Our latest production status, including an update about the Coronavirus situation in China.
Jacob Flood, February 9, 2020
We hope you had a relaxing and productive holiday period. Here’s to focus in 2020!
We’ve been hard at work through January testing the latest prototypes, and getting ready to scale production with our next batch. Due to some recent slowdowns (cold&flu season, and the recent CoronaVirus), this update will be shorter than usual. Read-on to learn more about our recent progress and next steps.
Since February 4th, our factory has opted to remain closed in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, alongside a significant portion of Shenzhen’s manufacturing ecosystem. Unfortunately, we do not currently have a projected date at which our factory will reopen.
In parallel, however, we are moving forward with several tests on the current batch, in order to make the most of our time, and hopefully attenuate some of the delays that this is causing. Read on for more details about the latest tests we’ve run with the hardware.
As before, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org you’re interested in becoming a beta tester for our first production batch!
We’ve gotten a few questions about how our production schedule will be affected by the Coronavirus situation in China. We’ve waited to make sure we had an informed opinion before commenting.
As most of you probably know by now, a new virus was discovered in China, presently named Coronavirus. Many thousands of people have already contracted it. It is a very serious situation, and the Chinese government has taken radical steps to prevent further spreading of the disease within the country and internationally.
Everyone at Mindset is safe at the current time, residing in Canada – we have not been to China since the outbreak. While January was a slow month for us due to several of our team getting sick this Cold&Flu season, we are all currently back at full health.
Unfortunately, these prevention measures have had consequences on our work. Currently, no flights are available to and from Shenzhen, limiting our ability to interact with the production line. This limitation is anticipated to last until February 29, and may extend beyond. Until such time as we are able to travel, we can continue to communicate with our factory remotely, as we have in the past.
More pressing, however, is that since the 3rdweek of January, our factory has been closed. At first this was due to Chinese New Year, a delay we anticipated. Since February 4th, our factory has opted to remain closed in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, alongside a significant portion of Shenzhen’s manufacturing ecosystem. Unfortunately, we do not currently have a projected date at which our factory will reopen.
That being said, we remain productive on our side, taking action to move certain testing processes earlier in our schedule in order to recuperate the lost production time. As of today, we are hopeful that normal work schedules will resume in the next weeks, and that our first batch will be produced in March, and shipped in April. We will keep you posted on our progress as we learn more.
We wish everyone in China health and safety in these difficult times. We can’t wait to resume production, and take the last steps across the finish line!
In the first few weeks of January, we prioritized several reliability tests, which help qualify the reliability and robustness of the headphones. These tests include:
Electrostatic Discharge– initiating a 4kV contact discharge, and 8kV air discharge, and ensuring that the headphones continue to operate as expected.
Drop Test– dropping the headphones from 1.2m, to ensure it can survive the fall.
Headband Bending Tests– a fatigue life test, bending the headphone band to 180 degrees, to ensure it can survive 1000 cycles.
Headband Twisting Test– a fatigue life test, twisting the headphone band to ensure it can survive 1000 cycles in either direction.
Sliding test– sliding the armband in and out of the headphone to ensure it can survive 1000 cycles in either direction.
Resistance to scratching– ensuring that through the sliding test, no scratches appear on the product.
Electrode Compression Test– compressing the electodes through 20,000 cycles to ensure the signal quality is retained. This test was failed in our first attempt, but we have since change a portion of the cabling and have passed.
Clamping force– measuring the clamping force over time, to ensure it continues to meet specifications. We found that the clamping force was very slightly above our target, and have since adjusted it to adhere to specifications.
The electrode compression test looks like this, but automated! The electrostatic discharge tests 5 locations: the 4 electrodes, and the charging port. The jig used for the clamping force test. A batch of test headphones, with their test-reports attached.
These tests investigate the durability of the product to different environmental factors that can cause deficits to the lifespan of the product. As of today, we have passed all of the tests above, and are ready to move forward with the next product iteration.
While the tests were ongoing, we spent early January working on our QA process for the headphones.
This included a full review of the more subtle features. During this process, we found several small issues that we have since fixed.
Notice the slight offset in the dust cover (with the printed R)
In a few units, we found that the dust-cover (with the printed letters ‘L’ and ‘R’) would move around over time. This was because the shape of the fabric did not conform with the available surface area inside the cup. We’ve since notified the fabric suppliers and received a test batch that fixes this issue.
A small film is visible over the electrode connector.
During the assembly process of the electrode stack, it was found that one of the pick and place robots would leave a small, semi-transparent sheet covering the electrode connector. We found that the easiest way to solve this issue is to notify the QA team to inspect each electrode connector prior to assembly, to ensure that the sheet never ends up in a production unit.
We also spent some time analyzing the firmware included on the headphones. This includes how button presses are handled, internal delays to connect the device, and notification voices to indicate battery level and connectivity. We found two small issues in our testing, that we’ve since resolved.
The first related to ANC. When the headphones are turned on, the default mode should be that ANC is turned on – from there, you can toggle to ANC off, or talk-through modes via the middle button. With the latest batch, the headphones defaulted to ANC off when turned on – a small error, but one that yielded very poor user experience. We’ve since corrected this via a firmware update.
Finally, we also iterated on our battery level announcements. Battery level in electronics devices are calculated based on the voltage output of the battery – a fully charged battery will output a higher voltage than one that’s near-drained. Announcing what batter level you are at (50%, 100%, nearly empty) requires estimating the voltage-curve as the battery drains. We found that with the first iteration, the estimates were slightly off – the last 20% of the battery drained faster than the first 20%. We’ve since corrected this, and will continue to iterate so that the battery indicators are as accurate as possible.
On the software side, we continue to run experiments in which we measure EEG data in controlled circumstances, validate our algorithm’s ability to predict neural states, and verify these results in-field.
Our latest tests focused on approximating the signal quality of the device when worn. This way, we can indicate to users when the sensors are not connected properly, which adds noise to the system and limits our ability to measure focus levels. The better the sensors contact the scalp, the better the reading we get.
To do this, we ran several experiments in which we record EEG sessions wearing the headphones at different levels of connectivity: a strong signal, a weak signal, and no signal. We then processed the signals to look for correlates of a strong connection versus a weak connection of the sensors. We’ve found that the level of powerline noise (50/60Hz noise that radiates from the AC power grid) is strongly correlated to the quality of the sensor contact. We will be using this correlate – as well as many others – to estimate signal quality in real time during deep work sessions.
Otherwise, the software team continues to focus on improving the robustness of the app – from installation, through to connecting the headphones, and finally gathering the data. We don’t have a ton to report on this front – we’re making steady progress, and will continue to work on it through our upcoming launch.
We’ve received a huge outpour of support for our beta testing – thank you to everyone who reached out!
Given the volume of emails, we won’t be replying to anybody who messaged at email@example.com. Rest assured that if you sent an email, your message has been received, and you’re currently in line to receive a beta unit.
For those who missed our message last time: we are currently looking for beta testers to be the first to receive the headphones, and to help us debug any issues we have with our first batches. Please reach out if you fit the following description:
You are comfortable receiving a product that contains small imperfections
You are willing and eager to use the headphones and the desktop app every day, despite the occasional glitches.
You are willing to chat with our team periodically to share your feedback about the product, app, and experience.
You are interested in helping us debug issues with the headphones (software knowledge is a plus!)
You are interested in using the external API to stream data from the device outside of the app, and willing to help us develop support for this functionality.
We can’t wait to ship our first units, and we’re really excited to get your feedback to continue improving the experience. If you think you fit this description, and you would like to receive a unit from our first batch, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll reach out shortly!
Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus, we are stalled in our ability to produce the next hardware batch. As a result, we will be focusing our time on improving the robustness of the software, and the reliability of the hardware. Our goal is to spend the next weeks running experiments that will uncover any issues that may unfold as we scale the production, so that we can resolve them before the next batch.
We will keep you posted on the status of our factory over the next weeks. Our fingers are crossed that we will be able to resume production shortly, and cross the finish line with this product!
As always, please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments, and we’ll do our best to answer them swiftly!
Lots of Love,
– The Mindset Team