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Alexa enabled, 6 USB charging ports, music playing, smart alarm clock. Meet the Sandman Doppler, the best alarm clock you've ever seen! Preorder now!
Alexa enabled, 6 USB charging ports, music playing, smart alarm clock. Meet the Sandman Doppler, the best alarm clock you've ever seen! Preorder now!
1,218 backers pledged $151,796 to help bring this project to life.

DSP troubles and frustration

Posted by Palo Alto Innovation (Creator)
24 likes

Loyal Backers,  

We have been very busy for a couple weeks working hard on a lot of different things and wanted to take a quick second to poke our head up, breathe, and update our amazing supporters.

To start off, we have had another pretty major setback, which we will outline in detail below. Sadly, this setback has forced us to adjust our schedule again. The previous schedule was for beta units to ship in August and production units to ship in October. We will explain in detail what happened and why in this update, but as for a new schedule, we are working with our manufacturing team overseas on an updated schedule. So for now, we don’t have a new schedule for the release of the Doppler. We anticipate it might be a couple month or more delay. We are working on an updated schedule and will announce it as soon as we can.

We obviously realize that another setback isn’t what you want to hear about, but let us explain what happened and what we are doing about it.

The current DSP on our current boards
The current DSP on our current boards

The problem part is our digital signal processor, or DSP for short, which is a chip on our main circuit board that takes the digital input from the microphones and cleans them up allowing voice control to work well. The DSP is also responsible for something called acoustic echo cancellation or AEC which will take the input from the microphones and removes the sound of what is playing from the speakers in order to send a clear signal to the Doppler’s internal computer allowing for improved voice interaction. So what does that mean exactly? If you are playing music with your Doppler and you want to ask Alexa a question while music is playing, normally the microphones would just pick up the music that is playing and the Doppler wouldn't be able to hear your voice well or at all. That’s where the DSP and EAC come in and analyzes the current output of the speakers and in real time removes the sound of the music to leave only your voice so the Doppler can properly listen to you.

Acoustic echo cancellation diagram
Acoustic echo cancellation diagram

Amazon had made our job a little bit easier and recommended a couple DSP solutions for us to use and try out. We bought a bunch of different development kits and around the time the Kickstarter ended (around a year ago) we were deep into engineering the DSP, testing different solutions, and architecting how it was going to work with Doppler. After testing about 6 different solutions using development and evaluation kits we ended up choosing the Timberwolf created by a company called Microsemi. We were confident that the Timberwolf solution would work great for the Doppler as it was Amazon recommended and came from a huge and stable company like Microsemi. We bought some more development kits and tested the solution extensively and were happy with the performance and decided to put the DSP on our boards. We didn’t manage to get the Timberwolf running before CES so we were using a DSP-less solution for the show. Everything worked, but not well due to the lack of DSP. Since there was no EAC frequently we found ourselves yelling at the prototype to listen to us if the music was too loud. This was to be expected because Alexa was just hearing the music, not us due to lack of EAC. When we got back from CES we started working with the Chip Pro team on driver support for the Microsemi and then… well, we all know how that ended.

The Timberwolf development kit plugged into the PicoSom development kit
The Timberwolf development kit plugged into the PicoSom development kit

Well while we were working on finding a Chip Pro replacement last spring we heard that another electronics company, MicroChip, was looking to buy Microsemi. MicroChip is a well-known company to us and we have bought lots of parts from them before so we were actually excited about the transition as MicroChip is known for supporting their products very well. You can read about the sale of Microsemi here. Fast forward a couple months and we were working closely with members of the Timberwolf team and it looked like we were very close to getting the DSP to work with the PicoSom. Around the middle of August, we suddenly found out that MicroChip decided to layoff a major part of the Timberwolf team and they no longer had anyone on their team capable of supporting us with getting the drivers working.

We were stunned and reached out to anyone and everyone we could think of to ask them for help. Sadly, nobody could help us and we were basically told, sorry, we aren’t able to support you at this time. You can try and finish the work on your own or switch suppliers. We looked into finishing all the work ourselves, but it’s a terrible idea to design your product’s entire audio system around a product that is no longer supported by the manufacturer.

This is the second time very bad luck has hit us and we aren’t happy about it at all. If you aren’t familiar with the first time, you can read about it here. While having these setbacks have been time-consuming and VERY frustrating we aren’t giving up and are continuing to charge forward with a new DSP solution.

Speaking of the new solution, thanks to our previous research and Amazon’s recommended DSP solutions there were only a couple DSP options that were viable for our solution. One of the DSP chips we had previously looked into using actually had released a new development kit using a PicoSom very similar to the one we had chosen to move to! This was a breath of fresh air because we knew that the solution would work. To make matters even better we actually had all the parts in house to cobble together our own homegrown version of their development kit and test out the DSP using the PicoSom.

PicoSom development kit and the new DSP development kit
PicoSom development kit and the new DSP development kit

A couple of late nights later we hacked together a working version of the Doppler software running on the evaluation boards. We then took our newest revision of boards and bypassed the DSP and got the new boards (at least the lights, buttons, and light sensor) working with the evaluation kits. This was our proof of concept that the new DSP would work!

It's messy, but this is a fully working Doppler with DSP!
It's messy, but this is a fully working Doppler with DSP!

We then spent 3 weeks researching anything and everything we can about the DSP, its drivers, and ripping out and replacing the audio system of the Doppler. This last step required changing about 50% of the main board (the button board) as about half of that board is dedicated to the DSP, the microphones, and the Doppler's audio output. The latest revision of the boards will be going out to the board assembly house next week and when they come back we should have a fully working Doppler with the new DSP properly implemented. This DSP will have to be tuned properly to get the best possible performance but we anticipate that it will work well and get the Doppler a step closer to production.

We fully expect this to feel like a kick in the gut for our supporters and we promise that we feel 100x’s worse than you do. It was never our intention to deliver late and we are pushing to get you guys a fantastic product as soon as possible, but shipping this device without a DSP just isn’t an option.

Please feel free to send us an email (hi@paloaltoinnovation.com) or sound off in the comments, but, please try and keep them as civil as possible. We are all frustrated!

Thanks again for your patience!  

-PAI Team

Danny Greene, Deanna Stanley, and 22 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Missing avatar

      Andy Mac on

      I remember that it was filed under "feature creep" quite some time ago but there was interest other than mine.

    2. Palo Alto Innovation 3-time creator on

      @Andy, we can't make any promises as we are focusing on getting the actual product working! One of the advantages of our design is the circuit board is swappable so we could theoretically have a USB-PD add-on board if there was enough interest.

    3. Missing avatar

      Andy Mac on

      This is bad news but very well presented. 100% agree that continuing with the now unsupported DSP isn't the best path.

      If this generates any free time can we talk about USB-PD again?

    4. Missing avatar

      Aaron Friedel on

      Knowing the attention to detail and quality going into this product makes me even more excited. Setbacks occur and you have been very honest about them and how you have worked through them. Keep up the good work.

    5. Denise Dragos on

      Although the news is disappointing, thank you for the honest and detailed update. Keep up the hard work and I'm still looking forward to my new alarm clock! Thank you.

    6. Damian Vila on

      Honest update from great people. You guys guys are awesome (I’ll tell you this every time, get used to it! 😆).

      You guys know I’m really here for the ride, and this one’s an exciting one. It’s had its highs and lows, but it’s far from finished. And I’m enjoying every moment.

      If the Doppler becomes a real product in the end, it will be a testament to your hard work, your capacity to face adversity and your tenacity to finish what you started. I guess it will make you really proud, and happy when people start enjoying the fruit of that hard work. That’s the best feeling in the world, and what makes us embark in these crazy adventures.

      Keep it up! And thanks for the update.

    7. Missing avatar

      Ned on

      I'm sad because right now on my nightstand is a Gen 1 Echo, a Philips alarm clock, a USB Micro charging cable to charge my Kindle tablet, and a USB C charging cable to charge my Pixel 2. I'm excited because the Doppler is STILL the only one device that will clean up my nightstand. Do the best you can, continue with your honest updates, and good luck.

    8. Missing avatar

      Vaughan Lampp on

      I keep on forgetting that I backed this project. Look forward to its release! For now my trusty 20+ year old alarm clock is surviving.

    9. Missing avatar

      King Heiple
      Superbacker
      on

      I agree. I am keeping the faith. This will be a great product WHEN you finish. Never give up. 😁😁😁

    10. Missing avatar

      Peter on

      I’ve no problem as your stuff has always been good and I appreciate your attention to detail. Also you communicate honestly and frequently so I’m sure you are doing everything you can.

    11. Missing avatar

      Chris on

      Creating stuff is hard. Otherwise, the complainers would do it themselves. Still a confident backer, keep up the good fight and thanks for the honest update.

    12. Missing avatar

      Robert Boyd on

      The biggest part of the hurt here is waiting for what I know is going to be an amazing product. Not holding it against anybody on the team, but just hoping that it meets my expectations when I finally get to experience the final project. Best of luck!

    13. Markus
      Superbacker
      on

      Being a Kickstarter backer since 2012 I have seen all kind of campaigns come and go. Among about 125 campaigns I supported so far were 2 that did not deliver at all, one where me and some otherbackers involved a lawyer to get refunds and about 5 the delivered in time. All others were late but always in good quality.

      This campaign belongs to best of all. Go on running creator, I am sure you will make my day!

    14. Jan van der Lugt on

      To some others commenting: remember that you are not buying a retail project here. You are investing in a project/company, and getting a product as a reward. That means there will sometimes be setbacks. Instead of complaining, please appreciate the extremely detailed communication sent out by the creators. I've backed projects where the creators went silent for many months at a time, that is much more frustrating than well communicated delays, since you can still have the confidence that you will eventually have a high quality product in your hands.

      To the creators, thanks for your updates! The best of luck with integrating the new DSP solution, it sounds like exciting work :-)

    15. Jamie Belcourt on

      I don't get the animosity toward the creator. The updates might not be "end user" friendly but they're technically detailed, which I for one appreciate. I've backed campaigns, and I'm currently backing one, where you're left in the dark as to why you're not getting your product. Promised dates come and go and you get a bunch of nothing at all, or filler fluff to keep you off their back. I'd much rather get technical details explaining what's going on, why it's going on, and how they're approaching moving foward from it rather then nothing at all or excuses.

      Trust me, when you don't know what's going on, it turns into a huge storm as accusations from "investors" and you can't help but buy into the rumors swirling around.

      Everyone is disspointed in a delay, I'd think the creator more so then us, but to act like they're wasting your time and money is just incorrect, in my opinion.

    16. Missing avatar

      Andrew Nelson on

      I am upset at myself for buying into this clown show. All hat, no cattle.

    17. Missing avatar

      Kim Wong on

      Sad. An update that’s not really an update for an end user. To say that it is going to be two months late or MORE doesn’t give the consumer much to go on. At least offer a gen 1 Doppler, tshirt, mug, or something as a way of making up a little for the inconvenience. I understand it is difficult to create something like your product, but promises were made (and broken). I have stopped looking at new Kickstarter projects because of the multiple delays on projects. Mea culpa. I truly hope this will be worth the investment risk and that this is as good as you say it will be. If a refund was offered today for the two I purchased(one was for a bday gift last month), I would accept it in a heartbeat.

    18. Jamie Belcourt on

      I'm with Deanna, we're here for the Long haul. Things happen out of your control and we can't fault you for that. I, and I'm sure others here as well, respect that you guys are always honest and up front with us, in detail, with there entire process and any setbacks.

      Thank you for the update!

    19. Palo Alto Innovation 3-time creator on

      @Deanna, thanks so much for the encouragement! We really appreciate it and are hard at work working that magic!

    20. Deanna Stanley
      Superbacker
      on

      Hardware is hard. I've been part of a development team and I understand your problems. Hang on there, I'm willing to wait for you to do your magic!