February 11th Update

Hi everybody. I just wanted to give you an update on our progress over the past couple weeks. I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted one of these. I get to working on other things and I forget how long it’s been sometimes. I’ll try to make sure I’m updating you all more frequently in the future. We have a little bit of good news and a little bit of bad news to share with you this time. 

 

The Bad News - Miscommunication

Jamee and I were passing through our hometown this week so we decided to drop in on our hardware developer to see how things were coming along. The last time we’d talked, it was our understanding that he was going to get started developing the printed circuit board (PCB) for the pen using the new processor that we’d decided on, and we were just waiting for him to let us know when he was done. When we stopped by we asked how the PCB was coming along. After a brief moment of confusion, he explained that he had been waiting for us to get a benchmark reading for the new processor and to confirm that it was indeed what we needed. 

Put simply, we were waiting for him and he was waiting for us. It was an unfortunate situation and I would like to personally take full responsibility for the miscommunication. Luckily, we got the issue resolved without too much lost time. As I’m writing this, Shane is working on getting those benchmark tests completed so we can send them to our developer by Monday. (See photo above)

 

The Good News - Accelerometer Progress + Integration with Camera

While all that was going on Shane has been working with the accelerometer and has made real, meaningful progress. If you’re not familiar with what an accelerometer is, it’s a very small chip that senses movement. (Here’s a fascinating video by “The Engineer Guy” explaining how they work.

By continuously measuring movement (acceleration) you’re able to derive the velocity (speed + direction), and track the absolute position in space. The Read ‘n Style pen will use this information in two big ways. First, we’ll need that data to form the image. The linescan camera we’ll be using takes thousands of vertical slices of information and stacks them up side by side to form the image. The camera needs the information from the accelerometer to know exactly where to put each slice. That data also allows the Read ‘n Style pen to sense how fast it’s moving across the page, which is critical for adjusting and smoothing playback speed.

Anyway, Shane was able to get the accelerometer working, capturing the raw acceleration data and turning it into the useful information that we need. He's now moving on to blending that information with the data we're getting from the camera so we'll get really good quality images.

 


The Good News - Packaging Graphics Progress

We’ve been working with our designer, Becky, to create some really nice graphics for the packaging the Read ‘n Style pen will come in. She got us a rough draft a few days ago that I wanted to share with you. We’ll be meeting up with her sometime in the next few days to go over things and discuss where to go from here.

If you think this looks a little funky, don't worry. It's not really going to look like the picture. The grey areas above are not printed, but rather a stand in for a secondary process called spot UV. With spot UV, a special photosensitive gel is applied and UV light is used to cure it. The result is a glossy layer like you see in the photo above.

 

Other News - TCEA Convention/Expo

In other news, Jamee and I made a trip to Austin, TX this week to attend the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Convention and Exposition. We plan to begin exhibiting at EdTech and learning disability conferences as soon as the Read ‘n Style pen is released and we thought it would be a good idea to see one first hand to get a better sense of how they are run. 

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While we were there we ran into Leslie Fisher, a world renowned public speaker in the education space. She contacted us a few months back wanting more information about us so she could show us off in her “Gadgets” presentation. We saw on Twitter that she would be speaking at TCEA and we told her we were there too. She invited us to her presentation and then this happened.

 

We learned a lot on during this trip, made some really good connections, and had some fun along the way.


All in all, I'd say we’ve made some solid progress these past few weeks, but we’ve had a few hiccups as well. Luckily the delay caused by the hiccup was pretty minor and easily fixed so we’re still pretty well on track for an April ship date.

 


 


Big news this week!

Hi everyone. I’ve got great news to share with you today! Last week was very productive for all of us here, but especially for Shane. Shane took another week off from his day job to dedicate to Hidden Abilities and his hard work paid off in a big way. He was able to get all the benchmark testing finished which allowed him to make a processor selection, the biggest, hardest, and most important decision that needs to be made. 

(The Allwinner A13 is an impressive system on a module (SOM) processor used extensively in tablet computers)

With our new knowledge, Shane and I made a trip to meet with our developer/manufacturer, and share the news. He was happy to hear that things were progressing and was excited to get the chance to work with the A13 chip because he’d heard good things about it before. 

While we were there we also talked about the next steps that needed to be done. He said he’d work on getting a camera and accelerometer picked out for us, a MUCH simpler process than the processor. Before he does that though, he’s agreed to choose a bluetooth module for us to work with. That’ll allow us to send the ID number for that component over to the company that we’ll be working with for the FCC testing, and will let them get a head start on filing a “Declaration of Conformity.”

Once those three components are selected, the processor, camera, and bluetooth module, we’ll know the size and shape of the printed circuit board(s) we’ll need, meaning we’ll be able to move forward with the final design of the housing and the manufacturing of the vacuum forming molds for the packaging inserts.

Last week’s breakthrough was a big deal and it opens the floodgates for a tidal wave of new progress to flow through in the coming weeks. I hope you’ll share our enthusiasm for having reached this major milestone. Cheers.

Status Report

Hi everybody. Payden here with another campaign update. I wanted to take the time to give you a full update on what we’ve been working on, where we’re at, what work we still have left to do, as well as an updated timeline. I’m sorry about the length. I tried to keep it short and to the point, but it kind of got away from me. What can I say, there is a lot to talk about.

 

First, what we’ve done

Since the end of the campaign, we’ve been working hard, developing the Read ‘n Style pen and completing all the ancillary tasks that go into creating a new product. As you may imagine, this is a pretty complex process, but we knew that when we began and we like the challenge. 


 

Chargers

Let’s start by talking about some of those ancillary tasks. As you can see in the picture above, we received our first shipment of micro USB chargers around Thanksgiving. We ordered 300 of them to cover all the orders we’ve had so far, as well as any potential orders we may receive before we ship out our first batch. Our supplier was nice enough to throw an extra 3 dozen chargers in with our shipment for a total of 336. For our international backers, we either ordered chargers specific to your region if we could find them, or ordered adapters.


 
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Packaging

As you may have read in a previous update, we’ve been working with a contract packaging company from California called ZenPack. In that update they had developed a rough design sketch to mockup what the packaging might look like. We really liked what they had for us so we told them to move forward with the idea and create the dielines, complete the structural engineering, and create a prototype. 

The photos above show the prototype they’ve made for us. The box will be large enough for us to include either one or two Read ‘n Style pen(s), charger(s), and earbud(s) by simply swapping out the insert on top that holds the pen. That will allow us to easily combine shipping for people who ordered two, saving money for both you and us. The package will also come with a quick start guide that will explain how to get up and running with the Read ‘n Style pen, as well as information about our guarantee/warranty.

ZenPack has gone as far as they can at this point. The next steps will be for us to provide them with graphics based on their dielines they provided and also send them a final CAD drawing of the pen so they can create the tooling necessary for the molded insert.


 



Earbuds

We’ve ordered earbud samples from various suppliers on AliExpress so we can evaluate the quality and fit of the earbud and begin working on making sure there is an easy pairing process. We’re hoping to get it to where things are already paired and ready to go out of the box. We aren’t there yet but we’re pretty confident that we can make it happen that way. Once we are able to evaluate a few different earbuds, we’ll make the decision and place a larger order.


Business related activities

In addition to the activities directly related to the product development, we’ve also been undertaking the activities necessary for the business side of things. This includes legal and regulatory obligations such as completing an operating agreement, developing and maintaining our intellectual property, and figuring out what we need to do to become compliant with FCC regulations. It also involves meeting with people to strategize how to best market and distribute the Read ‘n Style pen so as many people as possible can realize its benefits.


 


Bluetooth


As far as activities directly related to the Read ‘n Style pen goes, we’ve completed fewer but larger, more complex, and more time consuming tasks. We’ve gotten the code written that will allow the pen to communicate with the earbuds. We ordered this Bluetooth module from Sparkfun and developed the software to send audio files from it, through the air, to a set of earbuds. With a few minor modifications, the software will be able to be written to the Read ‘n Style pen and serve the same function.
 


 


Development boards/processor selection

When it comes to the all important task of selecting a processor for the Read ‘n Style pen, there are three things we need to take into consideration: price, size, and power. It’s very important to strike the right balance when it comes to these attributes, and it’s important to get it right before moving on in the development process so you don’t have to redo a lot of work if you find out that chip isn’t what you need.. 

The way you make this decision is by researching different processors and finding a few you think might be right (1-2 weeks). You then order a development board (5-10 minutes), wait for it to come in the mail (1-6 weeks), get it all connected (1 day-4 weeks), and get the system all set up and operating (1 day-2 weeks). Once you’ve done all that, you dump your software on there and hope it’s fast enough.

As we’re working through this process, we have some moderately good news and some moderately bad news to report to you. The good news is, we got the first development board up and running and tested our software on it. The bad news is that the board was too slow and it took an exceptionally long time to find this out delaying the project and likely causing us to miss the expected delivery date. The problem we’re having is that the optical character recognition (OCR) software that extracts the text from the image is too big and bulky, and it slows the whole system down. Right now our benchmarks are telling us that it’s taking about 3 seconds to process just a few words. That’s obviously not acceptable, but we have few options that will correct this. We can either use a beefier processor, a slimmer OCR, or both. I’ll talk more about this in a little bit.



What we still have left to do

Now that I’ve touched on what we’ve gotten accomplished since the end of the Indiegogo campaign, I want to talk about what we have to do and how long we think that should take. 


Select the processor/inform developer/create the custom PCBA (2-4 weeks)

By doing these two things, we may find out that the board we’ve already been using is fast enough after all. If that is the case, we’ll proceed with that chip. If that’s still not fast enough we’ll try out more and more powerful processors until we find one that is. Once we have that settled, we’ll let our contract developer know what we’ve figured out and he will continue developing a custom printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) using that processor.



Accelerometer/Gyroscope(1-2 weeks) 

While our hardware developer is developing the PCBA for us, we’ll be writing software for an accelerometer/gyroscope combo. This will capture positional data and help the Read ‘n Style pen understand how fast it’s scanning.


FCC certification (2 weeks)

Once he has finished developing our custom PCBA, we’ll need to have the board evaluated and certified by the FCC to make sure it doesn’t emit any harmful radio frequencies


Refine our software (2 days-2 weeks)

Once the PCBA has been certified by the FCC, the hardware is complete. We’ll dump our code on there and make any final modifications to ensure that our software works with the hardware.



Final design dimensioning, injection mold creation (3-6 weeks)

After the hardware and software are finished we’ll be able to tweek and resize the design of the outer housing to ensure that it can accommodate the custom PCBA. After the final design is complete we’ll machine an injection mold out of a block of aluminum which will be used to mass manufacture the housing.


Finalize packaging insert (1-2 weeks)

Once we have a final CAD model of the housing we can send it to ZenPack and instruct them to machine a thermoforming mold from a block of aluminum which will be used to mass manufacture the insert that the Read ‘n Style pen will be seated in within the box. We’ll also make sure the final packaging graphics are completed and the files sent to ZenPack. From there, the packaging will be manufactured and delivered to us.


Manufacture/Delivery (1-2 weeks)

The final steps are to determine how many units to produce, manufacture and assemble the PCBAs and housings to create Read ‘n Style pens, match each one up with a charger and set of earbuds, then package and ship the orders to all of you.


Summary


All in all this process should take a total of 8-20 weeks, putting us on track to deliver some time between February 11th and June 5th. You may be saying to yourself that those numbers don’t add up, and you’re correct. If you add the number of weeks each individual task should take, you would come up with somewhere between 12 and 26 weeks. The reason for this incongruity is because many of these tasks overlap and can be done at the same time by different people.



TL; DR We’ve gotten a lot done, we’ve still got a lot left to do, we’re running behind schedule but we’re making significant progress and we should have the product to you between February 11th and June 5th with an expected ship date around April 8th.


Quick update

Hi there everyone. I’ve got a few updates to share with you all. First, I wanted to let you know that Shane took a week vacation from his day job so he could spend more time working on the project. We’ve been in the office full time this week and have made some really good progress toward our goal.

We’ve also been talking with Raider Ink, our t-shirt supplier, to figure out which colors are available and would look good with our design. Once we have those options nailed down we’ll be emailing all the t-shirt backers to find out what size and color they would like. From there, we’ll go ahead and have the t-shirts made and send they out.

That’s all for now. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Cheers.

Processor selection/Packaging

(Olimex development board featuring an Allwinner A13 Cortex-A8 processor)


Hi everybody. I wanted to take a second to update you on our progress. We have two main areas of progress to share with you today. First is in regards to the chip selection. I mentioned last time that we were having difficulties getting the last development board hooked up. Well, we had our developer/manufacturer stop by our office to take a look at everything and see if he could help us troubleshoot. It turns out it was a simple fix and everything is up and working. We’re in the process of testing that chip out now. Because there are often long lead times to get development boards like this made and because we aren’t 100% sure this chip will be what we need, we ordered another development board featuring a different chip that we can test out if we need to.

 

(Blown up view of the packaging)


The other main area of progress to report on is the packaging. We’ve been in continued communication with a packaging producer out of California who is helping us design the packaging for the Read ‘n Style pen. They’ve drafted this proposal for us to review and okay. The package will consist of an outer box similar to what most smartphones come in, a smaller, inner box that will secure the charger and earbuds for safe delivery, a quick start guide to get up and running with the Read ‘n Style pen in a timely manner, and an insert that will hold and display the Read ‘n Style pen. We’re still working out the details of it but this should give you a pretty good idea of what it should be receiving in the mail soon. 


Have a good rest of your Friday and I hope you enjoy your weekend!


Best wishes,
Payden

Getting to work

(Shane and Jamee setting up to test a new processor)

With the conclusion of the campaign fast approaching, we've begun to shift part of our focus back toward product development. Our team members all have day jobs so we typically meet in the evenings after everybody gets off work and eats dinner. This Friday we stayed until about 11pm trying to get a new development board set up so we can test a new processor. Our contract developer researched this chip for us and believes it will meet our needs, but asked us to test it out with our software to make sure before moving on. It’s important that we get this right the first time because the rest of the hardware will be designed around this one component. If we have to swap it out for a different one we would have to start over from scratch, delaying the project.

As you can see from the picture above, this is kind of a tricky ordeal. The we had to order a cheap, refurbished computer with the connection type we needed as well as a few other parts to make it all work together. Getting this accomplished has caused a bit of a hold up but we should be able to tackle this obstacle soon and move forward.

 

(Package design mockup)

Last Friday we also had a consultation with a packaging company out of California called Zenpack.  We're working with them to create a packing solution that will beautifully, securely, and inexpensively house the Read 'n Style pen, charger, and Bluetooth earbuds. The box itself would be like those that most smart phones come in and above is a rough mockup of a design we came up with.

YOU MADE IT HAPPEN

YOU MADE IT HAPPEN

Thanks to your support, the campaign to bring the Read 'n Style pen to life has been successfully funded! This will give us the resources we need finish development and deliver it to all of you. This is a huge step towards helping the millions of people struggling with dyslexia every day, and YOU made it happen. Thank you.