I served as the Senior Systems Engineer at SuperSuit, San Jose. SuperSuit is the world’s first wearable gaming platform, designed to promote free play while adding strategy and depth. I presented the product in the Bay Area Maker Faire’16 and TechCrunch Disrupt ’16.
I was responsible for ideation and making prototypes. Among the prototypes I built were a gesture controlled RC car, haptic feedback vests and looks-like, feels-like prototypes of the Suit. I learnt using Atmel Studio for ARM programming and mastered laser cutting and SMD soldering. I also had significant design inputs vis-à-vis user experience and ergonomics. Being closely involved in both design and testing, I understood the lean iterative cycle of development, prototyping and testing.
As a wearable gaming platform, fit for a ten year old and adult alike; SuperSuit poses great design and engineering challenges. Designing a visual scoring system which looks appealing from all angles, indoors and outdoors; is cost effective and battery efficient in itself was a humongous challenge. I spent many a restless nights trying on different LED and diffusion grating combinations, researching light guides and taking photographs of stop lights of the cars in the parking lot. It was while opening a salvaged printer a few weeks later that found the perfect solution in the form of the diffusion grating in the small lcd monitor attached to the printer. It was ideal because it obscured the circuit board just enough while letting most of the light through and diffusing it in all directions, giving the LEDs a soft halo.
While working at SuperSuit, I had the first opportunity to be a part of a team of peers working on an engineering project. I was surprised and delighted at how easy things became when I could chat with someone about an error in the code or a doubt with a datasheet. Perhaps more than that though, it was interesting to discuss problems others faced. I quickly realized that my self trained mind approached engineering problems very much differently from everyone else. I remember an incident when we needed to remove a BGA package, lacking a re-flow oven or working hot-air gun. It was immediately obvious to me to use the dremel and a few minutes later, the package was dust. In a problem concerning radio neighbor discovery, we were facing packet loss as all neighbors responded at the same time. While everyone was brainstorming ways to reduce discovery time, I thought it would be better to increase the discovery time and instead provide feedback of the progress. This made the experience seamless while reducing complexity. It was surprising how many engineering challenges had simple design solutions.
Working alongside makers I idolized at TechShop San Jose, I realized I was capable of a lot more than I thought. Given the right tools and work environment I too was capable of genuine creativity and novel thoughts. Before I knew it I started diving head first into projects I couldn’t even imagine finishing. But, I rose to the occasion, and while I would often fail, the projects I did complete were among the most fulfilling of my life. I loved designing hardware test-beds for UI testing -blinky leds, oled screeens and such. Because of the quick turnover times, and my own desire for perfection, I mastered laser cutting for making neat little casings. As I kept experimenting with laser cutting I discovered ways to selectively melt acrylic to get beveled edges, and make optical diffusion gratings. I soon reached a point where the shop instructors started asking me for help with difficult projects! For the first time I felt confident enough to publish my projects in the form of step by step instructables. And every time I did, I would feed off of the energy and enthusiasm of the community and dive deeper into my other projects.