Robot Army : Deltas in the Window

Mark and I finished up our window display at SYN Shop last night, which we set up to look kinda like a pet shop window. You know, with shredded graph paper at the bottom, little boxes stacked up to play in, and food dishes filled with misc components on the side. We have a rather busy taco joint next door with a walk up bar, so maybe…. just maybe…  the drunken shrapnel off Fremont Street will walk by, see my adorable little babies wiggling, be mystified by them, and feel compelled to rip one of our links off the adoption flyer.

Sadly by the time I woke up this morning our friend Pawel reported that two of our kids had destroyed themselves over night. Leaving them there running all night was kind of an unfair endurance test though. We switched out all their parts for the new tighter beefier versions we designed last week… all but the paddles. – You know, the part that bares all the weight. Guess which pieces failed. So, at some point today we’ll come rescue our kids and give them new little chicken wings… Then hopefully we don’t end up with a pile of sticks again… Saddest thing to see ever : http://moby.to/k4zpr1

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Yup. I can be honest and admit to you that Mark and I have been checking our phones, or updating our browsers every five minutes to see if we have new backers. Yesterday during the Super Bowl we forced ourselves only to check in between quarters and otherwise drank wine and talked about our campaign, ignoring the game. After the first two days we were at 25% and at this very moment as I type this we are hanging just above $3k. It’s a promising start… but none of my PR has paid off yet. I really hope that’s due to it being Monday and not the fact that I am either unpopular, unskilled at writing about my ideas, or too much of a tart to take seriously. Ahhh….. and this is yet another thing that’s feeding the neurosis. On that note, check out our page.

Robot Army : LAUNCH!

In spite of all of the things that looked like they were going to delay us, we got approved in time for our February 1st deadline and launch at midnight! ON TIME! (WOOOO!!!!)

CHECK IT OUT! : ROBOT ARMY STARTER KIT

Today has been exhausting. We’ve been blasting all of the social channels and so far things are off to a pretty promising start… although Mark and I are both running on empty. We were up until close to 3am last night because we were too excited to sleep. It’s taken everything we’ve got not to just sit and hit the refresh button on our KS page all day long… so we’re getting stuff done at the shop… like set up a nice display in the window.

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We plan to make it look like a pet shop window, with graph paper shaving and food bowls filled with scrap electronics… so the little deltas can run their chicken code and charm tourists on Fremont Street. We hung these chintzy xeroxed adoption flyers all over and gave them to our friends to hang up at work.

As I write this we are hanging at 15%…which isn’t a bad start. Hopefully once the weekend is over, we get a mention or two on some tech blogs and things will take off. We’ll see. I really, really hope all my PR pays off. Wish us luck! Better yet… don’t wish us luck- buy a shirt :

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We are in the process of getting a bunch of these made; jersey knit with soft ink… vintage style. They’re going to be sharp!

Robot Army : Video Done… sigh…

It’s done. We filmed close to 100gb of video footage and ended up using less than a percent of that. We story boarded, scripted, tried various locations, and in the end chose the most simple three-minute segment that told the bare minimum about our project. It felt the best, flowed naturally, and isn’t so long that you’d stop watching in the middle of it. So I guess we succeeded. Here it is ^

Now that we’re over that hurdle, on to the next headache. In order to launch a project, Kickstarter requires that you have an Amazon business account to transfer money into once you’re funded. This is all well and good. Mark and I got our corporation made, filed for our EIN and were about to get everything underway with Amazon- however for reasons unknown there was a discrepancy with our tax information (or something???) and we got locked out of our account. This is irritating because they wont give us any details why or what we can do to fix it. ::sigh:: So… Mark and I have been in contact with Amazon’s call center in India, which isn’t really all that helpful. We can’t proceed with setting up our business account until this issue is sorted out, so for now we’re at a stand still. I’m hoping this mess doesn’t delay our February 1st launch… but it just might.

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Other than that, the end effector got a major upgrade this week. We got our light defuser samples in the mail and they’re quite sharp! Of the two sizes, it looks like the larger, more opaque domes will work perfectly for our kit. This means we’ll be replacing those cylindrical paint containers we jammed packing foam into with these new milky nipples :

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All I need to do is tweak the end effector to have holes for the four mounting pegs… SO PLEASED with these.

The stuff that goes inside the lenses also got a makeover. Mark’s tiny PCBs for the SMT LEDs also came in from OSH Park. He couldn’t refrain from adding an easter egg to the back side of the board… which is the reason for their new name. These “F Face” boards are great and will replace the little red through hole tiles I was using for the original six deltas :

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Mark is in the kitchen right now working on a new demo with the Kinect. We now have six robots working at once (two of the six were out of commission during CES). We also have nine more motors now, which will allow us to make an additional three whenever I get around to finishing the next revision of all the parts. Like I mentioned before, everything is getting tweaked. If it’s at all humanly possible, I’ll have all that ready tomorrow so I can print the new pieces and start assembling the three rev. B deltas so they’re ready before our next demo at Work In Progress. That would put us at 9 robots working in tandem. ::wiggles::

Tuesday is the next meeting for the hardware startup group Mark and I are a part of… and we’re giving a demo as well as announcing our February launch to all the downtown people. Hopefully the skelly tracking is ready before then- and of course, nine robots is better than six, so I will work my butt off to get those made too. Wish us luck!

Oh yeah, join the mailing list if you haven’t already! Show support for world domination with robots here : Robot Army Starter Kit Mailing List

Robot Army : Almost There

We’re down to the final stretch. Mark and I have been working on our Kickstarter video for the past ten days… which has been a hell I hadn’t anticipated. It was starting to seem like we were never going to vomit out the right takes that would communicate to our audience what they need to know about our kit. After a dozen or so sessions of filming, I decided I was over complicating things and rethought my strategy. Now after much adieu, our KS video is short, conversational, and in the spirit of what we know how to do best- which is shoot a podcast.

We have many, MANY outtakes from the past two weeks we spent trying in vain to pump out a work of art that wasn’t meant to be. So I’ve edited a few into short chunks which I plan to spoon feed out into the world over the next month. The one above is a rant we derailed on just prior to shooting the footage we actually used.

In other news, we’ve finally started producing our second run of delta robots, which is in reality a whole new revision since every part has been redesigned for one reason or another. These new children will be better and stronger and will eventually replace their brothers and sisters… but that’s just how evolution works, right?

Also, last Friday Mark and I sat down with a lawyer and did the paperwork for our corporation. My dad unknowingly gave us the idea for its name when he registered me for CES, filling in my company name for my badge as “Robot Army”. This was an excellent conversation starter while on the showroom floor. “What do you do?” everyone wanted to know. It felt goofy at first- but the name has its own radical sense of style, so it’s staying. Mark and I are now both owners of Robot Army LLC…….. So all the robots we make from now on will be legitimate. tehe…

The Kickstarter page is also just about finished. Once the rest of the technical crap is sorted, we’ll be ready to launch. It’s about a week away and I couldn’t be more excited! Wish us luck… oh, and join the mailing list! This is your call to action! : Robot Army Starter Kit

Robot Army : Preparing the Army

So I made it back from the frigid cold of northern Michigan alive and in one piece. I survived the alcohol soaked meat fest of Christmas with the family and was just starting to ease back into Kickstarter mode when I came down with this Flu bug from hell which has brought my productivity level down to zero all week. Luckily Mark picked up the ball while I’ve been recovering in quarantine and has been developing code for our twelve delta demo we’ll be touring around town with during CES week. Today, while he debugged our code I did this doodle, because all I’ve been dreaming about while sick in bed is the not so distant future where we’ll actually be setting up our babies in the backyard for some showtime :

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With our original six deltas somewhat completed, we have the next set of six to build and optimize. So far, we’ve redesigned  the base to allow easier access to the PCB mounted inside. We’re also thinking about having the yellow arms milled from ABS to cut down on the number of printing hours it’ll take to produce all our parts. We’re making small improvements here and there every day, shaving off pennies from our BOM and improving the over all quality of the robot’s design.

I’m starting to get antsy about the PR side of things though. I sent out a bazillion emails while away in Michigan, and haven’t yet received a response to a single one of them. Now, this could easily be due to the fact that this was vacation week (and I’m the only crazy person who rushed back to work already). So I wont freak out yet.  If I don’t start getting a few bites on Monday, I’ll just have to suck it up and send out more. The key to being successful is being shamelessly persistent, right?

In other news- Cat, one of the awesome people from OSH Park recently did a write-up about Light Play on their blog, which I’m geeked out about. They always do a fantastic job on our PC board prototypes and are lightning fast with the turn around, so I’m happy to return the favor by bragging about their service. =] Again if you are interested in having your circuit handy work professionally made but don’t want to fish around in China or commit to a large order, check out their site!