Important updates

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Hello everyone, it’s that time again. We’re here with a brand new update and there is quite a lot to cover this time. Now, before I get anyone's hopes up, I want to be sure and let you know ahead of time that the product is not finished and this is NOT the update letting you know we're shipping orders. With that said, there are some major developments to report on so let’s get to it.

Equity Investment

First things first, we’ve negotiated a major investment for Hidden Abilities! Jamee and I traveled to Florida in the last week of June to meet with potential investors and we were able to come to terms on an equity investment deal that will help keep the company funded well into the future as we grow and expand.

This is big and exciting news for several reasons. First, it shows their confidence and support in us and what we are doing which gives our company that much more validation. They believe is us so much that they’re willing to put their hard earned money at stake. Furthermore, the investment was large enough that it will enable our entire team to work on the company full time, rather than just evenings and weekends, which will greatly increase the the amount of work we can do and the speed at which we can do it.

Hardware design upgrades

The other important piece of news is the hardware design upgrades that are being made. After working with the present hardware design we discovered several aspects that were less than optimal and at least one item (the Bluetooth) that required a change. 

Knowing that we were absolutely going to have to make changes to the hardware really prompted us to think about what was working well with the current design and what we would have done differently if we had it all to do over again with the knowledge we have now.

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The first thing that came to mind was the Pocket Beagle. Shortly after the production of our prototypes, Texas Instruments announced the introduction for the Pocket Beagle development board. The Pocket Beagle is a brand new hardware development board related to the Beaglebone Black, which our current hardware design is based on.

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The major change in with this new board is that while it still features the exact same processor that we’re currently using, all of the ancillary parts needed to make it run as a computer is inside a single, self contained chip. Because it uses the exact same processor, all of the testing we’ve done and software we’ve developed for it will not be affected.

 

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By using this new chip, we’ll able to reduce the number of parts from about 180 down to roughly 40. That would allow us to decrease the amount of surface area we’d need for the parts and result in an overall smaller product. To give you a better idea of just how much smaller, both of the above pictures are actual size. If all goes well with these changes, we’re looking at being able go go back to our original design. 

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From the comparison picture above you may have also noticed some of the other changes to this new design. Firstly, you can see that we’ve eliminated the camera board in the new design. The camera board used to have the Bluetooth module, micro-controller, accelerometer, LEDs, and more. With the new changes we’ve been able to either eliminate these parts or move them to one of the other boards. Eliminating the camera board will greatly reduce the size and complexity of the final product.

Another major change was eliminating the use of off-the-shelf cable connectors that joined all the separate parts together. There were several problem with the off-the-shelf connectors was that made them a poor choice for this product. First, because of the odd angle that our components sit, we would need to bend and fold the front-most cable into place making assembly difficult and less repeatable. The folding may also have made the parts more prone to breakage as well, which would have been less than ideal.

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Instead of using an off the shelf cable, we’ve elected to create a custom rigid-flex circuit connector as pictured above. On one end, it will be connected directly to the main “computer board” circuit, while the other end will have a bare terminal what will connect to the “sensor board” with a standard connector.

 

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We’re also adding a screw hole to the computer board. This will allow us to fasten the electronics more securely to the plastic enclosure rather than relying on a thin pin to hold it in place.

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Furthermore, the new computer board design will feature two battery connectors. This is an improvement on the old design which would have relied on hand soldering. Using these connectors in this manor will end up being more reliable and will make product assembly much simpler and less time consuming.

 

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The design changes aren’t confined exclusively to the computer board. We’ll also be extending the lower portion of the sensor board and adding an LED. This will make illuminating the page that much easier because the light source will be closer to its destination and there won’t be as much of a routing issue to contend with when it comes to designing the light pipe.

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So, with all these changes, what does this mean the product as a whole? Quite a lot actually. It will still operate exactly as it did before, but the physical device will improve in nearly every conceivable way. The connections and  mountings will be more reliable. The product will be smaller, allowing us to return to a design that more closely resembles previous designs. It will be quicker and easier to assemble with fewer opportunities for mistakes. 

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Where do we stand in the process of developing this new design? Well, we've communicated our ideas to our hardware developers. They've reviewed our detailed drawings and explanations and came back with the timeline below.

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When we worked with these guys on the previous design they kept to their projected schedule pretty well. There were a few delays but that had more to do with additional changes we made and with certain part availability than anything though, so I'd expect this to be reasonably accurate.

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They began work on the first two stages of the hardware design about two weeks ago and have since come back to us late last week showing us that the first stage, the sensor board modification, was complete.  We're expecting to hear news back by the end of the week that the flex-circuit design is finished as well. From there, we'll have a series of phone calls to make sure we're on the same page with the new computer board design and they will get started.

Just to kind of recap everything, we’d thought about eventually changing over to this new design in the long term anyway, but because of the required changes and how much better this new design would be, we decided to go ahead and move forward with it now. Going this route will take add about a month to a month and a half to the development schedule but it will result in a much, MUCH better product in the end. I hope you'll agree that it'll be worth it.

 

SHIPPING TIMELINE: Expected late Oct. - mid Nov.