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.
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When we started on Countdown, our hide & seek electronic toy, we never could have imagined the iterations and refinements that would take us to the product we have today. Through continuous modeling, concept rendering and 3d printing, we've landed on a design that has proven to be very approachable, fun and engaging to all that have been lucky enough to get their hands on it.
Since the beginning, we've always had a goal of launching Countdown in late 2019. With every startup, there are times of rapid progress and slower slogs through some difficult development decisions. All work is done with your eye on the end goal of getting a final product out the door, which can always seem far in the future.
But not this past month. In May, we had a firm milestone we knew we had to hit: The 2019 Outdoor Toy Awards.
Any startup has a lot of decisions to make early on. Each one has an impact on budget, time to delivery, capabilities and so much more. One of the biggest, and best, choices we made was to learn and use Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD software combined with a Prusa 3D Printer. The printer will be a topic of a different day, as it warrants a post all to itself.
As a quick primer, for our game, mechanical engineering is the design of the case and how everything fits together: the electrical board inside, the buttons, the screen, battery placement, you name it. I’m an electrical engineer, so I knew how to make the electronics used in Countdown, but I hadn’t used a CAD program since college (turn of the century.. so, yeah, that's not too relevant). As CTO at my previous company that made a connected GPS dog tracker, we contracted out the mechanical design to a 3rd party. That product was a much smaller and more intricate product in comparison to the game we're making now.
Being a hardware tech startup has a lot of challenges. I come from a software background where it's much easier to come up with your MVP, iterate and make large changes every day. Hardware, as they say, is hard.
When we first had the concept for Countdown, we knew it would have 5 gameplay buttons with lights, a screen for instructions and speaker, among other features. The screen and speaker are a conversation for another day, but honestly, were pretty straightforward. But those buttons and lights. Man, they kept me up at night. We knew the basic shapes and sizes for how the buttons should be laid out. The problem is that, when prototyping, you can't always get what you want. You have to find whatever works best and that's cost effective.