If you read my Kickstarter update #22 and the comments then you know that we are pushing the release date of the camera, and I promised I would give you more detailed information about where we are and what still needs to be done.Where we are now:
In the Kickstarter update I talked about the team and being ready to move forward. I wanted to go into that a little more. Vahesan is the name of our new project manager. As I described in update #20, he has experience with both military and medical equipment projects. I haven’t met him in person, but I wanted to tell you about my experience with him so far. Vahesan has over 16 years of experience in research and development, embedded systems, product development, and project management. Embedded systems is key by the way; it involves FPGA based designs like the backend of our camera. The first time we spoke was tense at first. He was calling me as the final step in bringing him on board, a sort of telephone interview. He was already vetted by the rest of the team, and had the technical skill and understanding needed to receive their endorsement. The question now was could I work with him, specifically over the phone since this is how we would interact most. Vahesan speaks with a strong accent, and in the first 5 minutes I thought this might be a problem for us, as I have had problematic language barriers before. His job requires him to be very knowledgeable about electronics, but at its core it is more about communication than anything else. Almost immediately I was impressed with how good he was at explaining complex concepts in very simple ways and how direct he was in his general communication. These were two of my major concerns. We talked for over an hour and he told me about many of the projects he had worked on in the past. He told me about his experience with one medical product in particular that really impressed me. He was brought on as project manager, the same role I was interviewing him for, when they were already over a year behind their original forecasted deadline. It seemed that as time passed, the time needed to complete the project kept growing instead of getting shorter. He quickly discovered that the team building the device didn’t have the education necessary to use the newer technology, so they were working with older processors and electronics concepts. The team had built many things in the past and were a legacy feature at the company, and they were several years into the project, so building a completely new team was not an option. Educating everyone on all of the components necessary was also going to take too long. The CEO had given him 6 months to get the project completed or it would be scrapped. He was in a nearly impossible position. When he was telling me this, I thought to myself, “I have no idea what I would do in that situation,” but he did. He broke the large team up into smaller teams with the express purpose of learning small specific micro projects. He also convinced upper management to allow a few of the older engineers to retire early so he could bring some very necessary new blood in the mix, and he set out redesigning all of the boards and component relationships himself. It was a Herculean effort, but they got the job done on time and on budget!
As I stated in the kickstarter update, Vahesan is very pleased with the team we have assembled. He is also pleased with the chosen electronics and layout we have done so far. He doesn’t feel this will be anywhere near as challenging as the medical device project. He would like to add one more position, someone dedicated to GUI (Graphical User Interface), but other than that he feels like it’s one of the best teams he has gotten to work with! We do have someone working on GUI, but that engineer is also working on other firmware elements. We originally thought our menus will be so simple that we wouldn’t need a dedicated person, but Vahesan feels that a dedicated person is key to a good user experience.
My next interaction with him was just as impressive. I had given him the very difficult task of getting up to speed on all of the electronics, interviewing all of the engineers working on the project, and writing me a report based on his findings in just three days. I wanted to write an update for you guys by Friday August 10th, and Monday the 6th was a holiday in Canada so no one was there. I hadn’t heard from him by closing time on Thursday so I gave him a call, a little nervous that I was going to hear, “sorry there just wasn’t enough time.” Instead he answered the phone “I am working on the report right this minute and was going to email you!” He promised to send me the report that evening and he did as he said. Well after midnight his time, I received his report, and it was thorough! A lot of it is internal stuff, but I pulled a few lines for you to get a sense of it…
All of the components for the Sensor board and FPGA boards are secured. The DSP processors for DSP board also have been secured. Most other components are being ordered now, and should come in within a few weeks.
The mechanical design of the housing has been progressing steadily, Proto rev 3 is now complete and in fabrication. Mechanical parts are expected to start coming in 2 weeks. In general complete fabricated housing is expected in 4 weeks’ time.
The SATA interface has been tested on an eval board even with the DNG file format at 100MBps. The test was successful.
HDMI and display interfaces have been fundamentally validated, but they still need to be ported into the Bolex design.
The entire report is three very dense pages like this. I think I read it at least 3 times trying to absorb all of the information. Basically, like I said in the Kickstarter update, we are over some of the biggest hurdles. We have in our possession a lot of the components, and what we don’t have is on order. Most importantly, except for one more hire, we have everyone we need in place and are working hard to complete the project!
Here are a few pictures of some of the people doing this awesome work for us…
I hope this gives you all a better idea of where we are and how we are moving forward. Please feel free to ask further questions and I will as always do my best to answer them.
Thank you all for your support, Joe