Monday, July 7, 2014

Prototyping -From Dreamscape to Reality

In 1984, Joseph Ruben directed a science fiction film called “Dreamscape”. In this movie, you are taken to a lab where scientists and system integrators are busy developing head gear, to aid in the monitoring and control of dreams. The first appearance of this head gear is very crude, as it is cumbersome, bulky, and heavy, with wires and leads sticking out everywhere, but later, as the development on the head gear continues, it becomes a sleek, fully functional, and lightweight head set.

Many times in my career as a systems integrator, I have made reference to this movie to my clients, during product development, as the movie’s product development story-line is especially useful to help clients understand the paper napkin to actual working prototype phase. During this phase, which I call the ugly duckling phase, a system integrator will assist the client in determining the specifications for what the proof of concept product will actually do and also how they foresee it to be used or operated by their customers. Here, a systems integrator’s experience and knowledge in the vast and sundry lists of product lines and product abilities, helps to create a “how” the product could be made, and a “with what” sub-product integration plan. These steps are essential for the proof of concept prototype and for systems integration for it, as the steps provide how the individual parts are interconnected to operate as a whole. A systems integrator’s experience saves money and development time during this product development phase.

The image above is a robotic imaging system that was used to acquire thousands of images of the inside of a grocery store. This system then stitched these images together for a complete internal view of the store, which then allowed for a remote virtual walk-through of the store by vendors and product manufacturers. Here, you can see that the proof of concept prototype started as a crude but effective structure with nine cameras, though as the prototype evolved into a product, it was found that these tasks could be performed by three higher end cameras more efficiently and more cost efficiently. These changes were made due to technology changes to products during the design phase, overstated specifications of products from manufacturers who didn't understand their products or who never tested their products under the new circumstances presented by the newly developed system, and for several other reasons including cost savings.

I use this robotic imaging system as an example, to illustrate that during the prototyping stage for a product, an easily modifiable framework is typically built. This framework is fluid and will change many times during the development and testing of the product. This is true for both hardware and software products and systems. These changes are typically due to subsection assemblies presenting their limitations and/or incompatibilities, which ironically everyone on the team initially thinks are assets to the product. This leads to reevaluating the hardware and/or software of the prototype design, and then selecting new technology and integrating it into the now existing system for retesting. These steps are essential during product development and design, as they allow new and unseen pathways to be taken for better product development and improved specifications to be made for the product, so that in the end, the team creates a better end product overall. This is the prototype evolution of a paper napkin dream to product reality.

I invite you to visit and contact Controlled Capture Systems to discuss your project requirements and specifications. Together we can bring success and simplicity to your product dream. 

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