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Elroy is the first set of bluetooth earbuds that you can customize to fit your own style. And we're making it in the USA!

[Elroy press release] [Media Kit]

UPDATE:  We're getting down to the wire here and aren't getting traction for our funding.  I believe this means we need to further develop Elroy to make it a more finished product.  For current backers we will offer a special "thank you" price in a later Kickstarter relaunch.  So, if you like this product, don't let the funding level deter you from backing the project.  Your early commitment to Elroy will be duly appreciated. 

When I bought my first iPhone, I found I loved using the earbuds. Listening naturally through both ears made conversation much more clear and comfortable. But with that came the perpetual challenge of the earbud cord, which gets tangled or caught on passing objects – it’s a nuisance.  

In-the-ear Bluetooth devices have been one solution to this issue, but regardless of how beautifully designed they are, they suffer from one serious drawback: no one really wants to walk around all day with something stuck in their ear! I think most of these devices end up collecting dust in desk drawers.

Meet Elroy

With Elroy, we bridge the gap. We keep the earbuds that people like, but eliminate most of the cord that people don't like. We do this by combining a small wearable Bluetooth device with a set of Shorty-cord™ earbuds.

Elroy can go farther, too – we want to solve lots of problems with this product, not just one or two.  

Intuitive controls

We’re designing Elroy to have a lot of functionality, not a lot of buttons. We figure you don’t want to wear something that looks like a tiny TV controller. With Elroy, we get rid of buttons altogether, using an intuitive touch control interface on the front. A single tap will answer a call. A double tap will place a call on hold. Sliding up and down will adjust volume. If you want to send an incoming call to voicemail, you merely swipe down. The control possibilities are many, and we’ll expand them as we develop the firmware.

A home for the earbuds

So, what do you do with your earbuds when you're not talking on the phone or listening to your music? There's never a good place for those dangling earbuds. To solve this, we created magnetic docking points. When not using your earbuds, just attach them to the sides of Elroy. These patent pending docking points are also switch-activated. If your phone rings, simply remove an earbud to answer the call. Reattach the earbuds to terminate a call. The same goes for music: if you attach your earbuds to the Bluetooth unit, it will pause your music.

Express yourself!

While there are lots of beautiful products out there, consumers aren’t usually able to express themselves beyond selecting product A, B or C. People are unique and diverse; their choices in products should celebrate that.

This is why we're applying mass customization to Elroy. The faceplates are removable, so you can change them based on your mood or wardrobe. They just snap on and off. You can collect as many as you like, and change them as frequently as you like.  Eventually we'll also have a wide variety of colors and a near infinite variety of product variation to choose from.

Elroy configurations for Kickstarter

For this Kickstarter we will offer 10 standard configurations, but by the time we start delivering product, we will have up to 1000 or more faceplate designs available on the MeetElroy website.

Below are illustrations of the Kickstarter configurations (click for larger images). If the funding goes higher, then we can add more configurations. With so many styles, it would be extraordinarily expensive for us to produce physical samples of all the configurations, so please bear in mind that these are illustrations and not actual prototypes. (Note: The wood, metal and snakeskin will be graphical depictions of those materials rather than the actual materials.)  These configurations represent a tiny fraction of what we can eventually do.  You can see other configurations here.

Manufacturing in the USA

At a well-publicized dinner at the White House a couple of years ago with the Obamas and leaders in the tech industry, President Obama asked Steve Jobs how we can bring manufacturing jobs back to the US. Steve is reported to have said, "Those jobs aren't coming back."

With all due respect to Steve Jobs, I believe he was wrong.  

In 1989 I founded a company called Timbuk2. I set up and ran a highly efficient manufacturing system based on Toyota's production systems for over 13 years, where I applied mass customization. At Timbuk2 I was able to take orders for mass customized product online and ship product, usually within 24 hours. I've run manufacturing in the US in an industry with products requiring high labor content. I've worked with both domestic manufacturing and off-shore manufacturing across a wide variety of products.  

I've already established a domestic supply chain for Elroy and will be producing all the Elroy Bluetooth units for this Kickstarter in the US. The earbuds themselves will currently not be feasible to produce domestically, but depending on the level of success we see, we will endeavor to eventually bring that production back on shore as well.

Creating jobs and improving lives

One of the first books I read on manufacturing was about a man named W. Edwards Deming. He was a statistician sent to Japan after WW2 to help rebuild their manufacturing base. One statement from Deming has always stuck with me. He said (paraphrased), It is a natural human desire to be successful in one’s work. It is the job of management to break down the barriers that keep people from having pride in their work. Reading this is what made me realize that manufacturing, done right, can also have an important positive impact on people's lives.

I personally spent well over 10,000 hours doing actual line production at Timbuk2. I understand on a personal and visceral level what production workers face on a daily basis. I know how to transform what has the potential to be a meaningless drudgery into a meaningful and engaging work experience.

One policy that was long in effect at Toyota – and one that I will institute in the Elroy factory – says that line workers are skilled professionals. Everyone in the company needs to physically understand what we produce and how we produce it. That means everyone in the company, from the CEO down (i.e., no exceptions), must spend a minimum of 1 week each year working in production.

Manufacturing done well is not only possible in the US, but has huge advantages.  Done right, manufacturing can pay fair salaries to workers; it can promote good relations; it can take place in a clean, positive and healthy environment. And it can be done profitably.

This is what the Elroy Project is about.

Where we are in development

We are currently about 95% complete on the form factor for both the body and the earbuds. There are some tweaks we need to make before committing to cutting the molds. We have working PCB's (printed circuit boards) that allow the basic functionality for Elroy (pairing, sound, touch interface, magnetic sensors, etc). This has to be further developed and tested so that we know the device will work in all circumstances, configurations, and paired to all platforms (Android, iPhone, etc). The touch interface will allow a very wide variety of operations to be incorporated into Elroy. We are purposefully keeping the functionality simple for the product launch, but will look to expand on that afterward with firmware updates.

Use of funds

  • Tooling for the external case
  • Final engineering for the PCB
  • Set up of a final assembly production facility
  • Computers for order processing
  • General office and production fixtures
  • Certification fees

Brook Banham discussing the Elroy design


The Extended Team

Judith Banham at Middlecott Design, who is working on developing the graphical faceplate designs and Elroy configurations.

Anton Wannenberg, who did a fantastic video job for this project.

Nate Clowar, who is working with us doing our CAD drawings.

Lee and Matt Kane at LAMA Media, who are developing our website.

Karin Evans, who's been helping us communicate clearly and concisely.

Elroy T-Shirt

Elroy functionality

With no earbuds attached to magnetic docks

  • Tap once to answer a call 
  • Tap once to terminate a call 
  • Slide up or down for volume control 
  • Double tap to mute mic 
  • Tap/hold to place call on hold 
  • Voice command to make a second call 
  • Tap/hold to swap calls 
  • Tap/slide to conference two active calls 
  • Double tap when no call is active to voice dial 
  • Swipe down to send incoming call to voicemail

With earbuds docked, phone operations

  • Detach one earbud to answer call 
  • Detach second earbud = no action 
  • Attach one earbud to terminate call 
  • Attach second earbud = no action 
  • Slide up or down for volume 
  • Double tap to mute mic 
  • Tap/hold to place call on hold 
  • Voice command to make a second call 
  • Tap/hold to swap calls 
  • Tap/slide to conference two active calls 
  • Double tap when no call is active to voice dial 
  • Removing earbuds with no incoming call = no action


Listening to music with earbuds

  • Tap once to pause music
  • Tap once to play music
  • Slide up or down for volume
  • Double tap to advance tracks
  • Attaching both earbuds to magnets pauses music
  • Detaching both earbuds starts music again

When your phone is attached to a speaker system, Elroy can be used as a remote volume control and can be used to remotely answer incoming calls (when in bluetooth range).

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

With small parts like this, it's a challenge to present good representative prototypes. The resolution of current state-of-the-art 3D printing limits our ability to present exactly what the final tooled-up product will look like. We want people to understand that the final product will be as close to the illustrations as is technologically possible.

We are taking on a special challenge in setting up our own factory. If we just make the funding goal, we will be limiting our factory to final assembly processes. Molding the case and creating the PCB (printed circuit board) will be done by local contractors, and we will be at the whim of their production schedules. If we raise larger levels of funding, we will be eager to bring some of those processes in-house. Ultimately we want to bring many of the processes in-house, but we will limit this initially in favor of keeping our Kickstarter delivery schedule.

There are several certification processes which we need to go through prior to shipping product. These will be performed by outside testing facilities, and we will be limited to their work schedules. If we fail any of those tests, that can cause delays as we rework the design in order to pass certification.

We believe we will have much more control over the delivery schedule by producing Elroy in the US. We won't have product "on the water" for 3 weeks or stuck in customs waiting for release. We'll also not be making repeated trips to Asia to address issues (saving 2 tons of CO2 per person per flight, not to mention lost weeks of time). We'll be able to address issues immediately, here in real time.

Communication is key to managing expectations. I've always liked having Monday meetings in order to keep everyone in an office aware of everything going on. In that spirit, we will do updates every Monday regardless of how much there is to tell. If there are special newsworthy milestones that we cross, we will add an extra update.

FAQ

  • Yes, however we can not do that within the scope of this Kickstarter project. Contact me directly and I can provide details for our corporate branding program.

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  • We're still in the testing phase but we expect the battery life to be at least as good as other bluetooth devices. We actually have room to add a little more battery capacity since this doesn't have to be worn in your ear.

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  • There is a microUSB just above the earbud jack and you'll be able to charge from your computer or any other USB charger.

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  • This first Elroy will not have active noise cancellation built in, but the earbuds themselves will provide the same amount of isolation as other earbuds. We do plan on adding active noise cancellation in later versions of Elroy but we need to get our feet wet with this one first.

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  • Muting the mic is on the list of functions to implement. I'm not yet sure if that will be done for the launch or will be part of a later firmware update. It's an important feature so it's definitely on the short list.

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  • Since the mic is in the unit, for phone calls you'll want it fairly high up. For music it won't matter.

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  • Yes. The jack is a standard 3.5mm jack, so you can use your Elroy in conjunction with any other set of headphones or earbuds. You can also use Elroy with any auxiliary device that uses a 3.5mm jack.

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  • Pledge $25 or more
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    4 backers

    Support our project by getting an Elroy logo t-shirt. All cotton, US made. available in S, M, L, XL and XXL. (Add $6 for 60/40 Hemp/Cotton blend shirts.)

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    Shorty-cord™ ONLY. If you have a Nano or Shuffle that you like using and just want to get rid of the annoying extra length of cord you can support the Elroy Project at this pledge level.

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    Shorty-cord™ and an Elroy logo t-shirt. Get rid of that excess 2/3 of the earbud cord and sport a stylish all cotton Elroy t-shirt. (Add $6 for 60/40 Hemp/Cotton blend shirts.)

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    59 backers Limited (241 left of 300)

    EARLY BIRD Elroy with earbuds. Help us get the ball rolling. This includes our short cord earbuds with magnetic docking points. Available in 10 styles. Additional faceplates can be purchased after launch on the MeetElroy website.

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    1 backer

    Elroy with earbuds. This includes our short cord earbuds with magnetic docking points. Available in 10 styles. Additional faceplates can be purchased after launch on the MeetElroy website.

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    Elroy with earbuds and an Elroy t-shirt. This includes our short cord earbuds with magnetic docking points. Available in 10 styles. Additional faceplates can be purchased after launch on the MeetElroy website.

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    1 backer Limited (999 left of 1000)

    Special Edition Kickstarter Titanium Elroy. This will be a special one-time run of Elroys that have a titanium back clip and side switch. The titanium model will be available in all of the 10 graphic configurations. Includes a free t-shirt.

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    1 backer Limited (299 left of 300)

    Factory Grand Opening invitation. If you're in the SF Bay Area or are willing to travel here, you'll get a special invitation for you and a guest to attend our factory opening party. We'll have food, drink and live music. At the factory opening we will build you a custom Special Edition Kickstarter Titanium Elroy while you watch (one per invitation). Includes two free t-shirts.

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Funding period

- (30 days)