SPUD Update: Optics Review, Status, and Production Prep

May 23, 2018


Hello SPUD Supporters!

We are grateful for your continued support and we are all very eager to ship! This update gives an overview of the optics issues we have faced, including our plan to implement the final fixes, the updated schedule expectations based on our progress, a few notable updates on production preparation, the headlines we made in the startup world, and a demo video showing a SPUD/compute stick setup.

Optics Update

A lot has happened over the past few months as we have battled this complex lens issue, so to remind everyone of the progress so far, here’s a quick recap: When we began testing the units we built in the Production Validation Test (PVT) phase in January, we discovered some image quality issues: the image edges and corners appeared out of focus, and some units had additional out-of-focus areas across the screen. After lots of additional debugging and testing, we determined that the image issues were caused by multiple factors:

  • issues in the lens molding process, resulting in small imperfections across the lenses, 
  • lens sag due to the weight of the lenses, causing the light path to slightly bend, and 
  • the projector beam that goes into short range projection lens was shifted more than expected, meaning the beam of light would be offset from the center of the lenses (and the lens performed best when the projector beam was centered)
Exploded view of the SPUD chassis, showing the complete projection engine, internal projector lens, and the front lens.
Exploded view of the SPUD chassis, showing the complete projection engine, internal projector lens, and the front lens.

These issues were not only difficult to detect on their own, they were also difficult to identify as separate root causes. We have made significant progress in attacking all three factors, with the major improvements including:

  • Fixed a pressurization issue with the optics molding machine
  • Upgraded the optics molding process to improve plastic flow
  • Added shims to internal projector lense to prevent sagging
  • Discovered and removed a lens coating that had decreased durability

While our lens supplier focuses on continuing to improve the lens quality, we have spent the last few weeks coming up with a solution for the projection offset. We cannot compensate for all possible shift variations with changing/altering/moving/redesigning/enlarging a single lens alone based on our testing to date. Working alongside our optics manufacturer, we have determined that the optimal solution is to make the lens mount adjustable to center the projector beam on the short range lens.

To date, we have prototyped the new lens mount and confirmed that the image can be corrected across a range of different projection shifts. The new mount design drawing is currently in work, and we expect to receive a mount sample in the next 2 weeks for validation.

Prototype of the adjustable lens mount, which was able to compensate for a range of projection shifts across all tested projectors.
Prototype of the adjustable lens mount, which was able to compensate for a range of projection shifts across all tested projectors.

Updated Schedule to Release

Like our last update, our remaining schedule is completely driven by the resolution of the optics issue(s) we have been tackling. Given our current progress, the best case for finalizing the optics is 6 weeks, at which point we would ship to our contract manufacturer for an additional 2-4 weeks of final production. We will continue to drive the schedule as aggressively as possible.

As we approach the start of production, we will be emailing each of you individually to confirm the address we have for you on file. We will also send out the individual package tracking info once we ship out the SPUDs.

Other Notable Updates

As we have mentioned before, even through our focus has been on resolving the lens issue, there is a lot that we have to do in parallel to prep for final production. Some of the major accomplishments include:

  • Components Ready for Production: All parts we need for production beyond the optics are already on order, and the projection engines (the longest lead-time and most expensive component) are already in stock, ready to go!
  • Battery Life Improvements: To improve battery life, we spent some time focused on the firmware to save power. We, working directly with the Texas Instruments (TI) team, implemented CAIC (Content Adaptive Illumination Control) and made adjustments to the final color temperature. CAIC is a TI image processing algorithm that “adaptively adjusts illumination drive strength, on a frame-by-frame basis, resulting in maximum power savings while maintaining the original brightness and improving contrast.” TI expects CAIC to improve battery life 15% for cases where there is less than 10% pure white in image. Additionally, the updated color temperature is expected to improve contrast and battery life.
  • New Production Build Scheduled: We will be building a small batch of production units to validate the changes made since PVT. These changes include improved focus wheel, new arms, updates to the chassis to improve manufacturability, the final shroud with the Arovia logo, and the firmware updates described above.
  • Certification Testing: We completed the chemical testing of our shroud material and received a passing certification last week.
  • Durability testing: Based on some feedback we received during the pilot testing, George worked with the arm supplier to strengthen the arms with a more robust design and some new materials. To validate his changes, he threw multiple SPUDs off of tables. A lot. Here’s some of the fun:

In the News

Alex presented at the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition in College Station, TX last week. We won first place, and brought home a $50k prize for Arovia! Read more about it in the news

Alex presenting like a pro during the competition. Source: theeagle.com
Alex presenting like a pro during the competition. Source: theeagle.com
Alex in need of an ATM that accepts giant checks.
Alex in need of an ATM that accepts giant checks.

SPUD Demo

This week’s demo shows SPUD working with a compute stick (this one) to create a portable desktop system that runs completely off the SPUD battery.


Working through these final production stages, it has been refreshing to see just how engaged our manufacturing partners have been. They have put in those long hours right beside us! ALL of us are committed to releasing as soon as possible, and we are very excited to send you your SPUD!

Thank you for your continued support! 
-Leonard, George, Justin, Alex


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