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:

App, Chip Pro updates, and tooling pictures
12 months ago – Fri, Apr 06, 2018 at 11:53:57 PM

Doppler supporters lend me your ears! 

We have a full update below with some pretty interesting pictures on the bottom! Read on and let us know in the comments any questions you might have. 

App update:

The latest app wireframe
The latest app wireframe

Everyone has a favorite feature of the Doppler and we were surprised pretty early in the process as to just how many different favorites there are! Some love the big display, others love the USB C upgradability, most like Alexa, but the thing most of us at PAI are most excited about is the App. Not necessarily what the App can do at launch, but some of the features we plan on adding after the Doppler launches. In order to get you some of these awesome features even sooner, we have decided to bring in the big guns and have agreed to a partnership with the Zemingo Group. 

Zemingo, like zebra and flamingo
Zemingo, like zebra and flamingo

We have been talking to the guys at Zemingo for about the last 12 months on and off and finally got to meet face to face at CES. Their expertise is really going to bring a level of polish that we couldn’t have achieved. It will also allow new and exciting features to come to the Doppler sooner than we could without their help. Currently, Zemingo is reviewing everything we have done previously in regards to the app, ripping it apart and improving it. We can’t wait to see what they come up with, it’s going to be awesome!  

Chip Pro:  

As some of our backers have noticed things aren’t looking too great over with one of our main hardware partners, Next Thing Co. (NTC) makers of the Chip Pro, the “brain” of the Doppler. Allow me to explain what’s going on, how this affects the Doppler, and what we are doing about it. 

Back when we were designing the Doppler we wanted it to have a full computer inside, this meant a tiny SBC (single board computer) embedded inside the product somehow. Most of the solutions were going to be too expensive, so when we found the Chip Pro we were thrilled. This was a $16 computer available at any quantity that was designed to be embedded directly onto our circuit board. We ordered some boards, tested them out and were happy with the solution. Since we were working with these guys so closely, we knew something serious was going on as early as December. 

Keep reading, it will be ok! We promise!
Keep reading, it will be ok! We promise!

We were told in January that things were looking up and we were in discussions about putting in our production order when things QUICKLY turned south. In the next couple days, it will be announced that the assets of Next Thing Co. will be for sale allowing someone to manufacture and sell Chip Pros to people like us. Now, this being said we have no idea if or how they will change the product and what price they will sell it for. So for the first production run of the Doppler, we need to go a different direction. 

Breathe! It will be ok!
Breathe! It will be ok!

Over here at PAI, we have been very busy evaluating multiple different options to replace the Chip Pro. We looked at any and every option we could imagine, from producing our own Chip Pro, using a Raspberry Pi, to doing everything with a microprocessor. While we haven’t settled on one yet we have narrowed the contenders down to 2 options and we are confident we can decide on one in the coming month or so. These are both SOM (system on module) solutions that run Linux allowing us to easily port our software over from the code we had built for the Chip Pro. 

:)
:)

So how does this affect the timeline? Long story short, it shouldn’t affect it at all. Both solutions we are looking at have relatively short lead times and our software can easily be integrated over to the solution we are using. We will have to do a couple new revisions of the circuit board as the footprint of the new solutions are slightly different from the Chip Pro, but this isn’t a big deal at all. Unfortunately, stuff like this happens all the time in the business and being able to adapt quickly is the name of the game. We are sorry to see NTC go, but fear not, the Doppler isn’t going anywhere! 

We told you it would be ok!
We told you it would be ok!

Tooling update:

Tooling is underway for the Doppler! The tools should be done in the next couple weeks and we will get the first parts of the tools, T1s, soon. This will allow us to put together the first injection molded Doppler and see what sort of tool modification we have to do to make everything fit juuuust right. Check out these pictures of the various Doppler tools!  

Main body
Main body
Main body slider (where the buttons go)
Main body slider (where the buttons go)
Main body cavity
Main body cavity
Speaker frame
Speaker frame
USB cover
USB cover
Window
Window

While these hunks of metal are dirty, gross and grimy now. Once they are finished they will be textured and polished up and they will create the plastic parts for your very own Doppler! How exciting is that?

Thanks again for your support and we look forward to any questions or comments you guys might have. 

-PAI Team

Schedule update and CES Recap!
about 1 year ago – Fri, Feb 23, 2018 at 07:21:08 PM

Doppler supporters,  

Here we are with another Sandman Doppler update and this one is long and important. So strap in and we will do our best to update you on as much information as we can!

Schedule update

First off and most importantly is the schedule update. We know this is what most of you want and are interested in, so we aren’t going to bury it on the bottom of the update, it goes at the very top! Since we had to do some pretty serious design changes on the Doppler (moving the light sensor and mics, neopixels, and speaker baffles) after the campaign we haven’t opened tooling up nearly as early as we wanted. We did anticipate this would happen to some extent so we budgeted some time for it. That being said, we would have liked to be further along than we are. While it's still possible to hit our previously announced launch date we wanted to readdress the schedule. 

So, what does that mean?

Here is the current updated schedule next to the old one:

Old and new timeline
Old and new timeline

First off, the beta units will be late. No question there. The good news is we have gone through so much DFM (design for manufacturing) and prototyping in the last couple months with our factory’s tooling engineers everyone is very optimistic about the quality of the units we will get from our first parts out of the tools (these are called T1’s). Also, we will have lots of time to work on the software and get things to a better point for our beta users to test when these are ready.

General production will most likely be delayed a month. We are going to try and beat these estimates, but we would like to prepare you for your Doppler being a month or so late.

Why the delay? 

As we noted in previous updates we decided to make some pretty serious changes to the main display, microphones, light sensor and speaker enclosure. This required us to work closely with the factory to redesign the tooling. We went through months of DFM and are now confident we have a design that will require minimal tooling changes once first made. In order to test out our newest design, we went through multiple revisions of prototypes including the current prototypes we showed at CES, which look incredible!

How did we come up with this current schedule?  

We have been discussing the schedule with our partners at our factory for months, but when we met at CES we started to nail down the schedule in a little more detail. A lot of the schedule was contingent on how well the prototypes came out (more on these later, but they came out great). The week after CES we met in person with the CEO of our factory at our office and nailed down the schedule further. Until something changes, the schedule listed above is what we are going to do our best to stick to. Once again if something changes we will let you know.

What’s the next step?  

The next step for the Doppler is to start cutting the steel for the tool! The injection molded parts are made out of giant hunks of steel that have to be cut and milled very precisely to create all of the features of the Doppler. We purchased the steel right before Chinese new year started and once the factories all come back online after the holiday we are going to start cutting. In 30 days or so we will get the T1 samples. These are the first parts to come out of the tool and we can’t wait to see how they look!  

We are sorry for this minor delay and we are working on getting these to you as fast as possible!

Eval boards

Some of our boards
Some of our boards

We are currently working with our 5th revision of the Doppler board design and they are working very well but aren’t quite there. We expect this next revision of the board to be almost production ready. The boards are made in one large panel that has both the button board and the display board in PCB. We can then carefully snap the boards apart when you want to put them into a Sandman body. The 2 boards are currently connected using header wires, but the next rev of the boards will use fine pitch connectors to allow for easier assembly and manufacturability.

Let’s dive into the boards a little further:

The latest rev of the Display board
The latest rev of the Display board

The Display board is responsible for showing the user the time and other dashboard information. The board is broken up into 4 main parts: The light bar, time display, dashboard, and secondary digit areas. In update #11 we discussed the difference between RGB LEDs and neopixels. Well, we decided to do a hybrid approach and have both types of lights on the board. We are confident this is the best solution for this product and are very happy with the quality of the display. The hybrid display uses 104 Neopixels to light up the light bar, main time display, and dashboard along with 20 RGB LEDs to light up the 7 segment part of the display. We could have made neopixels work on the 7 segment part of the display, but the area is just too small for it to work well.

The button board in all it's glory!
The button board in all it's glory!

 

The button board is where the magic happens! The button board uses 12 RGB led’s to light up the buttons allowing them to be visible at night. There are also specially designed pads on the board for a type of button, called a carbon pill switch. Basically, there is a very small disc (called a pill) of highly conductive material on the underside of the buttons. When any of the pills touch the pads on the circuit boards this triggers the switch! The board also has 2 microphones on it which are used for Alexa and a light sensor in between them for automatic brightness adjustment. All of these lights and sensors are controlled by a custom programmed microcontroller that communicates back and forth with the main “brain” of the Doppler, the Chip Pro. The Chip Pro is a full Linux computer and is mounted directly to our circuit board, this is where most of the programming work will go into. Also on the button board is a stereo amplifier for the speakers, and a digital signal processing chip to help the microphones work better.

These circuit boards need a couple small tweaks which we are working on and we hope to release the next revision of the boards in a couple weeks.  

CES 2018 and the prototype we have

The Doppler at CES 2018
The Doppler at CES 2018

CES 2018 was a huge success! We had incredible feedback from almost everyone that stopped by our booth and had some huge wins in the media. We also made some great retail and distribution contacts as well as some strategic partners we will be announcing soon. The best part of the show was meeting two of our backers that stopped by and introduced themselves, seriously guys, thanks.

The Doppler team at CES 2018
The Doppler team at CES 2018

Our booth was pretty small compared to some giants around us, but we had the comfiest couches at the show (as we were told) and encouraged people to stop by, take a break and charge their phone (using a Sandman of course). Next year at CES we are stepping up to a bigger booth and hope to meet some more of you there!

One of our booth neighbors had these giant light up floating balloons. It was amazing.
One of our booth neighbors had these giant light up floating balloons. It was amazing.

We hope you all saw the silly little video we did at the show, well here are some better videos:

What time is it?

 Super corny jokes

The colors change!

 

It does 12 and 24 hour time!

 

Adjustable brightness!

 

And of course, it plays music. 

What do you want us to ask Alexa? Let us know in the comments!  

Some of our prototype parts
Some of our prototype parts

These prototypes are made out of a couple machined pieces of plastic that were then hand assembled and painted. They were then sprayed with the same soft touch coating that we will be using for the production units. Our guys over at factory did an incredible job on them and they look almost perfect. We now have a bar to aim for with our injection molded parts that will be coming off the tooling, shortly. There are some things we want to improve, mainly with the buttons and the display, but we are confident those can be fixed in production. 

A closeup of the Doppler's silicone buttons
A closeup of the Doppler's silicone buttons

 

The back of the buttons, featuring carbon pills
The back of the buttons, featuring carbon pills

 

The back of the Doppler
The back of the Doppler

 

It's looking great!
It's looking great!

Sandmandoppler.com is live  

While we have been working hard on the engineering side of things we have been working on the website as well! Right before CES we launched sandmandoppler.com and sandmanclocks.com! Both sites are dedicated to one product each and we love how both of them turned out. If you can, please share with your friends! We are also still live on Indiegogo on-demand and are selling pre-orders over there as well. Spread the news! 

Our new Sandman Doppler website
Our new Sandman Doppler website

 

In the next update, we plan on discussing updates to the Software, App, and to Alexa. We can’t wait until all of you guys get your hands on a Doppler and I’m sure you’re going to love it. If you ever have any questions or comments please let us know via Kickstarter, social media or email. Thanks again for your passionate support!

-The PAI team

Quick video update from CES!
about 1 year ago – Tue, Jan 09, 2018 at 11:25:08 PM

Loyal Doppler supporters, 

We are here at CES and decided to take a quick and impromptu video of a Doppler prototype we have here at the show.

Here is the video that we posted on facebook earlier tonight: 

https://www.facebook.com/paloaltoinnovation/videos/1597908333658832 

(make sure to follow us on Facebook as well)

Here are some pictures we took of a couple prototypes as well. Sorry again for the terrible quality, we will get some better ones once we get back from the show. 

When in Vegas...
When in Vegas...

 

Colors!
Colors!

 

24 hour time and Alexa lights
24 hour time and Alexa lights

 

Top buttons, showing mic and light sensor placement
Top buttons, showing mic and light sensor placement

 

Rear USB ports
Rear USB ports

 

The app!
The app!

 

These are some great looking prototypes!
These are some great looking prototypes!

 More updates soon! 

-PAI team

Work work work!
over 1 year ago – Fri, Dec 08, 2017 at 12:12:24 AM

Hi all, 

We haven't been very good at updating you on the progress of the Doppler and it's development. Why?

We have been SUPER busy and have neglected these updates. Sorry about that! We have been very good at responding to comments on the Kickstarter and answering messages. So, if you ever have a question, let us know and we will get back to you ASAP. 

Our next big deadline is January 9th, the start of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we mentioned in the past. We are booth # 42757 which is upstairs at the Sands convention center behind the Venetian Hotel. Here is the map: 

 Now, onto the Doppler!

Speaker testing with reference mic  

As David (the lead designer on the project) mentioned in the video, sound is very important to us. We spent a long time tuning the speakers in the Doppler to sound as great as possible before the campaign. Most of the testing we did was by ear, which is not the most scientific way of testing speaker quality. Recently we spent some time with some very fancy acoustic testing equipment in a simulated anechoic chamber to scientifically verify that our speakers sounded great! Through this testing, we found a few tweaks we could make to increase the sound quality and frequency response.   

Our audio expert suggested we added two internal “blockers” to increase the distance the sound has to travel to the bass port, thus increasing our bass output. We mocked this up with our 3d printer and then tested again in the anechoic chamber. The difference was substantial and the Doppler sounds even better now, both to our ears and to the fancy testing equipment.

The blockers are in blue
The blockers are in blue

 

3D printed prototype blockers
3D printed prototype blockers

Once we have final Doppler parts using production components and injection molded parts we will do another round with the chamber so we can use the information to tune the speakers even further via an equalizer in software. This should help dial in the sound EVEN further and we are confident everyone will be happy with the sound quality of the product.

User Experience (UX) Updates

During the Kickstarter, we listened hard to what our users wanted and in the last couple weeks we have spent a lot of time in our conference room working on the UX of the product. While it seems like a very simple product at first glance, the Doppler is actually a pretty complex product with lots of nuances and use cases that aren’t apparent at first glance. On top of this, the Doppler has a screen on the front, illuminated buttons on the top and a smartphone app. All of these have to have a cohesive and intuitive user experience that works. We are now going through all of these in detail and we will constantly be tweaking these internally until we release to the Beta backers. We will take Beta backers feedback and refine the user experience even further.

We went through a lot of post-its
We went through a lot of post-its

 Color Update

 Above is a graph of the latest data for the color counts for the Doppler from Backerkit. Currently only Blackout, Moon Grey, and Midnight Blue have passed the threshold for being produced, but we are hopeful that Sunset Orange and Dusk Red will cross the threshold as more orders come in before production starts. If you’d like to order more Dopplers or know someone that might make sure to direct them here: https://sandman-doppler-the-worlds-best-alarm-clock.backerkit.com/  

Currently Green flash and Sunset pink look to be at risk of not getting made. We will give it some more time before calling it with these colors, but just thought we’d give you guys a colorful heads up.

Picture of all of our backers:   

We wanted to share this pretty awesome map we made. Every single pin is one of our amazing backers, you guys! The Doppler is worldwide and we thank you all for your amazing support!  

We are aiming for another in-depth update between Christmas and New Years on our decision to use Neopixels, DFM, tooling, and some other exciting news around Alexa. In the meantime, back to work for us! 

Thanks and have a very happy holiday season!  

Talk soon!

-PAI

Mics, LED's, Alexa SDK, oh my!
over 1 year ago – Mon, Oct 09, 2017 at 10:26:05 PM

Doppler supporters,

It’s been a couple weeks since our last update, a lot has happened, and we wanted to fill you in! 

Reward Shipping Update

Thanks again to everyone who filled out the backerkit surveys so promptly! For those that haven’t yet, here is the link: https://sandman-doppler-the-worlds-best-alarm-clock.backerkit.com/  

Through the same link (https://sandman-doppler-the-worlds-best-alarm-clock.backerkit.com/) you’ll be able to get any additional add-ons you’d like (Doppler, Shirts, Original Sandman and cables) for the next couple months until the Doppler ships.

Cables and Sandmen!
Cables and Sandmen!

 

            
Check out all of the shirt colors!
Check out all of the shirt colors!

 

 Also if you need to change or edit your order or address the same link (https://sandman-doppler-the-worlds-best-alarm-clock.backerkit.com/) will work up until we “lock down” before shipping (the current schedule is Q2 2018). If you have already done this, you’re all set until the Doppler ships. 

Some orders going out to the truck
Some orders going out to the truck

 As of now, we have sent out all shirts, cable, and original Sandmen to all that have been ordered. 

If you feel like you have been missed or are having troubles, message us here on Kickstarter or send us an email at support@paloaltoinnovation.com 

 Now, onto the actual product!  

Mic + Light sensor placement

Originally the Microphone and light sensor of the Doppler was located on the front of the unit. The Microphones would be behind two holes and the light sensor is located behind the tinted plastic.
Yellow for lightsensor, teal for mic holes
Yellow for lightsensor, teal for mic holes

We were planning for the final version of the Doppler to have smaller microphone holes on the front and the Light sensor is totally hidden behind the tinted front plastic. After some testing and more engineering, we are considering moving both the sensor and the microphones to the top of the unit.

The proposed new design!
The proposed new design!

 We are still testing to see if the microphone will be able to “hear” better on the top, but the light sensor will certainly have an easier time “seeing” how bright the room is on the top of the product as it won’t be behind the tinted plastic front which effectively acted like sunglasses. The original Sandman had it’s light sensor behind the front glass in the lower left corner, and it worked well. We are confident that moving the light sensor to the top will result in an even better product.

Light sensor on original Sandman
Light sensor on original Sandman

 We are also happy with the way the new top of the product looks, with the new microphone and light sensor, or with just the light sensor and with the microphones on the front still. It all depends on the testing we are doing now.

LED’s vs Neopixels

Some prototype boards
Some prototype boards

 One of the things we love about the Sandman is the type of display it uses. It’s not an LCD like most alarm clocks that emit lots of light into the room due to its backlight even at their dimmest setting. The Sandman uses large 1.8” 7-segment displays that will dim all the way down to nothing and emit no light into the room. The Doppler takes the same general principle from the original Sandman but kicks it up to the next level. We are currently testing two different solutions and are confident both will deliver a great product; we want to make sure we get the best possible solution.

Original Sandman 7-segment display
Original Sandman 7-segment display

 The way the prototype shown in the video was made was using 164 tiny LEDs. These LEDs are very small, around 2 mm x 2mm and actually have three “lights” in them, a red one, a green one and a blue one. Mixing these colors together and you can get any color you want. These LEDs need a “driver chip” in order to control them an supply power to them to utilize them in the Doppler. Due to the number of LEDs, we have to have a slew of driver chips to make the Doppler function. We are very happy with this solution, but we wanted to make sure we give you guys the best possible product so we had to try out another solution. 

Neopixel on right, LED on left. Quarter for scale.
Neopixel on right, LED on left. Quarter for scale.

 Thanks to the popularity of things like LED light strips LEDs with built-in drivers have become more and more popular. These are popularly known as “neopixels” and they are tiny 3.5mm x 3.5mm chips with 3 LEDs and the driver built into them. Another advantage of neopixels is you can daisy chain them together to make the board design a little simpler since there is no need for drivers. The downside to the neopixels is they are significantly more expensive than the LED’s and we haven’t tested the solution. So what’s the plan? Since we have already built and tested the LED solution, our next revision of the circuit boards will be using neopixels. We will report back which solution works better, but both solutions should be functionally and visually identical to you, the user.

So what’s the plan? Since we have already built and tested the LED solution, our next revision of the circuit boards will be using neopixels. We will report back which solution works better, but both solutions should be functionally and visually identical to you, the user.

Alexa SDK


For the last couple months, our software guys have been writing code for a service called AVS or Alexa Voice Services. AVS is the service that allows the Doppler (and other devices) to integrate with Amazon’s Alexa. The solution Amazon recommended used “interpreted” programming languages such as Python and Java to integrate AVS into devices.

Our engineers tested out some of these devices and we weren’t happy with the speed of the Alexa integration and felt like it took a little bit too long for Alexa to respond to your requests and wanted a more elegant native solution for the Doppler. To do this our team wrote our own Alexa protocol to communicate with AVS using C++, a native (non-interpreted) language. We did get it working fairly well and we were very happy with the speed, efficiency, and elegance of our new native solution. 

This Kickstarter closed on August 16th at 9 pm. 12 hours later, at 9 am on the 17th we got an email that Amazon had announced and released a new Alexa Device SDK (software development kit). This SDK effectively replaced our homegrown C++ solution and did it better than we ever could. We have spent the last couple weeks digging into the SDK and learning all of the things that it can do. We can now confidently say the new SDK is fantastic and we will end up with a more elegant and faster solution than we could have ever hoped. Another advantage of the new SDK is that a lot of the little nuances of the Alexa experience that Amazon has done such a great job with will be brought over to the Doppler. These are things like the volume of the music lowering when you say Alexa and what happens when an alarm goes off. Thanks to Amazon for making this SDK, it’s going to greatly help with development!

CES 2018

Palo Alto Innovation will be at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas! The dates of the show this year: January 9th-12th 2018

CES is the biggest tradeshow of the year and it’s absolutely huge. Last year 180,000 people flocked to 4 different convention centers around the city to check out over 4,000 different exhibiting companies. If you haven’t been, we highly recommend it. Pro tip: wear VERY comfortable shoes.  

We exhibited at CES a couple years back, but this year we are exhibiting upstairs at the Sands convention center and while it will be very tiring, I'm sure it will be a blast!  

If you’re at the show come say hi and check out the progress on the Doppler!  

Our booth is #: 42757 and we will be in the Smart Home category in "Tech west", upstairs at the Sands. We will send out a map in the next couple months.

Last time we were at CES
Last time we were at CES

 Thanks for reading and let us know if you have any questions.  

Stay tuned for our next update where we will discuss speaker testing, UX development, a color update and the Doppalator!

Thanks!

-PAI Team

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