I’ve mentioned “the designers” in number of posts. Who are they? We are working with an Industrial Design firm in Los Angeles. The designers have backgrounds in fields like mechanical engineering, design, art, human factors, and manufacturing. Their job is to translate our sketches, ideas and rough prototypes into a design that is beautiful, functional, body safe and cost-effective for us to manufacture. It is a pretty involved process.
They started with our ideas and some concept drawings, then they moved on to hand-carved foam models of the device. We’ll go from there to SLA (Stereolithographic Assemblies ) models and refine the shape until its time for the engineers to engineer every facet of the shape into a consumer friendly, manufacturing optimized product.
Two weeks ago, we received the hand-carved foam models of our device. We have four variations on the basic shape. The Doc is a research psychologist by trade, and has put together questionnaires. She is having women evaluate the shape and give us feedback. We’re trying to get as large a sample size as we reasonably can so we get something really close to the final product quickly. The Doc will review the feedback, and we will use that to tell the designers what shape to make in plastic. They will hen translate the foam “sculpture” into an engineered plastic shape that can hold the electronics and motors.
Now, we didn’t just get stuff from the industrial design(ID) guys, we sent them something too. They are working on motor placement and mounting techniques with our system mock-up. If you were at SHE, you got to see this in action. The ID guys will use this platform to test the mounting techniques, weight, overall size of the device etc.., then Mike will fold their feedback into the electronics design so we can make a complete “1st article”.
The mock-up includes a touch panel, a microprocessor, a motor drive board, and the actual motors.
The touch panel is the big green thing in the bottom right corner. Right now its copper covered with green protectant on a stiff circuit board. Not too sexy, but easy to set up and use for demos. In the Una product, it will be flexible, and hidden under the plastic shell of the device. Its job is to locate the user’s fingers and palm.
Way up the top, you can see the motor drive board. Its job is to take 1’s and 0’s from our microprocessor, turn those into power going to the vibration motors, and to safely dissipate the heat generated by moving a lot of current. It will be teeny tiny on the final device, but for prototyping purposes — this was cheap and easy to make.
In the middle, you can see the microprocessor. The microprocessor is a little Arduino Uno board . Its easy to program and use for tasks like this. It reads touch and gesture information from the touch panel, does some computation on it, and generates the 1’s and 0’s we need to control the motors. In the final device, we’ll be using something a lot tinier, and smarter, but for prototyping purposes, the Arduino cannot be beat.
What else is going to be in the real Una device that’s not here? Quite a bit actually — we have a new way of charging the batteries, some awesomely capable rechargeable batteries, a multi-axis motion sensor that works alongside our touch sensor, and a Bluetooth radio to communicate with Smart Phone and the Internet of Things(IoT). Woohoo. Good things come in tiny packages.