It's hard to believe, but we're exactly a year out from the close of our Kickstarter campaign last year. That calls for an update! So much has happened in the past year, it's tough to know where to begin.
First of all, THANK YOU. It's been the most exciting, challenging and fulfilling year of our lives, and it's only possible because we got to share it with you all.
Here are some other stats and updates worth sharing:
1) OpenROV is getting much better. Fast.
We've now shipped several batches of the robot, and each version - based on many improvements that come from people building OpenROVs - is better than the last. We sent out an update in May with all of the feature updates. We'll compile another list for the Version 2.5 updates that are coming with the September batch. This model of open development continues to work because of all of your feedback and input - keep it coming!
If you want to get an idea of what the new v2.5 features will include, Eric gives a great overview in this video:
We're starting to see some great videos and hear stories about how you all are using the OpenROV in the wild. Keep them coming! We're also working on building out a new feature of the website to make it easier to share your expeditions. In fact, we're looking for a few people to help us beta test this feature. If you'd like to help, please fill out this quick form:
We'll have all sorts of goodies (upgraded parts, discounts, etc.) for everyone who takes part.
3) Anniversary Gifts!
In honor of our One Year Kickstarter Anniversary, we want to send out a small gift to all the backers who got a kit. Please send us a message if your address HAS CHANGED over the past year. If it's the same, don't worry, just keep an eye on the mailbox.
Again, thank you all for being a part of this journey. You've made everything possible.
David & Eric
Look what you've done!!
Less than a year ago, we were toiling away in the garage trying to get a few robots ready for Maker Faire. Now, thanks to your support, we're heading back to Maker Faire next week and we're on the cover of MAKE: Magazine!
And by "we" we really mean you. All of us. None of this could have been possible if 484 of you hadn't backed the Kickstarter project.
If you're in the Bay Area next week for Maker Faire, please make sure to stop by and say hi. We're also planning on doing a lot more traveling this summer. We want to come to your area, build more OpenROVs and get out exploring with y'all! For starters, we'll be in Boston in June and Long Beach in July. We'll let you know as we add more dates and locations.
Meanwhile, never hesitate to reach out with questions or ideas.
David & Eric
Ok, so where to start?!
First off, YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME! It’s been an incredible few months of rapid iteration and development, largely based on the incredible feedback and contributions from everyone who got their Kickstarter kits. As a community, we're innovating faster than we ever could have imagined.
In case you haven't been tuning into the development calls or following the discussion on the forums, there have been some key updates to the OpenROV that shipped in December. The good news: your ROV is completely upgradeable. Here are the highlights:
Medialink Homeplug Adapters
From the very beginning, we've held onto a dream that we could get very high bandwith communication through a ultra-thin and durable twisted pair tether. Everyone called us crazy. When we found the ETS Baluns (that were included in the kit), we knew we were on the right track. As we discussed in previous updates, even that solution left something to be desired. Ultimately, we wanted something that would communicate at higher bandwidths over longer distances using thinner (and less expensive) wire.
Enter Walt Holm.
Walt shared our desire for a faster connection and began experimenting with Homeplug Adapters. The full story unfolds on the forums here. Bottom line: a specific type of homeplug adapter can be modified to safely communicate at more than 10x the bandwidth of the ETS baluns over great (>100m) distances using almost any pair of wires (and open the door to sending power down the tether as well). It's terribly exciting.
You can order Medialink Homeplug adapters from Amazon. There will be more detailed instructions on how to disassemble and install the homeplugs on the wiki. Don't worry, even if you've already fully assembled your kit, you can still make this upgrade.
Brian Adams got his Kickstarter kit and proceeded to go crazy with updating the code. Last week, we merged all of the changes that Brian has made. You can (and should) upgrade the software on your OpenROV here.
If you'd like to participate in the software development, please feel free to join us for the next development call on Google+. (Here's a call we had about software re-architecture that is a good way to get up to speed. Warning: it's long, sorry about that!) We'd love to hear what you think!
John Stager in upstate New York has been a driving force in development over the past few months. He's been racing ahead of us and solving issues we didn't even know about. Part of his work and feedback has pushed us to find a broader solution to power on board the ROV. After extensive R&D by a number of folks in the community, we're now suggesting that people use rechargeable lithium ion (LiMnNi) batteries to power the ROV. It turns out that typical Alkaline batteries have a relatively high internal resistance, which will cause the ROV to “brown out” (suffer from very low voltages) during operation, but LiMnNi batteries work great. The batteries we suggest are conveniently the same diameter as regular C-cells, but are 1.3 times the length, so three fit where four regular C’s would go.
Note: to use LiMnNi batteries (which have a higher voltage chemistry) the two battery packs must be configured in parallel instead of series. Wiring them this way if you haven’t already built your kit is just as easy as wiring the packs in series and modifying the wiring if you have built the kit is also pretty straightforward.
We're really excited about all of these upgrades, but more importantly, we're thrilled about how these changes happened. We're honored and humbled to be working with you all to create this tool to democratize ocean exploration. It's exciting to think about where this co-creating will lead to next!
As always, don't hesitate to reach out with questions, comments or ideas.
Eric & David
You guys weren't the only ones waiting for a delivery before the holidays. On the icy tundra of Antarctica, Eric was eagerly anticipating the arrival of a few key parts so he could test the OpenROV under the ice. Well, he got the package in time.
You can read the full story and see more pictures here: http://openrov.com/profiles/blogs/openrov-goes-to-antarctica
Just an FYI, we'll continue with the occasional posts on OpenROV news through this Kickstarter page, but we'll be moving most of the discussion back to the website and our new G+ Community page. Make sure to keep your contact information up to date, though - your email and especially your mailing addresses (we may or may not be planning to send out a few surprises this year to our Kickstarter backers).
As always, thank you again for your support and for being part of this adventure. OpenROV was recently named part of the "Best of Kickstarter 2012." It's a huge honor for us - all of us. This project would not exist without everyone.
Cheers to an adventure-filled 2013!
Eric & David