About this project
***LAST stretch goal: if we can get to $175K we'll be able to make ATOMS waterproof! That's pretty dang cool.***
And there's a little more in it for you too - if we hit $175K, we'll give every backer at the $59 pledge level and above a free Earthquake ATOM for your set (it's a vibrating motor/rumble-pack ATOM).
ATOMS give kids of any age the ability to make their toys DO things. And not just new toys – ATOMS were built to work with the stuff kids already have, like LEGOs, costumes, stuffed animals, Barbies and action figures. ATOMS don’t require any electronics skills or programming experience – or supervision from a parent with an engineering degree. In fact, because of the tiny electronics built into each one, kids can make all sorts of cool stuff within 5 minutes of taking ATOMS out of the box.
ATOMS: Introductory Sets
Here’s a snapshot of the toys we’re introducing at launch, with your help:
Monster Construction Set: So you have a pet monster? But it just lays there? That's a pretty boring pet. This kit allows you to build and personalize creatures with personalities that are afraid of the light, love to hide in the dark, love to scare your mother.
Magic Wand Set: What good is a magic wand that doesn’t do anything? Not much good, really. Certainly can’t compete in a wizard’s duel. This kit allows you to build an ATOMS magic wand that can turn on your nightlight, move a toy, or close a door with a shake of the wand. This set also includes an exploding brick - pretty cool when you want to blow up your LEGO house just as your sister leans in for a closer look.
iOS Control Set: The 18-room, 4-car garage Italian villa you just built with your LEGOs would be a lot cooler if those garage doors would open, cars could drive out, and the third floor would shake when Henry the Ghost haunts it. This kit allows you to control your ATOMS modules with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that has Bluetooth 4.0.
Bonus Rewards: Unlocked as We Reach The Following "Stretch Goals"
- $100K - UNLOCKED! "ATOMS on Kickstarter" Stickers: mailed to your US address or your US-based friend RIGHT NOW. We'll also put "I helped launch ATOMS" stickers in every Kickstarter ATOMS set when we ship the product.
- $110K - UNLOCKED! The $29 Prankster Set: The kids quickly taught us that playing pranks is a sweet use case for ATOMS. This brand new bonus set will include an exploding brick, a battery pack, and a light sensor trigger. With a $29 price point, the Prankster Set should help us reach a larger audience and get to the next awesome Bonus Reward faster! The Prankster Set will be available as a $20 upgrade to any pledge level of $187 or higher (the combo sets).
- $125K - UNLOCKED! Add Extra ATOMS to Your Set: Up your pledge by the specified amount at any "Set" backer lever (Monster Set or above), and add extra ATOMS to your set. At this level, we will unlock the LED ATOM ($10), the Light Sensor ATOM ($10), the Flip-Flop ATOM ($10), and the Motor ATOM ($16).
- $150K - UNLOCKED! Three New ATOMS Chosen by our backers, these are the three ATOMS that won the most votes: Blue ATOM: Motion Sensor ($15), Red ATOM: Not Gate ($10), Green ATOM: Tri-Color LED ($15)
- $175K - We'll make ATOMS Waterproof, and give every backer at $59 pledge and above, a free Earthquake ATOM (vibrating motor/rumble-pack ATOM).
What's ATOMS University?
We're making toys that help kids make stuff that does stuff. It occurred to us that it would be pretty cool for a kid to see how those toys are themselves made - we know the kids in our play groups thought it was. So, we know our backers will follow along here on Kickstarter, but we hope to encourage our younger fans to follow along too. We'll be doing live Q&As on Saturday mornings throughout the campaign to give ATOMS fans as much insight as possible into the process. We'll also regularly update here and on our social networks. We want kids to understand how stuff gets made and we're committed to giving them as much information as possible. That is ATOMS University.
How ATOMS Work
We're building 13 unique modules to be included in our first ATOMS sets. They are: motor, light sensor, sound module, knob module, battery brick, splitter, IR "laser," IR target, LED, Flip Flop, accelerometer, exploding brick, and iOS control brick (yep, we’re using Bluetooth 4.0). With these first 13 modules, kids can make monsters that move, wands that turn on lights, castles that blow up, and stuff we haven't even thought of yet. And you Mom and Dad, can prank your friends and each other - or the kids, that's fun too.
Example 1: Driving a motor and sound from a sensor.
1. Sensing ATOMS have light up arrows to show the signal what they are sensing coming out of the module. These arrows blink faster when the signal is stronger.
2. Loop your signal through the battery module to power any ATOMS connected to that signal.
3. Output ATOMS have light up "boots" to show where the signal comes in. Connect your signal here, and it will drive the Output ATOMS stronger as the signal strength increases.
Example 2: Controlling ATOMS from an iOS device.
1. Run the free ATOMS App.
2. Your iOS device communicates wirelessly with the ATOMS Bluetooth 4 module, sending your commands from your iOS device to your ATOMS creation.
3. Use the ATOMS Bluetooth 4 module to control any ATOMS. Just like all output ATOMS, the "boots" blink faster and the output is driven faster as the signal strength increases.
Big Kids, Little Kids: Our World Class Team
Michael Rosenblatt loved to build stuff. So he went to MIT to build toys and robots, and then on to Apple to build iPods and iPhones. He thought that all kids that want to build stuff like he did should have the chance to do it in an easy and accessible way, so he came up with the idea for ATOMS, back in 2009.
When he decided to build ATOMS, and the Seamless Toy Company, he turned to the awesomely amazing entrepreneur community in Boulder, CO. That community helped him bring together – in a little under three weeks – a team of 25+ people with backgrounds in product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, PR, operations, and pretty much anything else he needed. And oh yeah, they were (are) all PUMPED to be working on something so cool that they did it in their “free” time.
Along with Michael, these are the founding team members building ATOMS (find out more about them in the FAQ): David Allen, Rob Aimi, Eric Budd, Shannon McCoy, Gabrielle Fuqua, and Fiona A. We also have some awesome vendor love from Boulder Engineering Studio, Blake St. Design, VideoGoGo, and INK.
We’ve gotten a lot done so far! The first 13 prototypes are up and running, and we’ve already begun working with contract manufacturers to scale production. We look forward to working with the Kickstarter community closely and transparently as we go from prototypes to a polished, packaged product.
We are already finding lots of ways to improve ATOMS as we test our prototypes and run weekly play groups with kids in the Boulder community. Here is where we will document all the issues/improvements that we catch, including feedback from the Kickstarter community that will be addressed in the production ATOMS products:
Atoms Engineering Change List:
- [motor module] Motor output shaft should be in perpendicular axis to connectors (to avoid collision with where you would want to put wheels).
- [record-playback module] Amplifier circuit needs to be louder.
- [explode module] Make latch mechanism super reliable…test thoroughly.
- [all modules] LED's that indicate I/O and signal intensity have to be brighter, and closer to transparent icon.
- [record-playback module] Use red button for record on record-playback module.
- [wires] Use much skinnier, slimmer, more flexible wires, for connections between modules, and in bright colors if possible.
- [record-playback module] Volume should vary proportional to input signal.
- [ir-transmitter] Add a red LED to the front of the IR module to visibly show when transmitting.
Our first products – including the ones you snap up as part of this campaign – will ship in June 2013. We are committed to building a vast library of new ATOMS components in 2013 and beyond, so drop us a line if you have an idea for one you’d like us to tackle.
Manufacturing and Production Plan
There are a lot of moving parts involved in bringing a product like this to market, both literally and figuratively. Even with the best efforts given to planning, the biggest risk is that you still don't know what you don't know. Therefore, we have designed a gate-phased production plan, intended to expose technical and production issues early. This will give us plenty of time to make changes, so we can deliver top quality products on time or ahead of schedule. Here's our plan (through Jan below - more in the FAQ):
October 2012: Concept Validation Prototypes
These are the prototypes you see here on our Kickstarter page in the photographs and video. They are 3D printed, and have hand-assembled circuit boards made with mostly off-the-shelf parts. The goal here was to verify all the technology can work - especially the Bluetooth 4 module, since that is the most complicated module from a software perspective.
November and December 2012: Play Groups with Prototypes
Starting early November, we have been running play groups with the ATOMS prototypes, and we have about 40 kids ages 8-12 working with us to see how easy ATOMS are to use, what fails, what can be improved, and what features have been overlooked. By the end of this phase we will have over 500 kid-hours on ATOMS, and a clear idea of the improvements needed for the final product.
January: Manufacturing Engineering
In January, we will take all the learnings from the prototype and play group phases, and feedback from the Kickstarter community, and we will re-engineer the ATOMS sets for manufacturability, reliability and include the product improvements we've added to our "Change List."
Designed to Create
It’s incredibly empowering to create something. But kids don't have a lot of options today to make things that do things. We see this as a major hole in the market. And we want to fill it with great stuff – but we aren’t doing so to then turn around and sell our company to the highest bidder. The Seamless Toy Company will build a massive library of ATOMS toys serving as tools that will scale as new technologies become available, and grow with the kids using them. We want to create toys that empower big kids and little ones, and in the end inspire kids to once again pursue education and careers in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and math.
We see the educational value of ATOMS as tools that can, at a reasonable price with a low barrier for entry, give children skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Building a magic wand that can turn on a light or a monster that knows to chase your little sister – rather than just playing with a toy someone else built – gives children an understanding of how to solve problems. We hope to change the world by giving kids the tools to become problem solvers.
Risks and challenges
While our design goal is to make ATOMS as simple, usable, and intuitive as possible, the challenges associated with making this kind of integrated electronics product are significant. Here are the challenges we anticipate facing, and our strategy for addressing each of them.
Product Integration Challenges
Going from prototypes to working shippable products is like going from little league to the majors in 6 months. That's why we have built a team with proven track records in doing just this - uh, the product development, none of us are all that great at baseball. Michael has managed large scale product development at Apple (traveling to Asia to work with manufacturers 6-8 times a year), Eric has managed software development for high-volume hard drives at Seagate, John and Dan have worked on many challenging integration projects that have manufactured domestically, David has shipped iOS Apps for startups, and used to blow things up at Los Alamos Labs (this latter experience has not yet proved relevant, but we're still early stage).
All that experience aside, none of this is easy, and the biggest challenges are the ones you don't see coming. We are not making one product, we are making 13. So to back up the team experience, we are enlisting a contract manufacturer that has done all this before also - one that is great at managing system scale co-development. We currently have two potential manufacturing partners that meet this criteria, with whom we have been working with on costing, and we'll plan to award the business in January after the close of our Kickstarter campaign.
To make the best possible ATOMS products, we are going to need a few custom parts - most prominently, the connectors and the wires between modules. We can definitely make a good product with off-the-shelf parts, but that's not what we are aiming for - we are here to make a GREAT product. As a startup, this means calling up the companies that can make these custom parts, and selling them on the vision and the potential for a high-volume future that merits the initial investment of custom tooling. We think we have a good chance at this (the team has procured custom components in previous projects), and every pledge counts towards this goal - the more units we sell, the less we'll have to beg for favors with suppliers.
Engineering anything that has to be kid-tough is a challenge, and ATOMS will have state-of-the-art precision electronics embedded in each module. Further, we are setting an even high bar than "living room safe" - we want ATOMS to be durable enough and water resistant enough for outdoor play. Michael helped design the reliability test requirements for Apple's iPod product line, and program managed testing for one of the highest volume electronics products the world has ever seen (resulting in some of the industry's lowest field failure rates for any product). Additionally, members of the team have experience working on underwater diving electronics, medical devices, utility scale solar power plants, enterprise class hard drives, and military robotics.
We will implement an extensive reliability and safety testing program in collaboration with our contract manufacturer, and will destructively test over 60 of each component with sampling at each stage of the production development process.
FCC and Regulatory Challenges
Bringing a wireless product to market can face a number of expensive and time consuming regulatory hurdles, and the specifics of these hurdles can vary by region and country. Michael knows all about this, as he was heavily involved in bringing the first iPod Touch to market during his tenure at Apple. To minimize risk here, we will be using a Bluetooth module vendor with existing certifications in the major global markets, and we will be engineering the integration to comply with their existing certifications. We are also prepared to do our own certification work should that become necessary, in which case we will use an FCC-accredited third party testing company.
Every start-up (company or project) has significant financial risk - mostly centered around costs exceeding what was projected. This is an especially high risk for product development start-ups, because a seemingly small engineering oversight can easily blow $10,000 and 4 weeks of schedule. The only solution is to fiscally prepare for the worst case.
To prepare for such contingencies, we are working closely with the investment community in Boulder, Colorado, which is one of the nation's hotspots for start-up activity. Already, several team members have put in significant capital, and we have three outside investors. We are super excited to be working with the Kickstarter community to help us bring our first products to market, and we are using these private investments to build the safety net we need to be prepared for the unknowns, and make the best possible products for our backers.
We appreciate your enthusiasm, and your help via your involvement, your backing, and the sharing of our story to your friends. Thanks, from team ATOMS.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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