Week 7 - Prototyping + Confluence

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With all the inner components correctly working, I put together some housing to see how the structural supports can hold up together while properly and made a quarter mockup of the round track. One immediate problem was how to get the car to roll constantly in a circle - the wheels have to be angled in a particular way or the pegs will be misaligned with the switches. On existing toys, the wheels have enough give that they can make turns, but I don't have much room to do the same. At this point, the car just slides on the track rather than rolls like a regular car....

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It was difficult figuring out how to mount the switches in properly so that they stuck out ever so slightly from the bottom of the car to hit the pegs on the track. Cue some awkward assembly with evenly measured wires connecting the switches and the board.

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In order for a the switches to play at the same time on a round track, I had to angle the switches at -5 degrees since set up the track to have a row of holes every 5 degrees. Note the copious amount of bondene I used since I made the structure completely wrong. Definitely making this differently next time.

Having perfectly sized pegs to hit the roller switches is a challenge. Too high or too low, and the switches won't activate. Also, for some reason the switches don't like to work when rolling backwards. Another thing that I found was that either the switches activate too quickly, making the sound not play enough, or that the sound of the switches rolling over the pegs were louder than the actual sound. I'm going to need to play around with the idea of different types of peg materials, as the wooden dowels seem too rigid.

I showed this to some employers during Confluence, both during studio tours or from bringing the prototype to my interviews (not sure if that was a good or bad idea?). I'm glad I got this together in time, even if I was gluing the wheels on when people were walking around, since it made explaining my concept sooo much easier. I got some fun comments out of it:

  • Steve Johnson, VP of LinkedIn asked when he could buy this toy because his son would love it, and that if I made it into production he would back it. Pretty exciting, all things considered.
  • An ex-game designer turned PM (?) from Electronic Arts suggested having an entirely automated peg system that raised pegs that wrote existing songs. He made an interesting comment about how intimidating it seems to have a blank canvas to put pegs in on his own.
  • A lot of people asked about how this was supposed to facilitate reading music, so I really need to set in stone my concept of how this is a gateway to music learning. This is a problem I'm trying to tackle in the app.

Anyhow, next steps - get this thing working as perfectly as possible and playing around with other instruments other than the xylophone.

Edit: found this TEDed video that is really relevant to my project. Give it a look! The motion on this is pretty great.