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Ears are a simple solution to low volume levels on the Surface tablets. They don’t require wires, a power source or batteries. Read more

Holland, MI Hardware
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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on April 28, 2014.

Ears are a simple solution to low volume levels on the Surface tablets. They don’t require wires, a power source or batteries.

Holland, MI Hardware
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About this project

Check us out on Kicktraq.com!
Check us out on Kicktraq.com!

High resolution images are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ix3z3gmajxmiyjb/PDghBTAcuz

Media where Ears have been featured
Media where Ears have been featured
Check us out on Report Crowd!
Check us out on Report Crowd!
    

Media inquiries, distributors, and retailers please email: ears@mercariumimporting.com

Ears for the Surface tablets
Ears for the Surface tablets

Description

The Ears for Surface tablet are small silicone pieces that slip over the top corners of your Surface RT/2 or Pro/2. They cover the speakers and redirect the sound to the front.  Thereby, you get an increase in 10dB loudness and clearer sound when listening to music or watching movies.

When the Surface first came out, the max sound level was very low. Many people complained about it, and Microsoft updated the Surfaces to make them louder, but not much. Ears make up for the fact that the speakers on the Surface are not facing you. They work by simply redirecting the sound without using a power source.

Ears close up
Ears close up

Ears are small, lightweight, and won’t interfere with use of the Surface. If you bump or move the Surface, or even hold it upside down; they won't fall off.  You can put them in your pocket or put them in your Surface’s bag as they take little room. They are a convenient way to increase the sound of your Surface.

How does it Work?

It is pretty simple. When you slip the Ears over the top corners of the Surface, the sound goes through the little holes.  Ears then redirect the sound towards you; without Ears the sound is directed to the back. This gives you a higher volume effect without further effort.  Ears also gives the people around you a quieter enviroment.  For example, in a cubicle at the office, your co-workers in front and to the side of you no longer have the speakers facing in their direction.  Ears directs the sound to the front.

Ears sound direction
Ears sound direction
Ears with Packaging
Ears with Packaging

The Story

I live in China, where I run Mercarium Importing, a small quality control company helping small to mid-size western companies with quality control and sourcing in China. My laptop was starting to die. I had only one month left before I would return to Michigan for Christmas. Thankfully it made it! (Computers and products are very expensive in China.) I started to look for a new computer and found the Surface RT. It was perfect; light weight for the long travel to jobs, long battery life for the train rides across China and it including Microsoft suite for free.

Back of Ears Packaging
Back of Ears Packaging

In China, if I have spare time, I often watch movies, or listen to music. I soon found out that the volume of the Surface’s speakers left much to desire. Plus, the noise and constant honking of Chinese traffic makes it even harder to hear. An air conditioning unit running doesn’t help. I don’t like to wear earphones, as they hurt after a while, and big ones take too much space while traveling. I looked at the design of the speakers and noticed that they pointed to the back and away from the user when s/he faces the screen.

Ears for Surface Pro/Pro 2
Ears for Surface Pro/Pro 2

I thought, how easy it would be just to slide a couple silicone pieces over the edges where the speakers are, and redirect the sound towards the user. After a few design sketches Paul DeWys of DeWys Industrial Design made 3D renderings for me.  I met Paul through a mutual business friend. He and his brother Ben have been helping me in my project by designing Ears from the rough paper drawings I had. I since have made working prototypes that fit both the Surface RT and Pro.

The result was an increase of up to 10db in volume!

Ears with db reader
Ears with db reader
Without Ears
Without Ears
Original Drawing
Original Drawing
First Prototype
First Prototype
Redesign of Ears
Redesign of Ears
Second Prototype
Second Prototype
Testing Second Prototype
Testing Second Prototype

The Ears

The Ears are made out of silicone.  This makes them indestructible.  You can spill your beverage on them (remove them from Surface first), drop them off a building, fold them, stack books on them.  They will hold their shape and they are easy to clean.  The silicone material also provides a nice grip to stay on the Surface without falling off.  They come in all the Microsoft Surface keyboard colors.  Even a limited edition Kickstarter green!  Please see the Dropbox link for a close up of all the colors: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ix3z3gmajxmiyjb/PDghBTAcuz

Ears come in all the Microsoft Surface keyboard colors!
Ears come in all the Microsoft Surface keyboard colors!
Kickstarter Ear!
Kickstarter Ear!
Ears on the Surface Pro
Ears on the Surface Pro
Surface Pro/Pro 2 on the left, Surface RT/2 on the right
Surface Pro/Pro 2 on the left, Surface RT/2 on the right
Surface Pro/Pro 2 on the left, Surface RT/2 on the right.  Notice the different position and size of the speaker holes to accommodate the different position of speakers on the Surface RT and Pro.
Surface Pro/Pro 2 on the left, Surface RT/2 on the right. Notice the different position and size of the speaker holes to accommodate the different position of speakers on the Surface RT and Pro.

Where do We Stand

At this point, we have working silicone Ears that fit the Surface RT/2 and Pro/2. I have packaging made and finalized. We have a Third Party Licensing Agreement with Microsoft to use their “Designed for Surface” logo on our packaging.

After a long selection process, I have selected a Chinese manufacturer for both the silicone product and plastic packaging. I have visited, and talked to them, confirmed their production capabilities and legitimate business documents. They have made samples of Ears that I have tested; they work and fit perfectly.

Me and the silicone factory manager
Me and the silicone factory manager

The next step is to produce the tools, buy the silicone, and start production. This is where I need your help. I can’t do this without you.

What’s Next?

After successfully funded, I will immediately hire a Chinese lawyer to write up an enforceable Chinese contract with my selected manufacturers. Once signed and stamped by the manufacturer, I will give my ok to make the tooling and start production. I will conduct my own quality control to ensure that everything is as intended; color, fit and material. During the first production run, we will produce enough Ears for all of our backers, and depending on the funds, a small amount extra to keep the ball rolling for future orders.

Before shipment, I will conduct a final quality control audit to make sure that everything is correct. The Ears will be shipped to our warehouse in Holland, Michigan, where they are sorted and shipped via USPS to our backers.

Allocation of Funds

$275 to Kickstarter

$275 to Amazon

$3,006 molds and production for backers

$2178.50 Shipping (This includes shipping from China and domestic shipping to individual backers)

Allocation of Funds
Allocation of Funds

Meet the Team

Brandon Schaap of Mercarium Importing
Brandon Schaap of Mercarium Importing

Brandon Schaap – I am from Holland, Michigan. After completing my Bachelors in International Business at Davenport University, I moved to China to study Chinese. I have been living in China for four years now. Two years ago, I started a small import/export company, Mercarium Importing, which now focuses on quality control.

I love to invent and think of new ideas and products that make our lives easier. Since childhood, I always was fascinated by taking things apart, seeing how they work, and building/fixing things. I like to make my own fixes for life’s little nuisances.

Paul and Ben DeWys of DeWys Industrial Design
Paul and Ben DeWys of DeWys Industrial Design

Paul and Ben DeWys – Paul DeWys of DeWys Industrial Design and his brother Ben have been helping me design this project. Paul has been in manufacturing since he was 15, and even interned at Bosch in China. Ben is a very talented industrial designer, who has contributed a lot of the actual foot work, trying to decipher my chicken scratches that I call design drawings.

I met Paul through a very successful business friend in Michigan who said we ought to meet each other because we both are young entrepreneurs and like to shoot guns. Working with Paul and Ben has been great. Paul really has helped me to learn a lot about design engineering and building a company in general. He has been at the beginning of building my company; I take a lot of advice from him.

Jerry Zhang
Jerry Zhang

Jerry Zhang - I meet Jerry in Shenzhen when I was looking for a video producer.  Since he has a Surface tablet as well, he was excited about Ears.  As someone with his own Kickstarter ideas, he worked with me on this project, created the video, and peovided great support and feedback.

Project Timeline

Timeline - expect delivery of Ears beginning-mid June.
Timeline - expect delivery of Ears beginning-mid June.

FAQ

Do you ship internationally?

Yes, we will ship internationally. Of course, it might take a little longer depending on your laws and customs. The additional price for shipping internationally is $2. Please know your laws and customs before ordering. You are responsible for any duties and customs.

The Surface and Surface 2 are difference size…

Yes, technically the Surface 2 is .4mm smaller. I own the Surface RT, the original. So I was unable to show the nicely fitted Ear on the Surface 2 or Surface Pro/2 on the video. If you look closely at the video you will notice the edges of the Ear is bulging out a little, just a little. This is because Ears was designed for the Surface 2 as I think the sales are better. The performance is the same, the speakers are in the same position.

Am I missing anything?

Thank you! 谢谢您!

Risks and challenges

Because of the low complexity of this product, I don’t see major risks. There is always some risk that the Chinese factory has delays, because of quality, shipping or whatever is the issue of the week that the factory comes up with. This is the benefit of living in China. I can speak a little Chinese and I know what to look for to protect against the common risks. But nothing is 100%.

In China, a lot of manufactures will create perfect samples and request fair payment for production of your anticipated quality. Then, when actual production starts, they will make lower quality products only to pocket the extra. This risk has been mitigated by hiring Chinese lawyers to sign a NNN and OEM contract with the factory. This way they are bounded by Chinese law to do what our contract says. Contrary to popular believe, contracts in China are NOT toilet paper. I see little risk there.

Color is my biggest risk. Since silicone has to be mixed by hand, in smaller factories, and checked by eye to get the correct color, there is a good chance that the color will be shades off. This risk I have addressed seriously by signing OEM contracts that state the production must stop, if the quality control audit does not pass, and the produced Ears must be destroyed and recycled. All to the expense of the factory. During production, quality audits will be performed in order to detect any problems early on.

This has also happened, when I ordered samples from the factory. I gave them the correct pantone colors that I receive from Microsoft and Kickstarter. They sent me the wrong shades of the colors. They have since corrected the color and sent me new samples.

In addition, the factory and I will split, pairs of matching Ears for reference that have been approved by me beforehand. Since the Ears come in pairs, I will take a correct color pair, keep one and give one to the factory. We will both sign off on these samples. This gives them an honest chance to do the job correctly, and without leaving them blind while I demand them to perform. But it also protects me from corruption and human error.

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FAQ

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    3 backers

    Thank you! We appreciate the support as we are trying to reach our goals.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    50 backers All gone!

    Early Bird. Thank you for having the confidence in us early! You get either the Surface RT/2 or Pro/2 Ears in any of the Surface keyboard colors.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    626 backers

    You will receive the Ears in any Surface keyboard color for either the Surface RT/2 or Pro/2.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $15 or more

    56 backers

    Kickstarter SE Green.

    You will receive the Ears for either the RT/2 or Pro/2 in the Special Edition Kickstarter Green.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $20 or more

    82 backers

    You will receive 2 sets of Ears in any Surface keyboard color. One set is for the Surface RT/2 and the other is for the Surface Pro/Pro 2.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $30 or more

    6 backers All gone!

    You choose any color for any tablet. Plus we will give you one of the 6 pairs of 3D printed prototypes. This were the first rough versions. Two have very rough prototype packaging. First come first serve. Only 6 available.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (30 days)