Imagine the cool things you could do with a regular rechargeable battery that was controlled by your smartphone or tablet. We've developed an AA-sized NiMH battery with a Bluetooth® Smart chip inside that puts you in control of your gadgets. We call our invention the Batthead: a battery that puts you in charge.
Ever wanted to silence a noisy toy when the phone rings? Ever wished you were automatically notified that you left your digital camera behind at a wedding? Ever wished your flashlight would shut itself off and save energy when not in use? These are just a few of the many ways to use the Batthead. And our supporters are coming up with more uses all the time!
Here's a basic list of the things the Batthead and your mobile device can do:
With your smartphone, instantly turn on or turn off battery-powered gear with the Batthead installed.
Schedule the automatic switching operation of the Batthead based on time-of-day.
Configure the Batthead to automatically switch on or off, based on orientation or movement.
Cause the Batthead to turn on or off, based on proximity to your smartphone.
Have your smartphone notify you based on proximity to, or distance from, your Batthead-powered device,
Configure the Batthead to automatically switch on or off, based on ambient temperature.
We've love to hear your ideas about how you might use your Batthead. Head over to our website and post an idea.
It is common to use one set of rechargeable batteries in some gear while charging another set. A pair of Battheads can be configured as linked to the same battery-powered device, such as your flashlight. Once linked, the app will automatically distinguish between the one being used and the one being charged, always presenting you with the "active" one.
About the rewards
Our rewards ship to Canada and the USA, and include shipping. If you'd like to see us ship other regions, please let us know.
We've designed the Batthead with an accelerometer inside. But, as a special offer to our early supporters, we're making a limited number of no-accelerometer Battheads available at the pledge level of $19 CAD*. We are also offering a limited number of fully-functional first-run Battheads at the $40 pledge level.
Of course a lot of gear takes more than one battery. The Batthead is designed to function with conventional rechargeable batteries installed alongside, and still offer all its features and functions. However, starting at the $75 pledge level, we're also providing a matched, non-controllable Batthead.
We've got a great premium at the $120 level that includes a controllable Batthead, two non-controllable Battheads, and a waterproof, floating flashlight that accepts the 3 AAs. We call it the experimenters reward because you can put your Batthead into all kinds of wild and wet outdoor situations, and not worry about damage.
And finally, for the power user out there that wants to always have Battheads charged and ready to go, we've added an NiMH charger and a dual set of four cells at the $300 level. Each set of four has one controllable and three non-controllable Battheads. Whether you use the included flashlight or pop your Battheads into other gear, you'll never want for controllable power because you can always have a set charged while the others are in use.
*The US and Canadian dollars are very close in value. If you want to estimate a pledge level in USD, just knock off a few percent from the CAD amount.
Some tech talk
Because the Batthead is a Bluetooth® Smart device, it is standards compliant and available for development by anyone with compatible hardware. Our first software release will be for iOS, primarily because that gives most of our supporters an app on a compatible device*.
We think Android is a great platform too, and the Batthead is supportable with the latest 4.3 Jellybean release. We can't promise an Android app before the Battheads ship, but we fully intend to release Android software soon thereafter. However...
We'd love to have any of our technically-minded supporters create apps for the Batthead, on any platform. Just watch our website for technical documentation releases.
*Compatible iOS devices are: iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, gen-5 iPod Touch, gen-3 and gen-4 iPad, and iPad mini.
The road so far
The Batthead idea came about as a lucky combination of events. Apple had introduced a bunch of new devices supporting Bluetooth 4.0 starting in the fall of 2012. We had been compiling a list of interesting projects to take advantage of the technology. At the same time, Chris happened to be deeply immersed in the standards while working on his Master's project. The eureka moment came thanks to Malte's 3-year-old who enjoys a very fun, but very noisy, battery-powered toy. After a whiteboard session, the Batthead concept was born.
We started technical development at the workbench several months ago, putting together the Batthead from various development boards and hand-soldered components. As we proceeded with the design, we found squeezing everything into a standard AA size wasn't easy, but we did manage it. Just recently we produced a handful of alpha Batthead prototypes while also creating our alpha software for the iPhone. The videos and images you see here show the various stages of development.
Climbing the hill
To go into production, we need your help! Specifically, we need funds to:
finalize our electronics (antenna design) and pay the RF test lab and get regulatory approval,
make tooling for the Batthead outer shell and mechanical components, and
build our first production run of at least 1500 Battheads, exclusively for our supporters.
We can do this
As principals we have decades of experience in wireless systems, embedded firmware, electronics, and app development (see bio for more info). And we've got some great designers on the team with an equally-long track record in RF and mechanical design. Collectively we have all the technical and practical experience to create, refine, and produce the Batthead. By supporting the Batthead project, you'll help us achieve the major milestone of volume production. And you'll be one of the first Batthead owners anywhere on the planet.
How and when
The Batthead is a full time effort for us at VKT. We've also got some great partners with whom we have excellent, long-term relationships. We'd be ecstatic to deliver your Battheads before Christmas, but Mr. Gantt says February 2014 is the realistic goal.
Risks and challenges
We need to spin the electronics to include an antenna compliant with regulatory standards. If our design leads to regulatory non-compliance, we will require a re-spin and re-submission to the test lab. This could delay the delivery by a few weeks. However, this is not our first time to the RF compliance lab; since we have done this sort of thing before, we anticipate approval on the first submission.
The mass-production electronics must be matched with mass-production hardware (outer shell, inserts, etc). Depending on the complexities the tooling can take longer to get "right". We only want to offer our supporters a well-executed product with excellent fit and finish. It may take a bit longer than anticipated to get the right tooling, but we're working with some great experienced mechanical designers.
There is a small risk it could take longer than expected for our free iOS app to hit the Apple store. Apple has the final say on approval of these apps, so there is always the chance they could reject our initial submission and cause delays. We have deployed custom apps before, and the Batthead is a straightforward app, so gaining Apple approval should not be a problem.
Unfortunately, exporting a wireless product means we face regulatory hurdles. Each country’s communications authority makes its own rules. Getting our product certified in other regions involves significant additional costs. If we exceed our funding goal, we will make it a stretch goal for the most popular regions. Please register your interest for your region at http://www.batthead.com/kickstarter/.
The mechanical design for the mass-produced Batthead is under review so we don't have an exact number yet. Currently we are targeting 1000mAh, but the final capacity may differ slightly. When using gear with multiple batteries, we recommend using the Batthead matched set, since all cells are the same capacity and will charge and discharge equally. As a second choice, you can use the Batthead with any off-the-shelf NiMH AA batteries. Although common NiMH batteries will have more capacity than the Batthead, the set can be charged and discharged together since NiMH doesn't exhibit a battery memory effect. It is possible to use the Batthead together with conventional/non-rechargeable AA batteries, but users will find difficulty in tracking the state-of-charge of the non-Battheads. No matter how you choose to deploy your controllable Batthead, our smartphone app will always report its current state-of-charge.
POWER USER REWARD. Two first-run Bluetooth®-enabled NiMH Battheads with accelerometer, six matched non-controllable NiMH Battheads, a floating waterproof flashlight, and a four-cell NiMH battery charger.