Journal: Bobux

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Journal entry: 10 Nov 2017

Sam Burton: For this leg of the project, we’ve been relying a little bit more on external suppliers, so there have been a couple of delays. Nothing too serious so far, but we have backups ready just in case! Sam has been travelling in Europe for Bobux in the past two weeks – a strain in communications is tricky at this late stage, but thankfully we had planned for this!

We’ve been learning a lot about data visualisation lately, and we’ve tapped into some of the graphic design talent at Bobux (Ellen Ross) to help us explore this. We’re hoping to be able to present the data from the sensors in a really cool way by the time we get to the presentation.

We’re all a little nervous and excited about speaking to the judges, but based on the latest round of test results, we are starting to look forward to it. 

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Journal entry: 27 Oct 2017

Sam Burton: For the past two weeks, we have been refining the prototype and user journey, as well as working closely with our factories to improve the sensor design for production.

The factories have come to the table with some great ideas and we are starting to see what this could look like as a complete shoe and end-product. We’re getting some insights into the trickier aspects of combining traditional shoe manufacturing with electronics!

There have been a few small hiccups with the smart textile sensors – we want to get a great reading all the time, rather than just a good reading most of the time. Thankfully, we know exactly what the problem is. We just need to work through a few solutions to get there, and that’s helping us learn a lot about the fabric production process. We’re also working on an app that parents can use to access the sensor data, and we’re planning to demonstrate that at the final presentation on 24th November.

The big highlight of the second Bootcamp was catching up with the other teams, and hearing that a lot of our challenges are not unique to us. The presentation challenge at the end of the day was also great, as it forced us to distil our ideas into a digestible format, and highlighted again what is really important (and what isn’t) for this project.

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Journal entry: 12 Oct 2017

Sam Burton: Apart from some components shorting out on the development board, and some surprises around unexpected data coming through the sensors, we have had a relatively smooth run over the last two weeks. 

With us all back in the same country for the first time in a while, we have been focussed on validating our ideas with users – we managed to test the working prototype on about 20 kids. We also had conversations with ten parents and let them explore a mock-up of our user interface, to understand how they feel about the technology, and how it will fit into their lives.

The reaction to both the physical prototype and UX mock-up was really positive, and made some fantastic observations that have since been fed directly into our development process. We were really surprised to hear that our system could potentially change their buying habits. The feedback we’ve gathered suggests that once a parent can accurately track the growth of their child, they can use that data to forecast growth which could have an impact on how we sell shoes to them.

We cannot stress enough how valuable it’s been to talk to potential customers at this stage of the process. 

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Journal entry: 1 Oct 2017

IMAGE: A shoe under test in a humidity chamber

Sam Burton: While Robert and Sam have been in Indonesia and China looking at new manufacturing partners, Sarah and Andries have been focussed on environmental testing and building more test rigs to validate the data we are getting through the shoes. When we tested our shoes inside the chamber, we were surprised to find that when a child is wearing socks, the humidity does not affect our readings. However, when a child is barefoot, the readings are erratic and noisy, so we’ll need to consider that going forward.

Andries has successfully built a prototyping app to help us gather data wirelessly, and has been exploring an issue with some of the old code not speaking to the hardware. There’s still some ‘cleaning up’ to do on the app, but we’re getting there.

We have been learning very quickly with rough prototypes, and validating ideas without investing too much time or resource has been great. With everyone in different countries over the last couple of weeks, communication have been occasionally tricky, butt with Slack and email we seem to be staying on top of things.

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Journal entry: 20 Sept 2017

IMAGE: The first Bootcamp seems so long ago now!

Sam Burton: Since our last entry, we’ve been cracking on with the prototypes! Sarah has been hard at work with Robert making some more physical samples that we can start forming into a test rig to prove our concept.

All the components we need have now arrived to the team is in full swing coding and testing. The cadence of our output has really increased, which has generated all sorts of offshoot ideas. Now it is time to go through a period of re-focussing so we can meet the deadline!

We've learned about failing fast this week, and the importance of locking up a rudimentary idea that we can test quickly. Andries has also thrown himself into the deep end with the development coding work, so is learning the most out of anyone right now. Thankfully, we haven’t had any real hiccups recently, but with the team splitting up for the next two weeks, we're bound to face some challenges. Sam and Robert will be in China and Indonesia for other Bobux work (and some research for the C-Prize) so communication is going to be key.

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Journal entry: 5 Sept 2017

Image: A busy week for Team Bobux...

Sam Burton: The last two weeks have all been about prototyping, testing, more prototyping and more testing! A lot of the components we ordered are taking longer than expected, which has slowed us down a little, but we should be able to make up time once they’re here. Robert and Sarah have been busy in the lab making some new smart textile samples, and we’ve managed to put together a couple of rigs to help us validate the accuracy of the sensors.

We have also taken on a new team member - Andries Meintjes - who is an expert in software and coding, which fills the skill gap we identified while at the bootcamp in Wellington. This has been a huge help, and gives us a much better chance of navigating the data we will be creating. A new machine also arrived that we can use to attach soles to the uppers. This should help us speed up the prototyping process.

We’re constantly researching and learning about the material options we have for the construction of the shoe. These learnings should solve some issues we may have with connecting components together, and will help with the durability (kids tend to destroy shoes very quickly).

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Journal ENTRY: 22 AUG 2017

IMAGE: Shielding the sensors to minimise any extra signal noise is something we’re learning a lot about. You can see in the picture the tin foil we have in place, which is doing that job for now...

Sam Burton: We want our system to become a useful tool for podiatrists and families. Integrated into a shoe, it will collect data to help diagnose foot health problems, or alert parents as to when their child should upgrade to a bigger size.

For the past two weeks, Sarah and John have been using their network to help us fill a skills gap in our team, in software and coding, and we now have a couple of options. We’ve been busy prototyping too; building test rigs to validate our ideas around our sensors. Robert has just gotten back from a footwear course in Portland, which went well – but it’s great to get us all back around the same table.

We’ve also been given access to resources at AUT, so as soon as he arrived, Robert was thrown straight into the textile lab there, to get some smart textile prototypes together. We’ve also been setting up all our various communication and management channels – Slack, Trello and Google drive – so we’re feeling pretty organised.

Apart from Sarah leaving the prototypes in Wellington (yes, really!), things are going well. But we know we have some daunting tasks ahead, such as learning how to make sense of the data collected from the shoes. The Bootcamp really focussed the team and got us thinking more about the core purpose of what we are trying to achieve. As a result, we want to ‘push the boat out’ a little further (technology-wise) than we had originally planned.