It’s been two weeks since my last update, so I thought I would give you guys an update. Not much video-worthy stuff so I’ll dispense with a video.

It’s been a great few weeks for geeks. 26th April was Alien Day! And those of you following me on social media would have seen this. I have never really had the habit of drawing fan-art, so this was the closest I came to an Alien homage.

May the Fourth was Star Wars day, and I managed to dig up my latest Star Wars related photograph. This guy was New York Comic Con 2015 with this remote control R2D2. This was just before the gates opened for the general public, so the guys around our booth took turns taking pictures. I could not resist getting a picture taken with Codename Colossus.

Those of you keeping updated will also have seen me post a picture of a Bluetooth LE module and a shield for the Arduino. I bought them with the intention of learning how I could use Bluetooth LE for my new products, but I am beginning to see a challenge with this.

There is two types of Bluetooth. Bluetooth Classic (1.0, 2.0) and Bluetooth 4.0 or SMART or LE (Low Energy). Bluetooth Classic is what most devices use, Android phones can easily use Bluetooth Classic, but iOS requires Bluetooth Classic devices to be certified Apple’s MFi (Made For iPhone/Pad/Pod). While Bluetooth LE is only supported by Android 4.3 and after, while not every phone has a Bluetooth LE hardware. However, Bluetooth LE is much easier to work with iOS devices. This fragmentation, while largely an Android issue, is rather annoying.

I also started looking into learning Android Studio and saw the enormity of the task. Not to mention that I’d have to do it all over again for iOS.

While I’d love to be able to be able to use Bluetooth in my projects in the future (now actually), I realized that it would take me significant time to learn rudimentary development on Android and iOS. And I am not sure I am willing to hold back working on my next product in order to learn them. That leaves me with a few options:

  1. Subcontract the Android and iOS development out to someone else. This is tempting, I will just need to decide whether to use the CC2540 or NRF8001 modules and find a developer. However, not knowing how that side of the software works gnaws at me. It is also an unknown how much future expenditure I will have to incur if I need to constantly update my App whenever there is an OS update.
  2. Use Radio Frequency or Infra Red to control my toy. This is the usual toy controlling method. This would require micro-controllers and batteries on both ends of the project, and designing and building a hardware controller. However, the benefits is that it is completely untethered to the technology of the day. It will work in when the mobile phones are running Android 199.9 and iOS 200.0.
  3. Use a wired controller. I will still need to design and build a hardware controller, but I save on one set of batteries, a micro-controller and a few bits of hardware. It will also work for a long time. However, I am not sure whether it will be perceived as being too low tech. I might even be able to style it to my advantage. Much to think about.

What do you guys think? Is an electronic toy not controlled by a mobile phone in this day and age considered primitive? Or is it better for toys not to be tethered to technology that can get obsolete quickly?

Lastly, I have decided to explore 2 prototyping companies in Shenzhen, China. I have made contact and sent off a few files for test prints. When they are ready, I will probably head up to meet them face to face to talk more about the prototyping and “production”. Hopefully soon, like in a week or so. So the next update may well feature stuff from Shenzhen or Hong Kong.

I think I spent a few days exploring the viability of using Bluetooth LE in the project and while it seems a little wasted at the moment, I am sure I will find a use for it in future, even if it is for a more personal project as opposed to something I hope to commercialize.