Zipi is an earbud strap that connects behind your neck using magnets.
Press release is available for download here.
Please note: I have decided to replace aqua color choice with royal blue and orange. Please see updates #5 and #8 for details.
Hi, I'm Frank Cho. Like many of us, I like to listen to podcasts on my way to work. One day, I parked my car at my office parking lot and there was about two minutes left in the podcast episode I was listening to. I really wanted to finish it while walking toward my cubicle but in the midst of putting my jacket on, grabbing my bag, locking my car, etc., carrying my earbuds became a real burden. I didn't want to wear them on my ears since the audio was paused at the moment. I didn't want to stuff them in my pocket since they'll get all tangled up. At that moment, I realized that there really isn't a good place to keep your earbuds when the audio is paused. I searched online and offline for a solution but couldn't find anything that completely satisfied my needs. For example, a simple band that connects the earbuds isn't enough because I just know that I won't have it with me that one time when I really need it. When my search yielded no results, I started prototyping my own solution with help of Sketchup and online 3D printing service.
My initial thought was to create something small and light that attaches to your earbuds. My first prototype was created with these goals in mind:
It's a small neodymium magnet attached to your earbud cable. With it, you can magnetically attach the earbuds behind your neck when the audio is paused. It worked well enough for its intended purposes but I didn't like the fact that it required two hands to operate. I wanted to create something that you can use while riding a bicycle, for example. But its ultimate downfall came from a totally unexpected source. One day, I fell asleep while wearing this prototype and I woke up with a mark on my face in the shape of the plastic piece! I could make the plastic piece a bit larger and flatter but I knew that it wouldn't be comfortable enough to wear to bed. I scrapped this prototype and started looking for a fresh approach.
Rather than trying to minimize the size and the weight, I thought I should concentrate on the user experience, i.e., how to make it as unobtrusive as possible. A simple strap that connects the earbuds is useful but it is difficult to wear when you have long hair. It can also strangle you if it ever catches on something. And, I'll probably forget to bring it that one time I really need it. Building on the first prototype, I converged on a design with two straps that connect to each other using magnets. This is the design that I finally settled on.
When I rolled it up and put it on my palm, I knew that I had something that is functional yet unobtrusive. I really liked how Zipi in translucent white visually blended with the white earbud. It was like they belonged together. In the demonstration video, I used the yellow prototype exclusively since it shows up better against the white earbud.
So, after many failed attempts and near misses, Zipi was finally born.
- Zipi adds no bulk or weight
- Zipi is easy to wear and take off
- Zipi is always there when you need it
Zipi uses neodymium magnets, the strongest magnets on the market. Zipi comes in translucent white, yellow, aqua, hot pink and black:
I'm hoping Kickstarter community can help me finish the first production run of Zipi with injection molded parts. I can't use 3D printing service for the production run because I need the parts in smooth finish in custom colors. Injection molding is the best solution for me but creating the mold is expensive ($6000 is the rough quote I got). If Kickstarter community can help me create the mold (which is the biggest hurdle for me), I'll give it my best effort and manage the rest of the steps (e.g., assembly, packaging, shipping, etc.) for the first production run.
Photos in the video courtesy of Ed Yourdon and Jeff Golden, released under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Video background music (microchip.mp3) courtesy of Youtube Audio Library. Zipi demonstration video is released under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.
Risks and challenges
It is the honest truth that I'm completely new to product design and manufacturing. However, with no prior experience in 3D modeling, I've managed to design my parts in Sketchup, order them from 3D printing services, put together a prototype and shoot a product demo video at home, all on a shoestring budget. I'm sure there are many more challenges ahead and also a lot of FUN ahead. With the help of Kickstarter community, I'd like to see my journey to completion. My goal is to finish the Kickstarter campaign by end of February, create the mold by end of April (it takes roughly 6 weeks to create the mold), create the injection molded parts by end of June, then finish final assembly, packaging and shipping by end of September. Other than the custom plastic pieces, the rest of the parts are off-the-shelf. For example, I ordered the rubber cord from an online beads shop. They have exactly the right feel and they feel great on your neck. The final assembly is very simple. For the first production run, I plan on assembling the parts myself using industrial adhesives. I may contract out the hand assembly work in the future. (Update: after the campaign launched, I have decided to scrap the original plan of hand assembling the parts at home. I have decided to contract a manufacturer to build Zipi.)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)