing, as I’m a visual person.

Now here’s my NEED. Once I had finally built my very expensive PC after 4 years, I was eager to start enjoying it. But, I had a difficulty trying to transition from a simple, single, minimum button handheld device to two separate devices, 100’s of buttons, and nowhere near the comfortability of the controller. Because of my determination, I tried for weeks only to develop hand cramps. I went out and bought two different peripherals that I thought would make my transition easier, but they were actually more difficult to use.

What I wanted was a controller, and it turns out that IF you can get your hands on a Wired Xbox controller, it will work, but only in 80% of games, and usually not indies or RTS. On top of this, of those games, in 60% of them once you plug in a controller, you lose access to keyboard and mouse. Thus what I NEEDED, was a simple device that was like an XBOX controller, but for a surface, which allowed me to use my mouse.

It’s actually easier to do this now, because the XBOX One wireless controllers are USB micro, but 3 years ago they were next to impossible to get.

usb-port-for-mouse

HWTrek: What solutions did you use for hardware design?

My background is in sciences, I only had my intuition, and builder / hacker experience going in. I really wanted to do this on my own at first and fund it through something like Kickstarter. But analyzing successful campaigns, I saw a trend, they usually have teams. As I have no idea of how to take my clay and cardboard models to the virtual world, I decided to seek those who could help perpetuate the goal, on a ramen budget, I looked to the new graduates.

Now I know 90% of the various aspects of hardware designing and manufacturing. Now I know there are ODMs, which is possibly what I should have originally looked at, but even being a tech enthusiast, I didn’t know they existed back then. For future projects, the current plan is to do some design in-house, but seek out a good ODM to finish the job so we can focus on sales and marketing until we get big enough.

HWTrek: What solutions did you use for prototyping?

Actually, one of the driving forces for me to do it on my own was 3D printing and now we’ve gone through quite a few makes and models, rip-rap, 3D systems, Stratasys. Wow, don’t we have lots of iterations! I would love someone to invent a way to reuse some of the plastic, #hint hint#. For a long time, we had our printer working 24/7, but it’s in hibernation now that the Sinister design is finished.

Now we have the really good CNC model, so we can show it off to the investors.

fea-discover-sinister

HWTrek: What are the takeaways and lessons learned from working on this project that you’d like to share with other hardware startups?

  1. Know your market well, become an expert. Try to define your target customer as quick as possible.
  2. An industrial designer should be your best friend, partner, or first hire.
  3. Prioritize: desires, core competencies, business model:
    1. If, like me, one of your goals in life is to learn how stuff is done and do it yourself, then you need to stamp that in the ground quickly, if not, consider an ODM or OEM.
    2. If you are not like the above, and even at a certain point you will need to refine your focus and stick to your core competency. HWTrek has a lot of resources for the other aspects.
    3. Business model seems to mean different things to different people, but generally it means: What will your company do? Design, manufacture, and sell? Or design, ODM, and sell?
  4. Find an accelerator/incubator, which specifically knows hardware, ASAP, there are so many aspects to starting a hardware business, it’s impossible to not only do them all single handedly (at least effectively) and they will be your guide.

HWTrek: What trend do you see that is changing your sector/industry or what shift would you like to see happen?

What I would like to see:

  1. Bring more human senses into the virtual world, like tactile sense through haptics, and the recognition that haptics≠vibration. This is a long term thing and involves:
    1. Ensuring customers understand tactility is more than just a vibration;
    2. Hardware developers incorporating components to provide true haptics, motors can only do so much;
    3. Someone (possible software developers themselves) getting together to define a new standard API for how to use the hardware;
    4. Developers taking advantage of developers;
  2. More open standards and less locked down private proprietary ones. I understand why many companies do this, but I’ve seen lots of great technologies that died due to this type of strategy. Generally, commonly accessible standards and APIs win long term.
  3. See more big companies collaborate with start-ups;
  4. See the community as a whole actually work together to work toward the above.

Trends I see:

  1. Very concerned about VR. I feel hardware and software developers are not doing enough to inform the customers that VR is not just “3D next”, but requires you being active and constantly moving, thus very different to traditional gaming. I’m afraid the VR hype is a bubble because of this.
  2. More integration between handheld and PC, resulting in the vanishing of the need for traditional consoles.

realistic-haptic-feedback

HWTrek: What’s next for your project?

We are very close to manufacturing Sinister. We’re just looking for the right partner to help us get the quantity produced that we need to hit the markets effectively.

HWTrek: What are your ‘go-to’ sources for tech information and news? (Do you have any recommendations for a must-read/watch/listen article, book, blog, film, or podcast, etc.?)

My daily news sources are Engadget, techpowerup.com, BBC News, ArsTechnica, and Anandtech.

Interview with Arlene Ducao, Chief at DuKode/DuKorp—creator of MindRider

HWTrek sponsored 30 hardware creators and accelerators to visit Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen on Asia Innovation Tour 2015 in August—and also in April 2014. We’re doing it again this spring. Register on the HWTrek platform and create a project  to apply to join the next Asia Innovation Tour 2016 cohort destined to meet manufacturing industry experts, see assembly lines, and gain insights about China’s market in April 2016.

We reached out to Arlene Ducao (Chief at DuKode/DuKorp) to learn more about the development of MindRider. Arlene participated in Asia Innovation Tour this past August.


HWTrek: Tell us about your experience on Asia Innovation Tour

I had an incredible experience on the HWTrek Asia Tour! I think it is incredibly useful for any hardware startup facing manufacturing issues––and in the age of crowdfunding, there are multitudes of new startups, including mine, that could really use this kind of exposure. The tour is also a great firsthand introduction for any emerging product engineer or designer who wants to learn more about scaling their technology. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it was particularly valuable to take the tour with an Asia-based startup that has the experience, local and regional connections, and credibility to make for a true insider’s-view.

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HWTrek: Please introduce yourself and your project

[I] make technologies that examine the relationship between the natural landscape, our built environments, and ourselves. [I am] a chief at DuKode/DuKorp and inventor of MindRider, the mind-mapping helmet system profiled in WIRED, New York Times, Discovery Channel, MSNBC, Fast Company, Science Channel, and many more. [I] teach at NYU and MIT, and hold degrees from UMD, SVA, and MIT.

HWTrek: What’s the inspiration for your project? What problem does it solve or address?

MindRider was [my] initial project as a Research Assistant in the MIT Media Lab’s Information Ecology group. Safety is one of MindRider’s underlying concerns; even after years of daily bike commuting through heavy traffic and urban environments, many cyclists still feel vulnerable amidst cars, trucks, and buses. In the past months, our team come to realize that people really want to better understand how MindRider maps are useful, and how they can be combined with other kinds of maps. To support this, we prepared a new book-length study called MindRider Maps Manhattan. It includes the first map of a city’s mental snapshot, compared against standard traffic, vehicle, zoning, and municipal datasets. Read more and get your copy of the study at http://mindriderdata.com.

LucasMindRide_ProspectPark

HWTrek: What solutions did you use for hardware design?

Solidworks, Maya, Eagle, Bits & Bits CNC mill, New York-area 3D printer facilities.

HWTrek: What solutions did you use for prototyping?

NeuroSky API, iOS SDK, Arduino, Maple (LeafLabs), hand-modeled clay and paper forms.

HWTrek: What are the takeaways and lessons learned from working on this project that you’d like to share with other hardware startups?

  • Crowd is tricky, particularly converting crowd views to crowd desire, and then to crowd funding.
  • Wearable is tricky. People are very particular about what they wear!
  • Too many new things in one product is tricky.
  • “Project” versus “Product” is tricky. The crowdfund marketplace is confusing. Some campaigns are indeed projects created by one or a few people with little funding, others are finished products created by a funded, professional team. There is an inherent tension in most crowdfund sites– while their founding values are based on grassroots “projects,” they make millions of dollars on slick “products.” So it doesn’t look like the confusion will go away any time soon.

Discovery Daily Planet’s Future Tech: MindRider from mindrider on Vimeo.

HWTrek: What trend do you see that is changing your sector/industry or what shift would you like to see happen?

We live in an era of the Quantified Self: bio-sensor technology is so widely, cheaply available and portable that we can track ourselves in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of settings, and learn all kinds of new things about ourselves and our environments.

HWTrek: What’s next for your project?

We’re working with a number of commercial and nonprofit organizations to make MindRider lighter and cheaper, and to develop MindRider maps of London, Honolulu, Manila, and Jakarta.

HWTrek: What are your ‘go-to’ sources for tech information and news? (Do you have any recommendations for a must-read/watch/listen article, book, blog, film, or podcast, etc.?)

I love live radio: National Public Radio, BBC, WNYC. I also follow diversity-oriented outlets like The Root and Hyphen. I don’t really get tech inspiration from tech news. Must read futuristic book: Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories.

MindRider_websiteHeader05

Interview with Felix Kochbeck, Co-founder and CEO of LUUV

HWTrek sponsored 30 hardware creators and accelerators to visit Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen on Asia Innovation Tour 2015 in August—and also in April 2014. We’re doing it again this spring. Register on the HWTrek platform and create a project  to apply to join the next Asia Innovation Tour 2016 cohort destined to meet manufacturing industry experts, see assembly lines, and gain insights about China’s market in April 2016.

We reached out to Felix Kochbeck (Co-founder and CEO of LUUV), a participant in the tour last August, to learn more about the development of SolidLUUV, for which they successfully raised €324,947 on Kickstarter. They are also currently running a equity crowd-investing campaign: support teamLUUV here. He had this to say about Asia Innovation Tour:

It has been an amazing experience – visiting some of the biggest manufacturers, meeting investors, and getting insights into the uprising Asian market. All of that, together, in a group with other hardware startup founders is priceless. Great connections were made.

IMAG4071edit


HWTrek: Please introduce yourself and your project?

I am Felix Kochbeck, CEO and Co-Founder of LUUV. We have developed solidLUUV, an all-in-one camera stabilizer. SolidLUUV is compatible with action cams, smartphones, and compact cameras up to 500 grams. It’s easy-to-use, robust and versatile. Thanks to its modular setup an electronic gimbal can also be attached to solidLUUV. This makes it the world’s first 2×3 stabilizer of its kind, called ultraLUUV, which combines the advantages of mechanical and electronic stabilization. It’s the best it can get.

solidLUUV

HWTrek: What’s the inspiration for your project? What problem does it solve or address?

I am a funsports enthusiast myself and have been filming with actioncams for many years now but was always annoyed by the shaky footage I got. I tried to find a solution among existing systems but could’t find a satisfying one. I thought to myself what’s the point in using an actioncam when you can’t capture the action in a way that you can enjoy watching it afterwards?

And even beyond the focus on sports – with iPhones and GoPros so readily at hand nowadays almost everyone has an HD-capable camera in their pocket. But the footage you get is simply unwatchable. We found out that there’s a high demand for stabilizing solutions and I asked myself what are the features I would like to find in a stabilizer. So we designed it in a way that everybody can use solidLUUV – whether experienced in operating steadycam systems or not. We invented a possibility to change and balance cameras without any effort and added some neat features like the up&down mode that allows you to flip the stabilizer 180° and back. Also, we designed it in a modular way. This means that you can even attach an electronic gimbal to it and enjoy next level stabilization.

In the past, camera stabilizers have been bulky, expensive, heavy, and difficult to setup. A stabilizer was something that was only used by a professional videographer. But with solidLUUV it is our aim to democratize steady filming.

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HWTrek: What solutions did you use for hardware design?

We used professional CAD software from the early beginnings as these tend to speak most data file formats which are required are the different production methods. You might start with a consumer 3D-Printer and a wooden workbench but as soon as you switch to professional production methods you need to make sure to be able to deliver the matching data files. During hardware design you often iterate and implement new features and you want to make sure that every detail or change in design fits to the rest of the parts. Without the proper software it’s hard to keep track and you will loose the overview at some point. Documentation is king here.

 HWTrek: What solutions did you use for prototyping?

The first polymer parts were printed on a consumer 3D-Printer but as our product is super sensitive and does not allow hefty tolerances or differences in the parts we soon partnered up with the leading player for industrial 3D printing technology, EOS GmbH. With their help and expertise we could quickly produce high precision prototypes with tolerances in the range of the final production method and verify the function of the product in every detail. As soon as we locked a design we used selective laser sintering to manufacture the part and test it in the field. Other prototyping methods include 5-Axis-CNC-machining and laser-/water- cutting to produce high precision metal parts.

Luuv1edit

HWTrek: What are the takeaways and lessons learned from working on this project that you’d like to share with other hardware startups?

It’s really important to take a comprehensive approach when starting a hardware project. In my opinion, it’s crucial to assemble a team with members from different backgrounds like marketing, finance or sales and not only fields that are directly related to product development. Setting up a strategy and devising plans for each field is equally important as developing the product because you have to be prepared when you get the product on the market. For us, it was the best decision to prepare everything thoroughly and not to grow too fast because we have made a lot of valuable experiences in various fields that will definitely help us in the future.

And we experienced that the saying is true: „Hardware is hard“. You tend to underestimate the duration of some processes and especially when you’re developing a high-quality approach, it’s a long way from 3D-printing the first prototype to actually have a product that is market-ready.

HWTrek: What trend do you see that is changing your sector/industry or what shift would you like to see happen?

For the imaging sector what we observe is that cameras are getting smaller and smaller while the resolution gets better and better. But they all remain having the major problem to produce shaky video footage without using proper accessories. A very interesting field is steady 360° video, especially in combination with VR-technology, we just had the pleasure to produce such a video.

In terms of manufacturing/prototyping, we really enjoy seeing that additive manufacturing gets more and more common and will soon be as feasible as traditional production methods like e.g. injection molding. It is still a long way to go but we are very happy to already being a part of that industry.

DSC03832

HWTrek: What’s next for your project?

After a successful Kickstarter campaign in October 2015, where we raised €324,947, we are currently in the final steps of preparing the production of solidLUUV. At the same time, we are running a crowd-investing campaign on Companisto where investors can invest in LUUV and benefit from the current and future success of our growing startup. Investments start at 5€ and anyone can become an investor.

HWTrek: What are your ‘go-to’ sources for tech information and news? (Do you have any recommendations for a must-read/watch/listen article, book, blog, film, or podcast, etc.?)

There are several great books and articles available but I really wouldn’t want to recommend any as being the one go-to source. Most of them are great in one topic and may be a bit minimalistic in another. As the hardware scene is moving fast and technology is as well I instead highly recommend to talk and connect to other startup founders as these normally tend to be super helpful and are able to give the best and latest insights in their particular field.