Sandman Doppler: The World's Best Alarm Clock

Created by Palo Alto Innovation

Alexa enabled, 6 USB charging ports, music playing, smart alarm clock. Meet the Sandman Doppler, the best alarm clock you've ever seen!

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Schedule update, CES recap, and Alpha units
about 1 month ago – Sat, Feb 16, 2019 at 12:00:21 AM

 Patient PAI people,

We survived CES! It was quite an ordeal, but well worth it. In this update, learn about how CES went for us, what we learned about the Doppler, and what the next steps are. 


A quick note on the schedule. Our earlier estimate of shipping production units in March was a bit too optimistic, as it was predicated on the Alpha units being basically perfect. We were hopeful that these Alpha’s would look a little better than they did, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case; we have a full breakdown of the issues in this update. However, the small delay does give us the opportunity to make sure that everything is absolutely perfect with the Doppler before we get the production units into your hands. The good news is that none of the issues we discovered are major, and once everyone is back from the Chinese New Year holiday (more on this below), we will have a clearer picture of how much time it will take to resolve the issues preventing the Doppler from looking its best. Assuming all of the mechanical parts look good (more on this below), the biggest issue in getting production Dopplers into your hands is going to be the lead time for the electronic components. Some of these parts have multiple month long lead times, and we are working with all of our vendors and suppliers to get enough parts for the beta and initial production builds ASAP. We don’t want to give any incorrect information, but our initial rough estimates is that we will begin shipping Dopplers in April or May. Stay tuned for the next update and we will have a more accurate timeline. Thanks again for your patience, we are getting really close!


CES recap

This was our third time exhibiting at CES and it was our biggest and most successful show to date. Check out the last update we posted from the show floor! The show was a huge success and we met lots of past, present, and future customers. We also met quite a few backers at the show this year, thanks again for stopping by and checking out the Doppler everyone! We also met numerous current and potential partners to help the Doppler grow and expand. 


At CES we also got some really great press for the Sandman Doppler. For example, check out this video from a Youtube channel called The Hookup. Yup, he called the Sandman Doppler the best smart home product at CES. How awesome is that!?


Alpha Units 

In a previous updatewe discussed our Alpha build. These were the units that we used at CES So, how did the units look? In short, they looked very good. Everyone at the show was very impressed and happy with them and so are we. That said, we have very high expectations and want to deliver a high-quality product, so we weren’t 100% happy with these units. Since our goal is to make sure the Doppler is the best product (it can be/possible/etc.), as soon as we got back from the show, we started working with our overseas team to fix a couple of issues we noticed.

Some of our Alpha units
Some of our Alpha units

The window on the Doppler is the piece of transparent plastic over the front display. This is a vital piece and the current windows just didn’t fit quite right. You’ll notice that the window tends to bow out, or not sit flat on the front of the alpha units. There is still some tweaking to this part and we are hoping this next revision of the part is going to fit juuuust right.  

Window fitment issues
Window fitment issues

 Another issue with the window was the tint/color. With the tint, some of the windows were too dark or too light which means that they weren’t letting the proper amount of light from the LEDs through. A related issue has to do with the color of the window, both in terms of getting the proper color, and making sure the windows are consistent with one another. In the below picture, all of the Dopplers are set to the same color (white). You can see pretty clearly that although the color of the LEDs is the same, they look very different. This is something we are working on and will fine tune with our overseas team.  

All of these are supposed to be the same color
All of these are supposed to be the same color

This window is a little bit too light
This window is a little bit too light

 Finally, the consistency of the colors on the buttons is not quite right. Some of them aren’t looking as “white” as we would like, and that inconsistency causes some of the buttons to look pinkish when they should be white. This is most noticeable at night, and is basically impossible to photograph. You're going to have to trust us on this! 


Next steps:

Unfortunately, we are currently in the period of the year where almost all work in China stops due to the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday. Officially CNY is a 7-day holiday but from our experience, most factories end up shutting down for 2 full weeks. Some suppliers like to take the week before and/or after the holiday off as well, resulting in a shut down of up to 4 weeks. While this is a major shutdown and time sink, it is something that we had planned for. So, even though China is taking a break, we are not (more on this later). We expect everyone to be back up to speed by the last week in February. 

Once the CNY holiday is over and all our suppliers are back to work, we will make sure all the new tooling modifications look good and begin ordering all of the parts for the beta test build. As is standard practice in manufacturing, the beta units will be assembled at the same factory in which the production units will be made. This allows us both to create all of the quality assurance and assembly instruction paperwork, and then refine the process as needed to ensure the Dopplers are built the same every time and meet our high-quality standards. Once these units have all been tested and approved, we will ship them back to our offices and then on to our beta backers. Beta backers, make sure to keep an eye out for emails from us in the coming weeks and months! Your role in this part of the process is very important in the final development of the Doppler.

So, what have we been up to?  

While CNY has been happening we have been spending most of our energy working on the software of the Doppler. As great as the Doppalator is, having an Alpha unit on your desk to play with and fix bugs is super handy! 

Our of dev's desks
Our of dev's desks

Without getting into too many technical details, as we get closer to production, the time has come to change the operating system that the Doppler is running on. Fear not! This was always part of the plan, and we are happy to report it’s almost complete! Prior to this point, we have been using an off-the-shelf Linux operating system called Ubuntu for development because it’s easier to get up and running. Now that the show is over, the goal is to optimize Doppler’s software so we can maximize its speed and performance. As some of you may be aware, although Ubuntu is easier to set up, it also comes with a lot of unnecessary stuff that takes up valuable space, and won’t improve Doppler’s performance. Instead, we are transitioning to something called Yocto, which is an open source project that creates customized Linux operating systems for embedded devices (like the Doppler!). While Yocto-based operating systems aren’t as easy to work with and get up and running as Ubuntu, they allow us to get over-the-air updates for the Doppler working much more easily and efficiently. Once our Yocto is up and running, we will have a customized Linux operating system specifically designed for the Doppler. What do you guys think we should name it? Doppler OS? DopOs? 


So, how will these over the air updates work with the Doppler? Here is the vision and what we are working on implementing now. 

We plan on continuously supporting and adding new features to the Doppler after launch. So whenever we have new features or bug fixes to send to our customer’s Dopplers you’ll get a notification in the Doppler app saying there is new software available for your Doppler. You’ll click install on your phone and then the magic happens! Your Doppler will download the new software release (with the new features and/or bug fixes) over its WiFi connection and then restart itself when downloaded, don’t worry when the Doppler restarts it will keep all of your custom settings and alarms. We are working to make this process as seamless and automatic as possible. In the future, we plan on allowing your Doppler to automatically update itself overnight and still wake you up in the morning without having to trigger the update in the app. Our over the air updating solution also has the ability to revert to a previous good software release in case something goes wrong during the update. Now all of this isn’t easy to implement so we have been hard at work on making this a reality. 


Another thing we have been working on is our IF This Then That (IFTTT) integration. IFTTT is a web-based service which allows users to utilize their internet capable products in conjunction with each other. As its name indicates (similar to conditional statements in computer programming), the way it works is: the user makes/chooses a “recipe” which takes a condition (IF This), and triggers a secondary action when that condition is met (Then That). This allows you to use the two quick access buttons on top of the Doppler to trigger an  IFTTT “applet” to open your internet connected blinds or turn off your smart light bulbs. Integrating directly with IFTTT straight off the bat allows for a practically limitless number of customizations that the Doppler can use rather than building out lots of individual integrations ourselves. Around the office the past couple days we have been coming up with lots of different IFTTT recipes, like changing the display color of the Doppler if you have an unread email or you’re supposed to be in a meeting or on your lunch break. Look, we didn’t say that all of the ideas were good, but that’s the thing with IFTTT; you can quickly and easily get everything up and running easily without any technical knowledge. We will be sharing some of the best IFTTT use cases as we get closer to launch. Have a good idea for IFTTT? Let us know in the comments! 

Thanks again for your patience, we are heading down the home stretch! 

-The PAI team

Hi from CES 2019!
2 months ago – Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 05:55:45 PM

Hi Kickstarter fans!

Here we are on our last day of CES 2019 and as always it's a tiny bit slower than the first 3 days of the show. We decided to shoot a quick video showing off the Doppler and some of it's features at the show.

Here is the video: 

The show has been great and it's been awesome to meet a lot of our suppliers, distributors, current and future customers, and a lot of backers! 

Here is a shot of our booth:

 We had some nice comfy couches so people could charge up while they recharge. They were a big hit!  

Thanks again for your support and patience from the entire PAI team!

Dev-1 and CES
3 months ago – Sat, Dec 22, 2018 at 12:58:09 AM

Patient PAI people,  

Have we got an update for you! We have a very functional Doppler we would like to show you! Read below for how we got to this point, next steps and to learn more about the biggest trade show of the year, CES.

Working boards!

When we last updated you on the status of the circuit boards of the Doppler we were working with our new digital signal processor (DSP) supplier to get everything working on the boards. Well, we are happy to report that the boards are now 100% functional and working great!

     

Dev-1

Once we got the circuit boards working, it was time for integration. This step is basically taking the Doppler software we have been working on, and getting it to run properly on the newest hardware rather than on our computers. Since we have been planning this integration for a while this went fairly smoothly and we only had one or two unexpected things pop up. After we had the software running properly, we starting checking off features that we had to test and make sure worked (Wifi, Bluetooth, light sensor, microphones, etc). Once all of this was tested, we assembled our first Doppler developer kit, Dev-1.

Dev-1 is actually going to be sent to Israel for our App partner, Zemingo to work with, but first, we wanted to do some testing. We brought Dev-1 home and checked it out in its native habitat, the nightstand. We also brought Dev-1 to an audio testing lab to work on tuning the microphones and Alexa response. Dev-1 is designed with its brain (the board housing the Pico-SoM) on the outside of the case, so in case we ever need to change or swap out anything, it’s much easier. Having the Pico-SoM outside of the case also allows us to push software upgrades and bug fixes very fast as well.   

Dev-1 from it's good side
Dev-1 from it's good side
And it's not so good side
And it's not so good side

 Now that we have integrated everything together and verified, what’s the next step?  

20 Dopplers! 

We are doing an alpha build of the Doppler which we will be showing at the world’s largest consumer electronics show, CES in Las Vegas. Last year, we went to CES to show off the Doppler prototype, this year we plan on showing off 20 Doppler units, in production plastics! It’s been a rough year filled with supplier issues, but the alpha units we will be showing off at the show this year will be very close to finished and we are very proud of what we have accomplished.

CES this year is January 8th through 11th in Las Vegas
CES this year is January 8th through 11th in Las Vegas

CES is a big deal for a company like us. This year we are doing the show right, we will have a large 20’x20’ booth with comfy couches for all the attendees to take a break and charge their phone.

We went through a lot of different designs!
We went through a lot of different designs!

 Will you be at the show? Come stop by!  

If you're in the Vegas area and want to come to the show? It really is a blast! You can register for the show at this link: https://www.compusystems.com/servlet/ar?evt_uid=256&p=DS001020&W=WG01  

If that link doesn’t work, shoot us an email at hi@paloaltoinnovation.com and we look forward to seeing you at the show. 

One more thing we wanted to share with you as CES approaches. At the show this year we are planning on announcing a new brand, which means a new product… before we ship Doppler. The goal of Palo Alto Innovation was always to have multiple brands underneath the PAI umbrella, and we are beginning to truly realize that vision at this show. The reason we are giving everyone the heads up is we want to make it 100% crystal clear that we did not take any resources away from Doppler to focus on the new brand at any point in the past or in the future. Product development is a cycle, and we are towards the end of the cycle for Sandman, so while our manufacturing, hardware, and software teams have been hard at work on Doppler, our design and graphics team have been working on the new brand. We invested a lot of money in CES this year and we have to make it count, and in order to do that, we might ruffle a few feathers by announcing our latest product before the Doppler has been shipped. We thought long and hard about this decision, and we know some of you will be unhappy, but please believe us when we say that delivering the Doppler to each and every one of you is still our #1 priority. In advance thanks for your understanding!

Post CES

After CES is over, and we catch our breath, we will be hard at work preparing for the Beta build of Dopplers, which will be a 200 unit pilot test that will be made overseas. These beta units will go to our beta backers and we will work very closely with them to make sure everything is up to par. Thanks again to all our beta backers who are willing to be our guinea pigs! You are going to make the Doppler better for everyone! We will be in close communication with all of you when the beta program gets closer to kicking off. Once the beta units are tested, we will move onto full-scale production! We strive to keep you informed as we continue down this stretch run towards fulfilling your pledges. Thanks again for sticking through this with us, we know it hasn’t been easy, but we promise it will be worth the wait.

Happy Holidays!
Happy Holidays!

Stay tuned and have a great holiday season!

-The PAI team

Mechanical update: Things are looking good!
4 months ago – Sat, Nov 24, 2018 at 07:18:23 PM

Patient Doppler backers,  

For those that had a lot of turkey the other day, how about a quick update with lots of pictures to help you digest? 

As promised we said we would let you know about the newest plastic parts. Well, today is that day!!  

In this shorter update, we will review the current mechanical parts in detail and show what we have improved along with what still needs to be perfected. Make sure to check the end of this update for instructions on how to grab your discounted original Sandman we mentioned in the previous update!  

Here are the newest Mechanical Doppler parts:

The most recent generation of Doppler parts
The most recent generation of Doppler parts
Things are looking great! Details below!
Things are looking great! Details below!

In previous updates, we have gone over the process of injection molding and how this process works to get perfect plastic parts made in volume. If you’d like a refresher, check out this update, it’s very informative! Well, at this point we have made 3 or 4 tool revisions on the majority of the tools and we are very happy with how most of them have turned out. Let’s start with the most important part of the Doppler, the main body.

Previous revisions of the main body had some warpage in the part. This basically means that the part isn’t quite as straight as it is supposed to be and isn’t being molded properly on the first try. A big and complex part such as this is expected to have some warpage in the first couple revisions, so we weren’t concerned as we knew that a lot of the warp could be ironed out by adjusting certain things in the tool by our overseas team. The newest parts are much less warped and look almost perfect, great job guys! So what isn’t quite perfect yet? Currently, there is some extra plastic, called flash, around the microphone and speaker holes. Along with this, we noticed that the buttons sometimes stick slightly when depressed. This can be easily remedied by adjusting the tooling ever so slightly to open up the holes. Again, these types of issues are to be expected when working with new injection molding tools as the tolerances are very tight. We are hoping the next revision of the part will be production ready!

Warp on the left, almost perfect on the right
Warp on the left, almost perfect on the right
Holes with minor flash
Holes with minor flash
Closeup of the flash
Closeup of the flash

Very early on in the development process of the Doppler, we decided to do a special surface treatment to the exterior of the Doppler called soft touch. Soft touch is a special coating that is put on the outside of products that makes the products appear less shiny and literally soft to the touch. This process has become more and more prevalent in products in the last 10 years or so and really makes a product feel premium and high quality.  Well, even though we are going to be putting soft touch coating on the majority of the exterior surfaces of the Doppler, we still wanted to make sure that underneath the coating the bare plastic was smooth, even, and not scratched. We still have a little bit of work to do on this front, but we are confident that the product will look perfect.

No soft touch on the left, soft touch on the right
No soft touch on the left, soft touch on the right

 The speaker frame is an integral part of the Doppler and creates an air seal to make the speakers sound as good as possible. This part hasn’t changed much at all, and we are very happy with it. We do need to modify a hole slightly, which should be done in the next revision. This is considered a “tool safe” change and will be very easy to do. A quick aside on what is considered tool safe or not. At a basic level, an injection mold is a giant hunk of metal. If the required modification to the giant hunk of metal removes some metal, it’s considered tool safe. If the edit you need to do on the tool requires you to add metal into the tool, this is much harder and considered not tool safe as it’s much easier to cut away some metal than it is to add more metal. The change we need to do is to slightly increase the size of a hole, so this requires removing metal in the tool, so it’s tool safe. The hole that we need to increase in size is the hole where the cable goes in between the button board and display board. We are increasing this hole slightly because it will make sourcing these cables much easier in production.

The speaker frame and the hole we need to increase.
The speaker frame and the hole we need to increase.
Closeup of the backside of the hole
Closeup of the backside of the hole

The display frame is the part that actually makes the Doppler’s lights come to life! Without the display frame you’d just have blobs of light without any sort of separated segments. In order to get these segments as crisp as possible, the display frame has to be as flat as possible. We noticed some rough spots on the display, in particular with the area around the temperature/humidity 7 segments. This has been smoothed out in the latest revision and looks great.

Closeup showing the rough finish
Closeup showing the rough finish
Closeup showing the smoothed out part
Closeup showing the smoothed out part

So, what else needs to be done? Well once these couple issues are resolved we will make 20 full sets of the parts for an engineering build. We will assemble these 20 units with circuit boards (more on that in the next update) and make 20 working Dopplers! These will be the alpha units and we will stress test them and go over everything with a fine-toothed comb. It’s very likely we will find some other small issues which we will want to tackle before we move on to the larger scale beta test.

In general, we are very happy with the mechanical and we hope you all are as well!

As mentioned in our previous update, we wanted to do something for all of you for being so patient while we work through these supplier issues. We sent out the discount codes for your discounted Original Sandman the other day to the email address you used for this campaign. If you still haven’t gotten it, make sure to check your spam folder, if it’s still not there, let us know and we will make it right. Please send us a message or an email at support@paloaltoinnovation.com Hopefully this discounted original Sandman holds you over until the Doppler arrives, it also makes a great gift!  

We plan on sending out another update addressing the circuit boards shortly, but things are looking great. Thanks again for your patience!

 -PAI team

New schedule and DSP update, plus a discounted original Sandman
5 months ago – Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 02:10:36 AM

Loyal Doppler supporters, here we are with another email update.

First off, we just wanted to say thanks for sticking with us and all the support you have given us is keeping us energized and excited. The Doppler is going to be an awesome product and we can’t wait to get it into your hands!

So, when will this actually happen? When will we be able to ship you guys the darn things?! There are currently numerous factors that are creating long lead times in the entire industry. Once the circuit board design is verified and we can order the electrical components and start the clock on those lead times. Our current target is to start the initial production of the Doppler right after Chinese New Year 2019 ends at the end of February. This means that we hope to ship you your Doppler units in March.

We know it may sound repetitive, but we really are very unhappy with the numerous delays and we know you are as well. We want nothing more than to get the Doppler into your hands as soon as possible! In an attempt to apologize to you guys, we would like to offer a discount on the Original Sandman. While the Original Sandman doesn’t have all the great features the Doppler has it should be a great holdover for you while waiting for the Doppler. You can learn more about the original Sandman here: sandmanclocks.com. Please check your email in the coming weeks and we will send over a personalized discount code for everyone.

The original Sandman
The original Sandman

In the previous update, we explained the issues we had with the DSP (digital signal processor) when the supplier no longer could support us. Well for the last month and a half we have worked on ripping out the DSP, microphone, power, and amplifier parts of our boards and replacing them with new parts that are being supported by our new DSP supplier. This ended up being about 50% of the board design, so it was a pretty major change. Once we were done with the board design, we sent it out to be manufactured. When we got the board and the parts, we brought them to our local assembly shop to put the (421!) surface mount parts on the board. After we got the newly-assembled boards in-house, we started the board bring up process and crossed our fingers. As is typical with complex engineering projects, we knew better than to expect everything to just work right away because we couldn’t finish writing the necessary drivers and software without physically having the boards. But, we do have good news! As it stands, the DSP is fully functional and we have it recording and sending sound to the main Doppler computer! We are currently working on bringing up the new stereo amplifier on the boards, which is the chip responsible for actually playing the sound from the Doppler computer. We are hoping to get this working in the next week or so. Getting sound to come out of the DSP is a huge step and once the new stereo amplifier chip is up and running we will have fully functional Doppler boards!

The green areas are the changed sections of the board
The green areas are the changed sections of the board
The green areas are the changed sections of the board
The green areas are the changed sections of the board

 It might sound like we are still really far away from having a working Doppler. While I understand that feeling, let me tell you why it’s not accurate. In a previous update, we mentioned the Doppalator (the Doppler emulator). For those that need a reminder, The Doppalator is a Linux application that we created that mimics the actual Doppler hardware. This means that everything that works on the Doppalator will work on the finished hardware. The Doppalator currently has an estimated 70% of the functionality working reliably. So even though there have been hardware setbacks, we have been making progress on the software side. This is where a lot of our work has been when we haven’t been working on the boards. This is a partial list of some of the features that currently work on the Doppalator (in no particular order): Amazon Alexa, Alarms, 12/24 hour time, time set mode, color of the display, display brightness, volume buttons, mute button, timezones, BLE connection to the phone, day of the week, am/pm, time zones, and Wifi setup.

Here is a quick video demo of the Doppalator and Alexa working. This show the mute button working and the mic button working, along with some terrible dad jokes.

  
The next couple of things we will tackle (when we aren’t working on the boards): Dashboard, light sensor auto dimming, OTA software updating, A2DP and a couple other smaller items. These are significant pieces we have to get working but we know we can get everything done. We also want to stress that all the work we do on the Doppalator will be applied to the hardware once the boards are up and working! When we finish the remaining 30% of the development, we will be ready for a Beta test with our beta backers! These beta backers will help us make any last tweaks before we get everyone else their Dopplers! We then hope to continuously add more and more features in our quest to make the Doppler the best it can be. For those that are curious, the first major addition to the Doppler we plan on working on after Beta, Google Assistant!

  • Some other quick updates: The newest mechanical parts are looking really very good and are almost perfect! We just have a couple small tweaks to get everything juuuust right and then we can mark off the mechanical as finished. We are getting new parts in the mail the week after next, and we look forward to sharing those with you when they arrive! 
  • The packaging design has begun; it will be a similar style to our original Sandman Clock. We are very happy with how this is progressing and our graphics team are now working on the exterior graphics of the box. 
Prototype packaging. Proto-package?
Prototype packaging. Proto-package?
  • Our app partners over at Zemingo have been hard at work as well and we are working on nailing down the OOBE (out of box experience) and initial setup of the Doppler via the app. Here are some screenshots of the current build of the app (which is a work in progress): 

Wifi setup screen
Wifi setup screen
"Home" screen
"Home" screen
Settings screen
Settings screen

Alright, that brings you up to speed on where we’re at with development! Although there is still work to be done, we are determined to get the Doppler onto your nightstands as quickly as we can. Thanks again for your support and patience!  

-PAI team