We are so excited to announce that we are shipping test versions of Countdown to reviewers and parents! We're looking for anyone that could make a great tester, whether you have kids or are a kid at heart, to help provide feedback on our innovative hide & seek toy as well as spread the word.
If you are interested in getting Countdown, or know someone would would be a great tester, please sign up for the Countdown Club below. We're selecting a group of early testers every week and would love to have you involved!
And don't forget to share with with your friends!
Over the last 6 months, we've gone through 4 different iterations of the electronics in Countdown. Each revision has added and removed some features, changed the shape and size of the case we can use, and, most importantly, each revision has progressively been easier to assemble. That last point is critical because each little piece on our boards are currently hand-placed. Each new part to place adds a few minutes to our assembly time and, over the course of dozens of boards, that time adds up (and increases the chances of a mistake).
Below we take a stroll down memory lane and describe the changes over in both functionality and cost of the guts of Countdown.
Bringing a new toy or piece of tech to market is a painstaking process. No matter what you envision or plan, once your shiny new object lands in the hands of someone else (especially when your target audience is kids).. they'll immediately find something wrong. Some button is too hard to press, some light too bright or dim, some combination of standing on one foot while looking with only their left eye prevents some feature from working.
And have I mentioned how good kids are at foiling your best-laid plans? After months of testing, we've come to the conclusion that if you could give a group of kids an armored tank, they would find a way to break it... in minutes. They're amazing like that!
In order to keep up with our testing plans and testers themselves, we have to create a lot of Countdown toys. Unlike manufacturing, where thousands of identical units are stamped out, during development, we need hundreds of units that change a little (or a lot) each time. Unfortunately, there's not an easy way to automate everything at small scales to accomplish that goal. While it's true that our 3D printer is running 24 hours a day, non-stop, every day, there are some things that just have to be done by hand at this stage of development. It's the only way to allow for maximum flexibility and rapid turnaround times. The main focus of this post, and the item that requires the most elbow grease at this point, is the electronic circuit board we developed.
Countdown is an exciting toy for playing hide and seek. In addition to being a small toy that can be hidden anywhere, it adds a timed element to win. Once hidden, whoever is finding Countdown has to find it and beat a set of puzzles using the game buttons, lights and sounds. When developing the puzzles, we established a set of guidelines for how each puzzle should challenge the player. These guidelines are meant to make sure that each puzzle throws something different at the user and, if when done well, there will be some puzzles that you're better that than others. The end-goal is a hide & seek game that the excitement doesn't just end when the toy is found.
Puzzle Development Guidelines
With 6 buttons, each with a bright multi-color light, and our screen for instructions, there's a lot of variety to each puzzle we create. At the concept stage, we categorize each puzzle into one (or more) of the following groups:
- Reflex - Puzzles that require quick movements to hit a button at a specific time.
- Cognitive - Use your brain to figure out a reading, math or other challenge to proceed.
- Memory - Remember a light, sound or text pattern and repeat some or all of it.
We are so excited to announce that Countdown, our hi-tech hide & seek toy, won at the 2019 Outdoor Toy Awards in London. In early June, when we sent an early prototype unit off, we had high hopes, but realistic expectations about what was going to happen. Going up against Nerf water guns, electric scooters and giant trampolines isn't something any new toy company really wants to be judged against. However, we know that Countdown is something unique, and our active, social gameplay is unlike anything else out there... and the kid judges at the Outdoor Toy Awards agreed by tapping Countdown as the winner in the Outdoor Sports category.
The Outdoor Toy Awards judging panel was comprised of kids aged 5-14 who had the hard job of judging dozens of toys. You can see Countdown and some of the other entrant toys on the Outdoor Toy Awards 2019 Winners Page.
Of course we're not done yet. As noted, we sent an early prototype off, which isn't the final product. Countdown is still undergoing active development and lots of play-testing, which feeds back into the design to make Countdown even better. Currently, we're working on new clock-stopping puzzles, better sounds, a slimmer design and more.
Please follow us on social media and help spread the word the word!