• Answering Questions

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    8/16/2013— Kelsey Breseman

    Welcome, new readers, to Technical Machine’s blog!

    The last two days have been a whirlwind for us as we hit the top of Hacker News, Hack-A-Day, and started reaching our community. We’re really grateful for the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response, particularly among web developers and small businesses. That’s one of our core goals: to foster entrepreneurship among web programmers in the physical world. Thus we’re stoked that you are the community that noticed us first.

     

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    It’s tough to answer every tweet, so I thought I could answer some of the more pressing questions here:

     

    Are you open source?

    Yes! Open source code, open source hardware. Our vision is that you can use Tessel to prototype, test, and hopefully start your own business in the field of internet-connected devices. That doesn’t make much sense if we keep anything proprietary—so we won’t.

    Not much is currently available, but don’t worry, we’ll be opening it up steadily over time.


    When can I get one?

    We’ll be launching our crowdfunding campaign in early September. If you haven’t already, sign up on our email list and we’ll shoot you an email when pre-orders are ready!


    Can I have one early?

    We don’t have a definite answer here, but probably not. We want to make sure that everything works really well and that our crowdfunding backers get theirs as soon as possible. Scaling from twenty prototypes to production is expensive, and our first priority is securing reliable manufacturing.


    What does it cost?

    Sorry, but we can’t tell you yet. We’re still figuring out all of the costs, and we don’t want to throw a number before we’re certain.

    We said before that we want to make Tessel open, but we want to go a step beyond that and also make it reproducible. It’s a high priority that our component decisions enable others to build off of Tessel’s schematics and hardware without restriction, which means choosing common components and not ones with contractual or high volume agreements.


    Where does the Tessel fall with respect to Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and BeagleBone?

    In terms of power, the Tessel is between a small MCU like the Arduino and a full fledged microprocessor like the Pi/BeagleBone. The ARM Cortex-M is one of the most popular architectures today and we’re pleased to add another option to the real-time microcontroller space.

    We’ve designed Tessel for usability and modularity. We’re aiming for a device that’s more like a PaaS, where you can push code without extensive configuration or drivers. (Of course, our firmware will be open for any modification you’d like.)


    Can I talk to you about making Tessel compatible with my product?

    Sure! We love hearing from startups and seeing new applications for Tessel. Shoot us an email and we’ll talk.


    Are you looking for investment?

    Absolutely! Please send us an email at team@technical.io.

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    In other news, we had a hackathon with One Mighty Roar yesterday, an interaction design group in Boston. We wanted to get their take on what it was like to use Tessel. We had a great time working with them, and they seemed to like Tessel right back! Expect to see some of their project code added to Github sometime soon.


    —Kelsey (The Ghost in the Machine)

    #kelsey breseman #tessel #technical machine #faq #hacker news #compatibility #modularity #nodejs #node #one mighty roar #crowdfunding #update

  • Boards and Branding

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    8/9/2013— Kelsey Breseman

    We’re in our last few weeks at Highland Capital’s offices, and things are really coming together for a launch inside of a month.

    We picked a product name!
    That news is about a week old, but in case you haven’t heard, our board is called Tessel.

    That decided, we ran a design contest for a logo. After iterating with a few designers, we are pleased to announce our logo:

    We picked the name Tessel partially because our microcontroller boards will fit together with other physical modules we’re producing, each of which plugs in to give the board new capabilities: sensors, actuators, hookup to Arduino, et cetera (you can see the full listing on our website). But since they fit together so nicely, we’re considering calling the combination of a Tessel board and its modules a Tesselation.

    Conveniently, our new logo is dynamic; we can swap out the T logo in its center and sub in slick icons for each of the modules:

    Pretty classy, right? We can print these icons right onto our module boards so it’s easy to see what each one does.

    Modules were submitted for manufacture yesterday, so we should have them back to play with early next week.

    Tim’s been working on our website all week, too. It will probably keep changing a fair amount, but you can see it in its current state at technical.io. Note the new About Us page.

    As always, we’ve also been working on our board. Tessel v.1 was submitted for manufacture last week.

    We’re getting them in today- fingers crossed that everything works the way it’s supposed to!

    That about wraps it up for now, but hopefully we’ll have more exciting news to share soon.

    Until then,
    I remain,
    —The Ghost in the Machine

    #kelsey breseman #updates #update #tessel #naming #branding #name #technical machine #business

  • Revision Four

    Monday, July 29, 2013

    7/29/2013— Jon McKay

    It’s been an incredibly busy summer for us at Technical Machine, but the hard work paid off last week with several exciting milestones. We sent off our fourth board revision (and hopefully second-to-last) to Worthington Assembly on Friday, the 19th, with the expectation that they would be back in one week.

    The one week hardware break gave us the chance to pull our heads out of technical development and start giving marketing and user testing the attention they deserve. We even finally got around to sprucing up our website to make it more clear what we’re making (and it’s even mobile-friendly!).

    Minimum Viable Product


    Tim’s rigged up minimum viable product

    In order to test the software without our completed board, Tim rigged up a jankety but surprisingly effective prototype using off the shelf hardware (picture above). He put together an demo where users could import an npm module for an accelerometer peripheral and write the javascript code to print out average values. The JavaScript code was ‘compiled’ and sent over USB to the device. It was really exciting to see our minimum viable product actually working!

    User Testing


    Working with Cory

    We observed several different users with varying software development experience and noted where we had some mental inconsistencies (and a lot of bugs!). Slater (one of our users) was able to make a pretty cool example on his own where the frequency of the blinking of the LEDs was determined by the angle of the accelerometer – all written in a few lines of JavaScript. It was really validating to see someone enjoying the use of our product and gave us a little spurt of motivation to get the product done faster.

    Naming

    We spent several hours this week brainstorming names for what has temporarily been called ScriptStick. We’re looking for a name that denotes a tone of engineering utility, reliability, extensibility, and innovative. We’ve narrowed it down to about ten names and we would love to hear your impression of them:

    1. Tessel
    2. Wireframe
    3. V0
    4. Start Board
    5. Lattice
    6. Reval
    7. Lantern
    8. Quantum
    9. Betaboard
    10. Quartz
    Our First Sale (of our Arduino Shield)
    We also had our first sale this week! We’ve been making inexpensive WiFi boards on the side with the intention of selling them through a separate distributor, but we were able to find a customer before we started officially selling! Drew Volpe is the entrepreneur in residence here at Highland Capital and he recently started working with Arduino. He wanted to connect a temperature sensor to the internet, and since we make shield for about half of what you can buy on major sites like Adafruit.com, it was an great sell. We’ve got all our code for the project over on Github. Look for our shields for sale in the near future.
    Our First Sale!
    ScriptStick Revision Four
    Finally, at the end of the week, our new boards came in! They are small, sexy, and powerful. It’s a huge step up from the prototype Tim had put together earlier and we’re hoping it works as well as it looks. We’ll be finishing testing on it this week and sending in one final revision before we launch on KickStarter!

    ScriptStick Revision Four

    — Jon

    #jom mckay #update #manufacturing #sale

  • Introducing Technical Machine

    Sunday, July 14, 2013

    7/14/2013— Kelsey Breseman

    “Technical Machine is empowering software developers to take embedded devices from plan to prototype to product with ScriptStick, an embedded microcontroller and WiFi chip that lets you use software development skills and tools to create physical, connected devices.”

    We’re working on it, but that statement captures the essence of Technical Machine: creating a hardware development platform for programmers.

    The Machine’s core are three engineers who began working together on teams at Olin College of Engineering, and together discovered their passion as programmers for enabling physical devices.

    Tim Ryan, native to Massachusetts, got started programming on the Commodore 64 and remembers AOL 3.0 fondly. His pet projects include writing compilers and writing games for vintage video game consoles. At last, these skills have finally come in handy.

    Jon McKay was originally drawn to robots; he and his friends founded a FIRST robotics team in his San Diego, CA high school. He is passionate about bringing his software development skills to bear on the physical world.

    Jialiya Huang, of North Carolina, is an electrical and computer engineer who can’t help but improve life through automation.

    The team currently works from the offices of Highland Capital Partners, who selected them as one of nine promising teams out of 900 applicants to their startup accelerator program. They can be found in the office on nights and weekends, working hard or perhaps simply escaping the heat of the un-air-conditioned apartment they share.

    The Ghost in the Machine

    #kelsey breseman #jia huang #jon mckay #tim ryan #technical machine #company culture

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