Back in 2015, our original Kickstarter included an early-bird Mark I Developer Kit as a perk. We wanted to give our true early adopters the chance to get their hands on the earliest version of Mark I. Then, they could contribute feedback on the software and hardware back to the Mycroft Community, making the final product better.
Our original plan for the Mark II did not include this same iterative design approach. This was due to the highly-integrated custom board we intended to build, which didn’t allow for easy modification of board designs.
But now that we’re redesigning Mark II without custom components, we’re able to build some early units for real-world testing.
Why Ship Early Hardware?
As some of you guys pointed out in comments and emails, we still have some quirks to iron out in the Mark II user experience. We have a few ideas to test that should provide great results, and it’s time to get fresh eyes on Mark II to test and give feedback.
One of the most important parts we will be testing is the mechanical design of the microphone assembly and loudspeaker. Recently, we confirmed how drastically the right design can impact barge-in performance. With help from leading consulting companies in the audio engineering space, we’ve made significant improvements to barge-in and consequently, usability. Now we need to test how it works in varied room shapes with different sound environments to see if further revision is needed.
We are building a small batch of these units right now. Each of these devices will cost us almost $1000 in labor, 3D printing, and small-quantity components. We have identified a group of Community Members as early testers. Before shipping, we will reach out to them to make sure they are up for the challenge of testing early hardware. We know that not everyone will be, so we have alternates as well.
What’s in it for you?
Our goal is to learn a lot from this hardware run, revise the design, then do another run like this with increased numbers. The first ten or so will be 3D printed. 3-D printing isn’t scalable but allows the plastic design to change from the feedback we receive. We’ll revise the enclosure and likely do a larger run with vacuum casting, which offers time savings without the investment of a full aluminum injection mold. When we are comfortable with the progress, we will confidently invest the hundreds of thousands of dollars required for molds, parts, and labor.
I want to reiterate, we have the initial small run list now for the shipments. This transition into shipment is a big milestone of getting this in the hands of these engineers, developers, and makers to make this a better product for the rest of the Community.
Nate Tomasi is the COO of Mycroft AI. He’s built and operated strong teams and processes at companies like Captify Health and Rhythm Engineering.