From Project To Kit: After The Sale

However you sell your kits online, you’ll have to find a means of shipping them to the customer. For an online operation this unseen part of the offering is more important than any other when it comes to customer satisfaction, yet so many large players get it so wrong.

This is the final article in a series looking on the process of creating and selling a commercial kit from a personal electronic project (read all the posts in this series). We’ve looked at the market, assembling the kit and its instructions, and how to set up an online sales channel. In this part we’ll look at what happens when you’ve made the sale, how to get it safely to the customer and how to keep the customer happy after the sale by offering support for your products. We’ll also give a nod to marketing your site, ensuring a fresh supply of customers.

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Cyberpunking Home Alone

[Macaulay Culkin] err… [Kevin McCallister] pulled off some epic 1990 hacks to scare off a couple of bumbling burglars in the classic film Home Alone. Now celebrating its 25th Anniversary, it’s fun to see the tricks [Kevin] used to spoof a house party brought into this age of high-technology.

The trick in the original movie was all about silhouettes in the windows that made the house look full of people. [Michael Jordan’s] cardboard cutout taped to a model train is fairly believable. But really, who has a half-dozen mannequins just sitting in their attic? Creepy.

The marketing company RedPepper are behind the facelift of this pop culture icon. They outfitted their offices with some window dressings that are perfect for the silhouettes. In a delightful cyberpunk twist they went with projects and digital silhouettes. Embracing our current tech-heavy lives is the mobile aspect of it all. Of course there’s an app for that. It means [Kevin] doesn’t have to pull the strings. He can hide outside the building and decide which animations are played by the projectors within. Check it out after the break.

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Why IoT will Fail (and How to Save It)

Buzzword technology has two possible fates: they fail and disappear or they succeed and disappear. Remember at one time “multimedia” and “networking” were buzzwords. They succeeded and now they’ve vanished into ubiquity. Of course, there are plenty of failed buzzwords (like telecosm) that you probably don’t even remember. They just vanished into obscurity.

Unless you’ve been living under the CNC mill in your local hackerspace, you’ve probably heard or read about the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Companies big and small have realized that getting in early on The Next Big Thing is good for share prices and, right now, IoT is where everyone is trying to make a play.

There’s two things I’d observe, though: First, IoT is far from new. Connecting embedded systems to the Internet is old hat (I even wrote a book called Embedded Internet Design way back in 2003). Second, the way it is going, IoT–in its current incarnation–is doomed.

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Oreo-creme hater builds Rube Goldberg CNC router to remove the Stuf

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Look, we understand the need to find a project to occupy your time and interest. So we’re not going to ask the wrong question (why?) for this one. This guy hates the creme that connects the chocolate cookies to make an Oreo. So he built a complicated system to separate the cookies and remove the creme. Check out the video after the break for a hardware overview (where we catch a glimpse of an Arduino RBBB) and a complete demonstration.

Although the project is a marketing gimmick for the company, we really love the fun they had making the video and the device actually works! Drop a cookie in the chute and it will be lifted into position for cleaving with a hatchet (we’re unsure what the string mechanism on the hatchet is for). The two pieces are then grabbed by some servo-powered grippers and transferred to a CNC router bed where a Dremel tool removes the residual creme before dumping the cookies out into your hand.

Once again, marketers should take note of this style of advertising. Notice the two main features achieved here: including a product in something we’re genuinely interested in and not being annoying (we’re looking at you Head-On).

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Redbull sends marketing doodad to hackerspace using an open source product

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Looks like Redbull is harnessing the power of open source hardware to market their product to hackers everywhere. We’d say that it worked because here we are, posting up some free advertising for them. It seems that a rep for the company dropped off a package at a hackerspace in LA called Null Space Labs. It came in what is obviously a laser cut wooden box, a material that tends to make hackers salivate. Inside they found the board you see above. It took a bit of time to look over the hardware was eventually identified as an Uzebox. Sure enough, then plugged in an original NES controller to the controller port on the back of the board and were playing a version of  Pac-man in no time.

Marketing and advertising have their place in our lives which can be annoying and intrusive at times. But we have no problem with it when done creatively and targeted to our interests. Good job Redbull, and might we add, that’s a heck of a routing path for your PCB outline!

Robot bicep curl accompanied by too much fanfare

So this is the world’s strongest robot arm. Great… no really, that’s wonderful. We think lifting a 1000 kilogram dumbbell is a good way to show it off to the public. But with great power came the world’s most over-the top marketing. Well, maybe not as bad as the shake weight but it’s getting there. In the video after the break you’ll see that there is plenty of adrenaline-pumping music and they’ve hired an acrobat to pull a sheet off of the thing. We’ve pointed her out in the image above. [Caleb] noticed that they seem to have programmed in human kinetic to make it bounce and strain as a human lifting a heavy load would. And then there’s the fog machine. Classic. We also enjoy the use of a tap light (which we’ve seen around here before) to activate the demo.

But now we’re getting carried away. The article linked at the top covers a new development for the arm; a motorized base that can move it around. Looks like the base, which uses mecanum wheels, just slips under a stationary frame for the robot and lifts enough to truck it around.

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It has blades: Dyson’s little white lie

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‘There’s a sucker born every minute” -P.T. Barnum

This morning we’ve been having a heated discussion at the Hack a Day offices (read: legion of doom) over Dyson’s new offering, a “bladeless fan”. At first this seemed extremely exciting, but how is the air being moved? We were hoping for a device operating via ionic wind but that’s simply not the case. Some of us think the bladeless claim is an outright lie, others understand it from a marketing stance, but we all agree: a fan with blades is still moving the air.

Dyson’s own information page states that “an energy efficient brushless motor” draws the air in with similar technology used in “superchargers and jet engines”, both of which use blades! The fan blades are in the base of this unit, they take in air and blow it out the ring. Just because you can’t see a fan, can we call our computers bladeless, or an air conditioner bladeless?

Enter the P.T. Barnum reference. Known as a man who could sell anything, his legacy lives on in the Dyson corporation. At 200 british pounds (~$320) for a ten inch desk fan, what are you getting that’s better than a traditional fan?  The design supposedly amplifies the air movement fifteen times, but we’re skeptical about that figure as there’s no energy-saving claim to go along with such an incredible power boost. One thing is certain, you will NOT get a fan without blades for your sterling… just one with hidden blades plus a huge marketing campaign.

[Thanks Gareth]