Trampoline Jumpsmart

Project Details

Electronic toy design and development requires an innovative approach to producing something ‘magical’ that captures the imagination whilst keeping a firm hand on costs. It often requires a novel approach to using electronic components in ways in which they were not necessarily designed, together with clever and efficient firmware coding. As the manufacturing work is inevitably carried out in the Far East, clear communication channels must be established near at the start of the project to ensure that Bill of Material (BoM) costs and details, and manufacture release files are easily understood by the Far East vendor.

The Brief

During this project, GBE worked closely with their innovative design partner, Bang Creations, and client, Worlds Apart. The aim of this toy was to launch the client’s Kids Active range of toys – stimulating both the child’s “muscles and minds”. Phase One was to create a ‘Simple Simon Says’ style electronic trampoline, with five sensors on the mat, an interface for the player, and a mechanism to detail the gameplay. Phase Two saw the product shift from a multi sensor-style game to a single sensor. This meant GBE/Bang were required to work with the client to create some innovative and exciting gameplays.

The nature of the product and market meant the designs had to be extremely durable with a huge focus on cost. All stages of development were completed with the final manufacturing requirements in mind. GBE/Bang provided the client with price and technical guidance on BoM & Far East manufacturing costs, from the masking of the integrated circuit to the final packaging of the toy. This involved one of GBE/Bang’s Far East vendors and contacts at the Chip-fabrication Company, Winbond Corporation.

Main Development Points

Phase One

A group of sensors were designed that could operate independently on the same surface. Since the trampoline’s surface was a stretchable fabric, this excluded both a spring-style switch and a simple push switch, which would be far too sensitive and provide unreliable gameplay over a large area. GBE’s solution was to use an array of capacitive sensors, which were calibrated to trigger after being stimulated for a given amount of time. This replicated a player bouncing on the pad.

A simple five-LED display unit was designed to indicate which pad the player should bounce on.

For the central processing unit (CPU), GBE used a Winbond 588 series device programmed with three different ‘Simple Simon’-style games.

Phase Two

Health and safety requirements meant a child should not be encouraged to jump near the edge of the toy, the design focus shifted from a five-pad array to a single switch. This challenged GBE/Bang & Worlds Apart to find alternative ways in which to build magic into the gameplay. The solution was to replace the LED array with a speaker, not only did this reduce the overall BoM cost, but it also enabled the addition of numerous gameplay features.

GBE/Bang worked with a professional voice artist to record the desired sounds, some of the animal noises were quite entertaining! These were then sampled down to 8KHz and filtered using a professional digital audio-editing package to optimise the memory taken up by the sound files with the playback quality.

The sounds were then dropped into the gameplay code in the prototype for field testing and further assessment.

After the gameplay and sounds had been finalised, GBE/Bang carried out final debugging and optimisation of code minimising the amount of memory used on the chip decreasing the overall BoM cost. Three pre-production prototypes were then built – two for the client’s marketing team and one as a ‘gold brick’ standard for the Far East vendor to use.

Manufacture

When the client provided the final go-ahead for production, GBE/Bang released the final schematics, BoM, operation notes and battery consumption figures to the Far East vendor. A full test-mode was added to the code for batch testing of production units. The chip code was released for masking directly to Winbond, the integrated circuit fabrication company. To assist the client GBE/Bang dealt with the technical aspects of the chip fabrication and any technical questions from the vendor.

The Final Product

The finished product appeared in the shops in 2004 as Jumpsmart! It proved a hugely successful launch to Worlds Apart’s Kid’s Active range which saw it appear in the National Press including The Daily Telegraph. The product also won a Gold Award for Outdoor Play at the 2005 “The Good Toy Awards” at the Magic Circle. We are now working on several foreign language versions so Jumpsmart can be enjoyed throughout Europe.

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