June 19, 2020

Doppler supporters,

We have reached some big milestones since our last update!

First off, our app is now live in the iOS App store!

We aren’t 100% happy with the app, but we are tracking all the bugs we can find and are working to fix them as soon as we can. We are also far from finished with the app, so many new features will be coming down the pipeline.

If you’d like to install the app before you receive your Doppler, you can! However, there isn’t much you can do with the app without a Doppler, so we recommend waiting until you receive yours (more on that later).

Also, a note to our Beta backers, the Beta version of the Sandman app that was running in test flight has expired. iOS Beta backers please migrate over to the version in the app store and let us know if you have any issues.

Android Beta

We are also happy to announce that the Beta version of the Android app is finished and we will be launching the Android Beta once we get approval from the Google Play store (hopefully in the next couple days) and do some final testing. We have emailed all remaining Beta backers, so please check your email for more details.

We are looking forward to the Data the Beta backers will provide...

AEC issue

While we wait for the feedback from our Android Beta testers, we are working on an acoustic issue with the Doppler that we discovered over the last couple of weeks. We have only had 2 of our 60+ Beta testers report the issue, but unfortunately, it’s a requirement from Amazon so we have to fix it before shipping units to you all.

The issue revolves around acoustic echo cancellation (AEC) which we talked about in previous updates and is manifesting itself in an interesting way. Alexa currently hears herself whenever she says her own name. So if you ask, “Alexa, who are you?” she responds, “I’m Alexa”. When the word “Alexa” comes out of the Doppler speakers the wake word engine in the Doppler hears this and starts listening for the rest of the command, which of course doesn’t come. This usually ends up in a loop, where Alexa says her name, she hears it and starts listening for nothing, and the process repeats itself. This is an issue with the AEC and the wake word engine not working correctly with Alexa. The AEC on our device is working very well in some situations since in most cases the Doppler can hear the wake word, Alexa, even when very loud music is playing from the Doppler, but it’s not working for the wake word Alexa.

A diagram of AEC on the Doppler

We have contacted both the supplier of the AEC solution, which is built into the DSP (digital signal processor) chips we have on our boards as well as the software-based wake word engine. Both of these suppliers are Amazon-approved solutions, but still aren’t passing Amazon certification. To make matters worse and more frustrating, the suppliers are both pointing fingers at each other as the cause of the issue since things are working very well for everything else other than this one issue with Alexa hearing herself say, Alexa.

We are currently in communication with Amazon and both suppliers, along with a couple of outside consultants and Amazon-approved Alexa experts to try and come up with a fix for this issue. We have a couple of workarounds that we are testing to see if they work, but until we fix this, we can’t go to Amazon certification.

Software updates

Along with this AEC issue, our development team has also been working on many other software features for the Doppler. We have created a very simple release notes page on our manual which is where we will post any and all software updates we have been working on. The page is located here: http://manual.sandmandoppler.com/release-notes/

Amazon keeps releasing new versions of the Alexa SDK, which we are trying to stay up to date on. The newest version (at the time of this writing) is 1.19.1 and includes a feature called local ducking. With local ducking, when you have music playing and you say the word Alexa she will “duck” the volume of music and lower it while she responds. Previously the music would stop and start rather than just “duck”.

We added a new animation to show the Doppler is booting. You should only see this animation when you power cycle the Doppler, or when it’s going through an over the air software update. We are calling this the KITT animation, but some Beta backers have described it as a Cylon animation. Whether you’re on team Cylon or team KITT, we love the way it looks!

Are you on team Cylon or team Kitt?

A feature was added to sync the timezone of Alexa and the Doppler. Whenever you set the timezone of the Doppler in our app, it also sets the timezone of Alexa. Previously they weren’t synced. These are the types of bugs we are grateful to have Beta backers for. Thanks all!

Based on the feedback of the Beta backers we adjusted the volume scaling as some thought it was still too loud at the lowest volume. We plan on tweaking this further later.

Another big thing we have been working on is how the alarm button and alarm light function with recurring alarms. Here is how the new alarm feature works:

There are three different types of alarms, each with a different color. Red is the system alarm, which is controlled by the buttons on the Doppler. Green is app alarms that are set by the app. Blue is Alexa alarms which are set by your Alexa using your voice or the Alexa app. We plan on adding the functionality to customize the alarm color soon in the app soon as well, but back to the alarm button.

The alarm button and alarm light (top left of the display) on the Doppler will show the color of the “next up” alarm based on the type of alarm. These indicators will only show up for armed alarms and won’t turn on if the alarm is switched off in the app.

Each time you press the alarm button it only turns off the alarm that is “next up”.

When you have no alarms coming up, the alarm lights will turn off. Please note, Alexa alarms don’t stay on the app like app and system alarms after they have gone off. This is a limitation of the current Alexa SDK and we have requested they change this in the future.

If you have a recurring alarm active, the Doppler will wait an hour to turn on the next occurrence of that alarm. So when you go to bed, your Doppler will show that your morning alarm is armed and will go off at the proper time.

There are many advantages to this new alarm button behavior, but we look forward to your comments and thoughts about what we can change or improve in the future. We are planning on having the alarm button be customizable in the future.

Along with working on software features, we have also been working on the main complaint of the Beta program, which is Bluetooth connection issues. In general, things are working much better than before, but we still haven’t totally solved that issue. We will do our best to keep hammering away at it to assure the best user experience possible!

When is my Doppler coming?

As we mentioned in the last update, things are still changing with regards to our county’s shelter in place rules and this latest AEC issue is preventing us from going to certification. But once certification happens and we can return to our office, we will begin the reflash process and start getting your Dopplers out the door. Since rules and regulations are changing and we aren’t sure how long things will take with this AEC issue we don’t have any accurate time estimates. We know this isn’t what you want to hear, but we are doing everything we can to get your Dopplers squared away and shipped, and we thank you for the continued support!

-PAI Team

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