July 17, 2020

Hi Doppler backers,

We have been hard at work the last couple of weeks fixing bugs and getting the Doppler prepared for final certification. In this update, we will discuss the progress on the AEC issue, Android Beta bugs we have found, and how we are gearing up to ship your Doppler. Once we get past the certification hurdle, we can proceed to the step we have all been waiting for: shipping! So what’s the latest on certification? Read on…

AEC issues

In the last update we discussed the “self-triggering issue” where Alexa will hear herself say “Alexa”. We had to fix this issue before we proceed to certification and while things aren’t entirely fixed, they are working much better! After discussing the issue with our suppliers we were given some new DSP firmware which reduced it by almost 90%. We also hired some acoustic experts to help us tune our DSP firmware to further reduce and hopefully eliminate this issue while also getting the best possible performance out of the microphones. For example, if we lower the sensitivity of the microphones the self-triggering issue with Alexa hearing herself will be reduced but she will also have a more difficult time hearing you when you are further away from the device. Now it’s a balancing act of different settings and we have to find the sweet spot. Our acoustic experts are currently working on the tuning and will then run all Alexa pre-certification tests again to make sure everything is in line. We have done all of these pre-tests before, but we need to test again with the tuned DSP firmware! Once we finish all our pre-testing, the certification process can start!

We took off the sound with this video to prevent any accidental Alexa triggers with your current Alexa devices.

The Doppler is currently working like this most of the time!

Music services

Another exciting piece of news is we have enabled more music service providers which all work on the Doppler: Amazon Music, Audible, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, and TuneIn! All you’ll need to do is ask Alexa on the Doppler to play music on your favorite service and it will work right away (after you sign in). Beta users, all of these services are now live on your devices, enjoy the music! There are two services missing from this list, Apple Music and Spotify. Apple Music is currently not supported on third-party Alexa devices and we are working on Spotify support.

Sorry for the bad sound quality!

Android Beta

Since our last update, we have shipped all Android Beta backers’ units. These units were the last in the Beta program to go out and we have now officially shipped all Beta Dopplers! We had a show-stopping bug that we couldn’t have found without our Beta backers. The issue was around Alexa -- we had a number of Beta testers who couldn’t successfully set up Alexa on their units. Luckily this is why we do the Beta tests and we have fixed that and a couple of smaller issues with an Android app update. Post-update, every Beta tester we have heard from has been able to get their Beta unit connected to Wifi and Alexa! There are still some Bluetooth connection bugs we need to figure out and we are actively working on that with our app team.

We are working on finalizing a new Beta software build over the next week or so that will include some new features and the improved (but not fully tuned) version of the DSP firmware. When the new release is published, a full changelog will be on our updates page here: https://manual.sandmandoppler.com/release-notes/

Want your Doppler a little earlier? All Beta backers have received their Beta Dopplers, and we still have some units remaining. So if you’d like a Beta Doppler instead of your production unit, please send us an email at support@paloaltoinnovation.com and we can discuss switching your unit to a Beta version. We only have about 20 Beta units left so email quickly!

Shipping Improvements

During the last couple of weeks, we also have been continuing to refine our shipping process so once we get Alexa certification we can ship Dopplers as fast as possible. Under normal circumstances, this would involve bringing on and training additional staff members to ship production units as fast as possible. The current county restrictions due to COVID-19 have made this very hard due to the size of our warehouse and social distance requirements. In order to get your Dopplers shipped ASAP, we have been working on some improvements to speed up this process. We previously shared our flashing cart that we built… well, now we have an army of flashing carts!

We are hoping to make even more!

These flashing carts will allow us to reflash 20 Dopplers at once with a single power cord on wheels! We plan on using these carts to improve our efficiency by simultaneously batching and reflashing as many Dopplers as possible. We currently have over 1,500 preorders and we estimate it will take us over 3 months to ship all the pre-orders. We aren’t happy with this so we have also created a new version of our Doppler Diagnostic Application (learn more about the previous version of DDA here). This new version of the application automates a lot of the processes that were previously done manually.

We will be running this new version of DDA before shipping the products so we can catch any problems the factory might have missed. This version of DDA will also streamline the QA (quality assurance) process.

We also have invested in a new automated tape dispenser! This new packaging tape is called gummed tape (also known as paper tape or kraft tape) and is most commonly seen on boxes from companies like Amazon. Gummed tape is much faster and easier to apply, permanently bonds to the cardboard, is more recyclable, and can be customized. We have designed our gummed tape with the Sandman brand and color and we love the way it looks.

Thanks to all these efficiency improvements we think we can increase our throughput of Dopplers and ship out all production units much more quickly.

Finally, we just wanted to say that we are aware that we have reached a frustrating milestone... three years since this product launched without shipping. While we aren’t pleased about this, we are very proud of how we have persevered past numerous hurdles and haven’t stopped when things got really tough, especially in the last few months.

As always thanks for your patience!

-PAI Team

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