Product Update - November 2017
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Jacob Flood, November 13, 2017
We started finalizing some of the critical components: the lower headband mechanism, the electronic stack, electrode parameter, etc. Engineering prototypes will be ready next month, after which the design will focus on small tweaks.
In parallel, we’ve been working on our app, which we’re now using while we work every day. We have questions below that we need your feedback on, so please take the time to give us your thoughts!
Design is still on schedule for April. This month we’ll be at the WeAreWearables event in Toronto November 29th, so please stop by if you’re in town!
Welcome to our blog!
We’re sprinting at full speed towards the December design freeze, and the almighty engineering prototypes. That’s led to some decision-making on a few of the more complex parts of the design.
The interface between the upper headband (the rigid part, that gives the headphones their shape and stiffness) and lower headband (the flexible part, which curves around your head and maintains electrode contact) is crucial to the functionality of the design. All of our prototypes have had this composition, and we’ve played with dozens of different implementations to get the feeling and mechanics of the pieces just right.
We finally decided to go with the design you see above: a spring steel band (green), over-molded in a shaped structure (pink), attached through a pivot mechanism (grey) to the lower headband (purple). Once assembled, each piece will be covered in fabric, giving the premium look and feel you see in the product pictures.
Using over-molding let us get the structural rigidity of spring steel – which for all intents and purposes, is indestructible – while keeping the weight down and the shape as we intended. The pivot mechanism also constrains the movement of the lower headband, and gets rid of a “wiggling” feeling that some of our earlier prototypes had. The whole system works really well so far both aesthetically and structurally. We’ll be testing it with electrodes, in its final construction in a few weeks.
On the topic of electrodes, we’ve been testing the effect of several subtle parameters on the signal quality – contact diameter, stiffness, length, and other mechanical properties. In order to standardize the measurements, we created a quick-and-dirty mechanical and electrical isolation rig (above). Cage seems to grandiose a word - we call this our Faraday Sandwich.
We’ve similarly been using this to test our electronics stack. We’ve finalized the gold-standard EEG electronic stack that we’ll be using in our engineering prototypes. This will be the signal-quality comparison against which all future iterations will be compared. For the developers and researchers, this means that as we perform our tests with the newest electrodes and electronics, we’ll be able to answer the questions we’ve been getting regarding impedance, signal quality, ERP detection, etc. Stay tuned!
Product Next Steps
Having tested and iterated most of the subassemblies separately, the goal now is twofold.
Firstly, we need to integrate the mechanisms behind the final components – wiring, amplifier boards, electrode height adjustment, and other non-primary pieces. Given that the outer shell is finalized, fitting the pieces in becomes an engineering-equivalent of Tetris. In small products like smartwatches, this is half the battle; in bigger devices like headphones, this is a more last-minute process, since there’s more room to spare.
Secondly, we need to test the subassemblies together, to ensure that the cooperation between them doesn’t compromise any individual feature. This means checking whether the lower headband behaves the same in open and closed positions; whether the ear cup pivots rotate smoothly on both small and large heads; what effect extending the armbands has on the compressive stiffness of the cups on the head. Each of these tests will result in small structural tweaks – changing part thicknesses, curvatures, and other minor changes – which we’ll repeat through several iterations before committing to cutting the mass production tooling.
Having fully assembled engineering prototypes will also allow us to start audio and Bluetooth tests, using Grandsun’s anechoic chamber. These padded rooms are isolated from outside noise, mechanically, acoustically, and electrically. Grandsun has two such rooms – one for audio testing, and the other for testing Bluetooth signal quality. We’ll be using them to validate that nothing in the design of the headphones interferes with the Bluetooth connectivity, as well as to pre-test the certification standards we’ll need to ship the products internationally.
All the above will lead us to the end of December, where we’ll have in hand several beautiful, functional Mindset headphones. Everything else is on track - our schedule still leads us to April shipping.
The software team this month has been splitting their time between two priorities: algorithm, and application.
Following the really positive results last month, our algorithm development continues to make progress on improving the accuracy. Our focus has turned to improvements on the existing infrastructure: new signal de-noising techniques, and recognizing less common features like blink rates, and head movement. This should add new dimensions to the classification – we aren’t jumping to conclusions yet, but we like the direction it’s heading.
In parallel we’ve moved to making progress on the final application that will ship with Mindset. Right now, our team is internally working with app V1, both with and without the headphones. Centered around the concept of deep work, the app helps you plan your best hours, so you can concentrate your best work into focused bursts, and learn to recognize when to take breaks for maximum productivity. Everyone in the office will be continuously using the app as we work on Mindset, so that by the time we ship the experience is rock-solid, and genuinely boosts productivity.
In a couple months, once we’re happy with the app, we’ll send out a beta version for you all to try out and give us feedback, even before you get your headphones. While features like the concentration tracking won’t be part of the experience, the app will be as near to the final version as possible, with many standalone features that won’t require Mindset to work.
Since we’re working on the app, we need your feedback on your own productivity experience.
- What software do you use right now to help you be more productive?
- How do you organize your weeks, days, and sessions to make sure that you get as much done as possible?
- What features have you been looking for in a productivity app, that don’t exist yet?
Post your answers, and any other thoughts in the comments section, so we can help evaluate your priorities with respect to Mindset’s user experience!
Last month Mindset was boothing at the TAVES audio conference. This was a great opportunity to discuss the future of audio technology with some of the leaders in the space. From Hi-Fi to natural sounding, and everything in between, the bar is being raised for quality headphones! We’ll be taking back what we learned to our factory as we go through the audio tuning for Mindset.
This month we’ll be attending the WeAreWearables event November 29th! The event will focus on how wearables are making lives better – if you’re in Toronto, please stop by!
There we’ll be handing out our Mindset fidget spinners to any backers! These little twirling delights make for great distractions when brainstorming, taking a walk, or doing other non-deep tasks. Just remember to put them away when you want to get in the zone, so they don’t become a hindrance to your flow!
Get there early, to grab yours before they’re all gone :)
As we mentioned last time, we'll be boothing at CES this year. We're really excited!
With the latest public announcement of Mindset's Innovation Award, we've gotten a nice booth-bump up to the front of Eureka park. Our new booth number is 50006 - come and stop by, try on Mindset, and say hi!
Is there anything we forgot to mention in here, that you want an update on? Post a comment, and we’ll be sure to answer it!
Until next time, lots of love!
- The Mindset Team