If you have been wondering what is going on with the Wellshell and how close we are to release – this blog post will hopefully answer many of your burning questions.

We are making progress! While we have experienced a few difficulties along the way, we are steadily moving forward with development and testing. We want to let you know more about exactly what is going on with the Wellshell right now at TAO – the problems that we have faced and what we are doing to remedy them. We invite you to read on!

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Kosio – TAO Software Developer


PCB Flex-Rigid Tech

Our engineering partner, Idneo, introduced a flex-rigid technology for the PCB that ended up being hard to procure and overly expensive for the small pilot batches. It might turn out to be feasible on a larger scale, but it caused a sizeable delay in PCB fabrication due to the difficulty finding a suitable FAB house and the long lead times.

To combat these delays, we decided to try two PCB FAB houses – one in Spain and one in China. The Spanish one offered a rapid prototyping process, but it was technically limited to only the 50 boards that we used to build our Wellshell 2.0 demo prototypes, as seen at CES 2015. Any larger volume would not have been completed until much later this year. The other FAB from China that we used for a parallel backup failed the flex-rigid tech due to laser malfunction and had to outsource to another supplier, causing a severe delay of more than one month.

Plastic Shell

When we received the curved plastic shells that make the two sides of the Wellshell off of the assembly line they did not fit together seamlessly – picture a clam with an under bite. This meant that we had to round the edges of each piece individually to fit perfectly with its counterpart. Needless to say, this was a rather tedious process and added a considerable amount of time for which we had not budgeted.

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Heart Rate Monitor

The plastic screens that we sourced for the optical heart rate monitor – despite specific requirements – ended up being too darkly tinted for the necessary amount of UV light to penetrate. This meant that the heart rate function of the TAO Wellshell would not work at all. We have since located a supplier for a truly clear plastic and are in the process of replacing all of the dark screens with the new clear plastic to fix this.

Batteries

The lithium ion batteries that we purchased for the devices are not holding a charge as well as expected. To solve this we have redesigned and eliminated some of the original functions of the Wellshell (such as the pedometer) as these are now standard on many mobile devices. This also influenced our decision to go with the Bluetooth Low Energy.

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Bluetooth Smart

We are still trying to find ways around the connectivity problems using BLE with Android devices. As the internet is full of relatable posts, this is clearly a problem that is torturing the tech industry.  We cannot wait for Apple & Google to solve this problem internally. We have been, and continue to be, fighting exhaustively to set our BLE communication right; our internal engineering team has been working with the BLE vendor Radicom and our engineering partner Idneo to find a permanent solution to this issue.

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Martin – TAO Firmware Developer



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Some of these difficulties can be attributed to our lack of experience as a very young company in the tech hardware sector, some stem from trying to create something new that has never been made before, and some are due to completely unforeseen issues like laser malfunction. We are learning from our mistakes and working hard to overcome each new challenge as it arises. Our number one priority is to have a product that works perfectly, not to put out a substandard product faster.

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Gele – TAO Industrial Designer

On the good news side, we are working with partners in the healthcare and video gaming industry to develop special apps for TAO.  We’re not doctors and make no medical claims, but many doctors have come to us to discuss how core-base exercises using TAO tech can help patients recover. With TAO you can exercise from a bed or chair.

And this dovetails with our whole philosophy of combatting the ill-effects of sitting.  We sit too much, and the only way to fight this is with periodic core-based exercises to take the pressure off your lumbar and automatically help improve your posture.

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Stay tuned for more updates as we move forward towards getting the Wellshell ready for market!