Manufacturing almost finished
Apologies for the delay getting this update out, I wanted to get to the bottom of exactly where we currently are with all the aspects of production to make sure I am giving you accurate information.
I’m afraid that having got to the bottom of that it is not great news. We should have been packing and sending out completed kits this week and we are not. Manufacturing of everything (cardboard parts, boxes, motors, battery boxes, marbles, elastic bands, wheel couplings, screws, tools) is complete apart from the circuit boards. They are close to completion, and I’ll explain in detail what happened with them below, but first, as Christmas is a very hard deadline that it looks likely we will miss it for many of you, I’d better explain all of that.
For backers in the UK I think it is likely that you will receive your robots by Christmas Eve but I am not 100% sure about that.
For backers in the EU and US I think you will receive your robots either between Christmas and New Years Eve or in the first week of January.
For backers everywhere else I think you will receive your robots in either the first or second week of January.
I have been waking up a night worrying about ruining Christmas, so here are my proposals for stopping that happening, if you have bought your Smartibot as a gift for someone:
1. If you still want your Smartibot, but need a body-double to stand-in for it on Christmas day, I have done a paper craft version with a box that explains the situation to the recipient. You can print out and fold this at home (if you’re a previous backers and have a Fizzbit, the Smartibot stand-in is Fizzbit compatible). If paper crafting is too much effort but you still need a stand-in there is also a simple card with product images that you can print out and just fold in half. Next week I will also put up a video on the YouTube channel that you could show to recipients apologising to them and showing them what they will receive in the next week or two.
2. If you need your pledge money back to buy the intended recipient a different gift, and no longer want your Smartibot, then if you can let me know by this Friday (the 7th) I will refund your pledge.
It is very disappointing to be looking like not hitting the schedule we told you we would meet, and obviously only being out by a week or two is not much consolation when that deadline is Christmas, so writing this update feels pretty bad.
Despite great work from Ting, Janek and our suppliers, it seems to have been an collection of small, seemingly individually insignificant pieces of bad luck, that have ended up accumulating to generate an unexpected delay that is longer than our contingency.
Around the time we began ordering everything in October we discovered that the circuit board was perpetually reseting itself when it was plugged in to certain computers, and other devices, using the USB connector. We had not spotted the issue before because it did not happen on all devices, and had not been happening on the devices we had been using in our testing. We realised that if you did have a device that it happened with it would be extremely annoying so we had better fix it.
It took us longer than it should have to work out a fix for this (we ended up adding a capacitor) and update the board design. This pushed the order date for the board manufacturing back. It seems that after the updated design was released and the order placed there was a delay with the payment going through (that it took a few days for us to find out about), which I think caused us to miss our production slot, meaning that when the process actually started it was on a longer lead time than we had originally expected. This means that, having expected to receive boards last week, we will actually receive them next week. As everything else is done (see pictures below) and going to the kitting factory on Thursday, kitting will happen as soon as the boards arrive, and all robots will be packed and sent out before Christmas, it is just that many of them unfortunately will spend the big day in transit.
In the previous update I promised to tell you about where we were with Software so here goes. Despite some setbacks we are on track. Akram has been working really hard on the apps. The reconfigurable controller is done (and looks and feels great) and we should be submitting the final iOS app to the App Store for approval this weekend (to ensure it is approved before Christmas).
We have got the A.I. up and running on Android, and it works but we have been surprised at how much less optimised the hardware seems to be for doing A.I. processing, so we have not been able to achieve the same maximum frame rates we have been able to get on iOS (though these are actually too fast for the robot). Top end Android phone are able to achieve the frame rates we used in the demos in the Kickstarter video but older and lower spec phones may struggle. They will still work great as controllers, and the A.I. should still work, the robot may just seem a bit dopey. Because the approvals process for Google Play is faster than for the App Store, we will get the Android version of the app finished after the iOS one is in for approval.
We hope very much to be able to work with Microsoft to bring you MakeCode integration in 2019, but right now we have not been able to proceed with the integration without their help.
The good news is that the actual programming flow with Espurino is actually much better than MakeCode because it works much better over Bluetooth and you do not have to go through the process of compiling and transferring hex files to the circuit board you are programming. You just hit the send button and the code on the board updates immediately. I am putting together a custom version of Espurino with special blocks for all the Smartibot functionality which should make programming your robot really straightforward if you have never programmed before and want to try.
You should receive the survey, where you will be able to put in the address you want your robot(s) sent to tomorrow. If you don't see it please check your spam folder.
I’ll update you again when the robots are in the mail. Please accept all of our apologies if you don’t end up receiving your robot in time for the big day, we all feel terrible about letting you down.
As always thanks so much for your support, and today also for your understanding,