It’s been a busy few months for Curious Chip and Pip. Since our last update, we have been working diligently with our product design engineer to resolve some design challenges in order to make Pip more robust and injection mould friendly. Below is a breakdown of where we are and the progress we have made so far.
We've been talking to a lot of people, organisations and schools - including a couple of pretty big names - about ways Pip could be integrated with what they're doing, and the reception has been really exciting. We can't give any details yet but we're hoping we can get deals signed over the coming weeks.
Design For Manufacture (DFM)
In our July update, we mentioned that the design of the casing was finalised and we were moving forward with making Pip injection mouldable. Matt, our new product design engineer identified the following areas that needed improvement and required further research and testing in order to make Pip more robust and easy to assemble:
1) The controllers needed a more reliable docking mechanism that would relieve the pressure on the USB connectors. This process took the longest, as any solution that was identified ended up making Pip larger. The final solution required moving some features around, which actually makes Pip look more aesthetically pleasing (more on this in the next update!). In addition, all 6 buttons on each controller have been incorporated into the silicone membrane, allowing us to mould this as a single piece.
2) The current kickstand is assembled using 3 pins and is tedious to piece together. This has been redesigned to snap together easily and also reduces wobble.
3) By repositioning the PCB and moving a couple of components, Pip is now 5mm thinner.
The first version of Pip's TouchHAT (formerly known as PipHAT) - as depicted in our Kickstarter video - made use of "high resistance switching", a techniques similar to that found in the popular MakeyMakey. It's a very simple way of implementing touch-based functionality but its major drawback is that it requires a user to have a permanent connection to ground (e.g. by holding a lead in their hand, or wearing a wrist strap). Through user testing we noticed that this restricted its use, and was confusing for less technically-inclined users.
An alternative technique is capacitive sensing, which has the benefit of not requiring a connection to ground, instead employing the same principles as seen in the screen of your phone or tablet.
We experimented with a number of components capable of capactive sensing before ultimately settling on an implementation based on an Atmega328PB and Atmel/Microchip's QTouch technology. It's working really well, as you can see in the video below:
We've ordered an initial small batch of 20 units from our PCB supplier - assuming this all goes well we'll be forging ahead with a larger batch.
The PCB design is complete and the casing is currently being modified to complement Pip's redesign; the DFM package for this will be ready within the next four weeks.
Jason has been hacking away on Pip's "supervisor" - the program that control which app is currently running Pip, as well hosting a web interface for writing code, managing your apps, and configuring Pip's settings. Next week we'll be posting a guided tour of this application to give you a look at how everything in Pip fits together
Thanks for patience and support,
Jason and Sukhvir