Project Update - 158 Days In.
It had been just 158 days, (including weekends but we often work those, so we count them), since release of finds from Kickstarter and the team continues to work flat out to deliver GameStick.
Our content team has been spread between E3 and Etoo continuing their evangelical crusade with the developer community. Our PR team is currently rounding off a 20 day trip in the US, covering NY, LA and SF having met with over 40 key journalists preparing the way for launch. Tim, the project lead has just returned from a 3 week stint in China, (歡迎家裡添), and the hardware and software teams continue to work flat out to deliver a product that we are all extremely proud of. We hope you will be too.
Below is an update on production and timings, kicking off with the most difficult topic.
The Designed By Me units have been late to go out because it has taken a while longer to prepare the review UI than we had hoped. This is in part because the DEV version of the hardware this will be delivered on is slightly different from the production hardware. This has required a duplication of effort that we have had to balance with ensuring that work on the final units maintained momentum.
As a result we have not yet had the feedback that we wanted prior to finalizing the UI and going ahead with mass production. In the spirit of Kickstarter it would be disingenuous of us to cut out this process and not give those backers the opportunity to comment on and help perfect the UI prior to completion. We have therefore taken the decision to push back the whole project by 1 month to ensure we can fit this process in. We appreciate that this will frustrate backers keen to get their hands on their device but we did not feel it was fair to bypass this step as it was a key pledge and the feedback will be really welcome. We now expect to ship product from China during early August and expect it to be with you by the middle of the month, prior to units launching in retail.
Tooling is now complete. This is a major phase in the manufacturing process and will enable us to produce thousands of high quality devices every day.
These are the final controllers and the first batch to run off the production line and they look great. They show the slot for the GameStick and a re-worked removal system. We can now also run any other color ways so long as we run minimum runs of 2000. Let us know what you think, but ideally we would like to get you guys submitting art work for the top deck. A last minute change was to ensure that the top hats on the analog sticks can be unscrewed. This will enable people to personalize their GameStick with custom-made decals. Check Facebook for update on this to be posted soon.
We have also received our first Kickstarter controller off the line - check it out - we hope you like it!
Here is the dock. This has been quite a large engineering challenge because of the need to dissipate heat but it is now looking good. We are still in the final stages of testing and add a fan to the unit for instances when the stick is on (if you are streaming a movie perhaps) and the controller is charging. The mechanism that allows easy insert and removal of the GameStick is neat – it's a sliding carriage that automatically inserts the power and date USB plug (OTG). We’re very pleased with the outcome and hope you will be too.
This is the final stick – this has a great finish that is designed not to scratch when put in to the GameStick slot in the controller. The housing is made up of 6 components and we think the finished product is a great piece of industrial design.
We have spent quite a lot of time writing bespoke software for a series of functions such as auto TV detect, which will set the stick to the correct resolution for your TV. The initial Dev units did not have this so had some issues on US TVs. We have also written some software to enable multiple controllers to be used simultaneously via one stick (up to 4). Then we wrote the pairing software so that every time you boot the stick it automatically pairs with your controller.
By far the biggest amount of work has gone in to writing the software systems to feed the UI. We showed the full app store at private sessions at E3 last week. People seemed to find it easy and intuitive to use which is a great start.
A few of you have asked about heat. It's a great question. When we set out we wanted to make a solid-state powerful micro console. Getting this to perform well is a big issue and has required experts from ARM, Amlogic, several thermal experts and the manufacturers. We are using a graphite heat spreader that is highly conductive and transfers heat horizontally across the printed circuit board and through the HDMI so that some heat can be dissipated in to the TV or the HDMI cable.
Our heat spreader is made from natural graphite sheet materials. The spreader takes advantage of the anisotropic thermal properties of natural graphite. Natural graphite exhibits a high thermal conductivity in the plane of the sheet combined with a much lower thermal conductivity through the thickness of the sheet.
As a result, a natural graphite sheet can function as both a heat spreader and an insulator and can be used to eliminate localized hot spots in electronic components. In some cases, such as with GameStick, a natural graphite heat spreader can replace a conventional thermal management system such as a heat sink and cooling fan. The downside is that it is expensive – much more so than a lump of metal that is commonly used.
For those of you interested in what this material looks like - here is a picture. (Warning - it looks very unremarkable despite it's unique properties!)
Generally we are extremely happy with the way the project is shaping up and excited at how close to the finish line we have come - it's amazing how quickly time has flown. We appreciate how this further delay will disappoint a number of you but equally we have faith that the vast majority will recognize the hard work that the team is putting in to deliver a great product. We received funds just 158 days ago and while at the outset we thought we could finish this in a far shorter time-frame, we remain incredibly proud as a team of what we have accomplished in such a short space of time.
We remain grateful of your continued support. It means everything.
More updates to follow soon.