It appears we may see two updates this week:
October 28th, 2013
Ch-Ch-ChangesThe past few weeks have been some of the busiest I have experienced since I arrived in China at the beginning of summer. It’s really amazing seeing Earl come together. Our initial PCB design was reworked by our partner here in Shenzhen and then sent all the way back to the USA to Freescale for approval. We’re happy to say that our current design includes most of the features we originally set out to incorporate into Earl. After much discussion and testing we made the decision to remove a few features:
Infrared blaster. Seeing that very few devices in the outdoors utilized infrared for communication, in addition to the limited range, we nixed it.
3d joypad. With a larger touch area due to the new capacitive system used in Earl along with the additional buttons built into Earl’s shell, we felt a joypad was unnecessary.
Anemometer. Unfortunately the performance of the design we were testing was unreliable and a little power hungry. We plan to offer a simple windmill anemometer as an Earl accessory in the future.
Kickstand. A difficult decision. After discussing other options with our MD engineers, the risk of damage or loss of the solar panel outweighed the benefits of keeping it. We opted to keep Earl compact and rugged.
Designing Earl’s IP67 shell to withstand the elements requires our mechanical and electrical engineering teams to work in harmony. While most components are safely tucked away inside its rugged shell, others, like Earl’s RF antenna, microphone, speaker, and weather sensors (temperature, humidity and barometer) require a location away from interference with access to the outside world. Some components require a hybrid solution. The TRRS headphone jack, micro USB port and microSD expansion slot need to be easily accessible to the user but also protected from the elements. We integrated some protective flaps to keep water, dust and mud from clogging and blocking access to these connections. We’ve replaced kickstand with a user accessible battery compartment that allows easy replacements of the rechargeable Li Ion battery. We also designed a new antenna for Earl’s RF walkie talkie system that neatly tucks away when not in use. We’ll talk more about Earl’s walkie talkie in the next update! To help protect Earl’s screen and solar panels from scratches we’ve recessed them into the shell and will be offering reusable pre-cut films for additional protection. Since switching from an infrared touchscreen system to a capacitive one, Earl’s screen is now flush with it’s front panel, similar to other smart devices on the market. This allows users to swipe from offscreen to open hidden menus, flip pages or change applications. We replaced the original 3d joypad with a touch area that features Android’s “home”, “back”, and “menu” buttons. In addition to the standard system buttons, we’ve added four buttons along the sides of Earl’s case for PTT (push to talk), volume and other functions. Users and developers will be able to map these buttons to other functions or macros. Earl’s power button will be located next to it’s protected connector ports and includes a switch to lock orientation, applications or prevent accidental presses.Oh but wait, there’s more! We finally got a sample of Earl’s new screen. PVI, E-ink’s taiwanese parent company has sent us some samples of their new flexible screen. The new screen uses the E-ink’s Regal waveform technology which dramatically reduces the need for refreshes, allowing for a smoother viewing experience. Even more durable than the LG panel we were using, we’re excited to put this new panel into action.