Work on doppel began in 2013 after Andreas, Fotini, Jack and Nell came up with the idea whilst studying together on the Innovation Design Engineering MA/MSc at both Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.
Andreas, Jack, and Fotini working on the concept way back in 2013. Nell took the photo!
Together with Manos Tsakiris, Professor of Psychology at the Royal Holloway University London, we developed the first prototypes. Back in 2013 these were called ‘myTempo’ and looked like this:
The clear top motor has been a design feature from day one!
myTempo exhibited at the John Lewis Future Store Exhibition 2014 and we won the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprises before graduating.
Read more: Awards
After months of prototyping, myTempo became doppel, and the team created the first test rigs allowing hundreds of people to try it for themselves in all sorts of situations.
Just some of our hundreds of testers!
Overwhelmed by the positive feedback we commissioned The Royal Holloway University of London to run tests exploring doppel’s effect on focus. The results were very promising. You can read the white paper here.
Meanwhile, interest in the company was growing. We won the Pitch at the Palace People's Choice Award 2015 in March and then the ICTomorrow Wearables Innovation Competition in April.
Fotini and Jack collecting our award from The Duke of York HRH Prince Andrew
After a year of designing, prototyping, and testing we launched on Kickstarter with a bold ambition of raising £100,000.
One of our friends baked and iced this incredible cake to celebrate our launch!
Crowdfunding was both incredible and incredibly stressful! We got huge amounts of press coverage and during the month long campaign we were named in the top five products at the London Innovator of the Year Awards, exhibited at London Tech Week and Fashion Tech Berlin, and spoke at both Solid Con and the Wearable Technologies Conference in San Francisco. Phew!
We raised £111k and the manufacturing process started!
Our first task was the finalise the design. We slimmed down the design by adjusting the battery and began work on developing our only bespoke part - the clear top vibration motor. These didn’t exist at mass manufacture scale so we created our own and then shipped them to China to see if they could be scaled up.
Our very own clear top motors!
There was good news! Our supplier liked our design and was prepared to manufacture them!
As the project grew, so did our company. In November we hired Georgina to take on marketing and communications.
Then, in the new year, the five strong team headed out to Las Vegas for CES where we had been invited to speak.
We also landed this interview with TechCrunch!
We returned to a cold London winter and some unfortunate news from our motor suppliers that the manufacture process was going to take considerably longer than expected. As the motor is key to what doppel does, and every single stage of our manufacturing process depends on them, this presented a real problem for us in terms of knock-on delays.
We apologized to our backers and pre-order customers and sent an updated manufacture timeline. We’re incredibly grateful to have such understanding backers and customers - we received loads of supportive messages which really brightened up the office.
Just some of our prototyping journey so far!
We remained focused on delivery and hired a fantastic software developer called Andrew who is doing transformative things with our app. We’re really looking forward to sharing the final design!
In February Nell and Fotini journeyed to China for the first time! It was great to see the progress our motor and battery manufacturers are making.
doppel in China!
We're learning a lot about working in China. One our favorite lessons so far comes in the form of a parable.
Business should be like bamboo; it should grow fast and strong. But no bamboo can grow forever, a single shoot is not enough. You must be patient, prepare the ground properly and grow many shoots if you are to grow a forest to feed your grandchildren.
Whilst there, we began the stage where, in conjunction with our manufacturers, we lock down every single one of doppel's components.
And at the end of March we exhibited at The Science Museum!
At the beginning of May doppel ventured to Berlin! Fotini addressed the audience at re:publica - Europe’s most exciting conference on internet and society.
She took the audience on a journey of discovery, from technology and wearables, to our senses, and sense of self. Watch the video of her talk here:
Shortly after landing back in the UK she then headed to Imperial College London to give her TEDx speech ‘Senses not sensors: Feelings are the future of technology’ which was incredibly well received.
Back in the studio the product team was working hard.
When we first launched the Kickstarter project we showed doppel with a standard buckle like you’d find on most entry-level watches. Buckles are effective, but they can be fiddly and they aren’t unique. For us, doppel is a unique proposition with a unique design and we want to make sure that every component part complements its natural look and feel. With input from our backers we updated the design:
Meanwhile, the doppel team were all over the world.
Fotini spoke at WEAR Boston arguing that wearables must go beyond monitoring to be truly useful.
And Jack flew out to Budapest to take part in Brain Bar Budapest - Europe's festival on future thinking. He debated the future of humans in the 'ROBOTS vs CREATIVITY' session.
He also took part in a F***Up Nights event. These are volunteer run evenings where people (not just entrepreneurs) gather together to tell the tales of where they’ve gone wrong and the lessons they learned. They’re supposed to be funny and fun - and to let people know that it’s okay to fail. Here is his story.
He spoke about 1. How not to pick a company name 2. How not to force a sex-change on your co-founder, and 3. How not to lose the most money your company has ever seen...
Back in London, it had finally stopped raining so when we received final samples of doppel’s straight and tapered resin strap, we decided to take some photos - outside!
We then announced that we've been invited to join Kickstarter on stage at The Guardian in November! There are hundreds of tech projects on Kickstarter so we feel pretty special to have been chosen as ambassadors. We discussed our experiences of Kickstarter and answered questions from the audience.
Since launching doppel on Kickstarter, battery technology has improved dramatically. We originally designed doppel to charge via micro-USB which is great, but the only problem with micro-USB charging is that the port (the little slot on doppel’s base) is near on impossible to waterproof.
We want doppel to be water and sweat resistant so we’ve designed, tested and prototyped a charging solution that meets these requirements.
doppel will now charge via a bespoke charging base. You slot doppel in and the charging pins on doppel’s base and the pins on the charging base align. This then connects to a power source via a USB cable. This is the same solution found in most wearables released today.
In July, Co-Founder Jack was one of four graduate entrepreneurs to win one of the inaugural RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowships. The Fellowships are awarded to entrepreneurs with disruptive early-stage engineering innovations tipped to shake up major industries around the world.
Also in July we had the team from Sky Swipe in the studio and not only did we go out live on Sky News, we also went ‘Facebook live’ from our studio to over 270,000 people! It went well… despite the fact that they told us we’d be doing this about 20 minutes before it happened!
We also had a chat with Sophie Charara from wareable.com who then posted this incredible write up. It’s definitely worth a read as it’s one of the few pieces of coverage that takes the time to understand the research that’s gone into doppel and explain that we’re not just another fitness tracker.
Also, Nautilus Magazine published this fantastic piece on doppel's very own Fotini Markopoulou following her journey from physics to design.
In August, we got some bad news. We received an email from our casing supplier (who is also responsible for assembly, packing and shipping) stating that they were now unable to go ahead with manufacturing until they’d seen final electronics from our electronics supplier. This presented us with a fairly major problem. Given that both companies had our final design, we’d planned for these processes to happen simultaneously. We had to add two months to our shipping date.
But there was some light relief too:
Ahead of a trip to China, we received a WeChat message from doppel’s Head Engineer in China, asking us politely whether we’d be able to check the design of doppel’s charger. We were a little confused given the design had been finalised. He then sent us the below photo… It transpired that we had accidentally added an extra 0 on to the length of the cable when we ordered samples, so the cables that arrived were over five meters long - not 50 cm as we had agreed! Once we’d explained what had happened, they, like us, found it pretty funny! And in case you’re worried, the five meter cables have been put to one side…
Co-Founders Nell and Andreas spent the beginning of this September 5406 miles (8700 km) away from our London studio in sunny Qingdao via a brief stopover in Shenzhen.
Our daily WeChat calls meant that we were able to make big decisions on suppliers and shipping as well as small (but still important) decisions on things like packaging and information leaflets.
Doing business in China isn’t something any of us had experience of before this project and it’s been a fascinating journey so far. It’s great to have such fantastic manufacturers guiding us through the process, and also to help us with translations!
In August Forbes writer Parmy Olsen came to visit our studio to interview Jack. We thought it went okay, but you just never know how these things go. Reading our press coverage is always a nerve-wracking experience but this time, when it was published in September, we were absolutely blown away! It’s a fantastic write up. Here are some quotes, but do go and have a read!
As we got closer to shipping it was finally time to think about packaging. We know it’s only a box, but we want it to be as beautifully designed as doppel. We’ve been playing with samples in the office and it’s exciting to see our ideas slowly becoming a reality!
October arrived and we were nominated by Wareable in the 'Startup of the Year' category at their inaugural Wareable Tech Awards!
And on the manufacturing front, we finished the design for manufacture process for the charging bases!
We started November with good news and bad news. The bad news: We had to add one more month to our timelines. The good news: For the first time we were close enough to delivery to be able to predict shipping dates! All of our backers and customers received lengthy explanation emails with a big sorry from the entire team.
Meanwhile, the sample doppels have arrived on time at the lab in Denmark ready for safety, connectivity and waterproofing tests.
A doppel prototype after being destroyed in compliance testing!
We also began working to secure the certification we need to be able to fly doppels out of China as there are strict rules around flying batteries. And we finished the packaging insert and accompanying instruction leaflets.
The arrival of December saw Nell and Andreas fly back out to China to meet our PCB manufacturers ahead of mass-manufacture and to make sure that everything is on track.
We also begun the process of agreeing the ‘final article’ or ‘golden article’ that will set the standards for all doppels coming off the production line. This involves bringing together the final versions of the stainless steel base, battery, clear-top motor, gaskets, PCB boards, plastic top, straps, fastenings, charging base and packaging to create a set number of perfect doppels.
doppel bases off the production line
What better way to start 2017 than showcasing doppel at CES - the world’s largest consumer electronics show! Having travelled to Las Vegas last year to scout out the competition, it felt surreal to return this year ready to launch doppel to the US media at a busy press event.
It went incredibly well and the first few write-ups have been really good. Mashable said ‘doppel is the next generation of wearable technology’ and concluded that ‘this may be your most bangin’ wearable yet’ and New Altas posted this refreshingly informed review whilst saying ‘it's a fascinating idea that stands out from the din of solution-in-search-of-a-problem tech on display at CES.’ We even got a preview on CNET.
But meanwhile in China, we received some disappointing news. Until a few days before Christmas everything had been going well. Almost all of the components had been finalised and manufacturing had begun. But then we hit a quality problem.
The printed circuit boards in the final sample batch weren’t as good as we need them to be. Nell and Andreas dropped everything and flew to China to meet our suppliers along with our lead manufacturers to find a solution.
Fortunately we resolved the problem fairly quickly and began finalizing production drawings for each separate component and confirming the procedure for assembly.
At the end of February we started manufacturing the bases, black straps, gaskets, black tops, and the packaging - with white tops, straps and electronics starting imminently.
We also got a shout out in a BBC article about stress-free traveling. Check it out!
March was entirely focused on quality control. We had originally expected to be at the assembly stage (the last step before shipping), however after the parts have started coming off the production line we had to go back and make some small changes which meant that we were then running slightly behind. The first set of bases we received were marginally thinner that our designs specified so we’re working with our manufacturers to re-make the tool to ensure consistent quality. Without this re-make we’d risk the doppel not fitting perfectly into the charging base which could cause charging problems. We also weren’t happy with the quality of our first set of motor gaskets.
Meanwhile, we began perfecting the assembly process so that as soon as the parts are complete we can assemble and ship. Nell and Andreas have worked almost non-stop to co-design a number of tools that will ensure high quality assembly of each and every doppel. These include a tool to ensure that the charging pins are perfectly aligned on each PCB, a tool to ensure that the motor is perfectly aligned before being secured, and a tool which allows the assembler to push a gasket into the top without it becoming folded or buckled.
Here's a photo of us working on the assembly process:
We started April waiting for a new, set of pin gaskets - the part that holds doppels charging pins in place - as we needed them to be slightly firmer. Meanwhile we began working with our electronics manufacturers to create a tool which ensures that the charging pins are perfectly aligned every time. The pins are tiny, but need to be accurately positioned to ensure consistent charging. This is an issue we noticed when practising the assembly process.
We also began re-making the plastic tops to ensure that the top PCB (the board with doppel’s touch sensors) stays completely flat. The top previously had two small notches to hold the board in place, but again whilst practising assembly we found that in some situations they were causing the top PBC to sit at a slight angle.
Whilst this was taking place in China, in London we were preparing for distribution both from the UK and the US so that as soon as the doppels have been assembled and tested, we’re ready to ship. We were also perfecting the app for launch on both The App Store and on Google Play.
The app so far - each wave represents the rate of a rhythm
In May, researchers from the Psychology Department at Royal Holloway, University of London assessed the calming effects of doppel and found that its heartbeat-like vibration delivered onto the inside of the wrist can make the wearer feel less stressed.
The research was published on 24 May 2017 in the the peer-reviewed journal Nature Scientific Reports.
In a controlled, single-blind test, two groups of participants were asked to prepare a public speech - a widely used psychological task that consistently increases stress. All participants wore doppel on their wrist and a cover story was used to suggest to participants that it was measuring blood pressure. Importantly only one of the groups had doppel turned on, while the other (control group) had it turned off during the task.
The researchers measured both physiological arousal (how sweaty they got) and subjective reports of anxiety (how they said they felt). The use of doppel had a tangible and measurable calming effect across both physiological and psychological levels. Only the participants who felt the heartbeat-like vibration displayed lower increases in skin conductance (sweatiness) and lower anxiety levels.
Average Skin Conductance levels across conditions and groups (A), and average state anxiety scores (B) for both the group using doppel and the control group. Participants who felt the heartbeat-like vibration became less stressed.
Meanwhile, in Qingdao, work on quality control was progressing quickly. We checked hundreds of the metal bases, metal poppers, strap hoops, black silicone straps, white silicone straps, touch board stickers, PCB stickers and quality control on all packaging parts began.
Here are some photos of the quality control process taking place to give an idea of the scale of the task at hand!
By June we had completed quality control on every single part (all seventeen of them!) and we’re really happy with our progress. Only two of the parts needed further attention before we can begin mass-manufacture: the tops and the charging bases.
We were completely happy with the quality of the tops, the motivation to remake the tool which makes the tops was to improve the percentage of perfect tops that come off the production line so to reduce waste.
The issue with the charging base was marginally more complicated. The charging bases work perfectly and they’ve been fully certified, but we had problems creating a consistent silicone finish as the shape is quite complex. We were confident that this could be solved by slightly updating the tool we’re using to do the compression molding - and we were right! The tool change solved the problem. The charging bases were finished!
As the charging base was the final part to finish the design for manufacture process, now that it’s finished - we’re ready to begin mass-assembly!
While the charging bases are being mass-manufactured, we’ll be working with our newly trained assembly team to lovingly put together each and every doppel.
Nell, Andreas and Jack flew back to China and started the process to create the ‘first article’ - the twelve doppels which set the standard for all future doppels. To ensure the highest quality product, three of each variety of doppel were put together before a rigorous testing process began.
After said testing, we (doppel) and our manufacturers signed for the first article!
This was a really significant moment for the company but one that we had to celebrate on Skype - because at that point our five person team was split across three continents and fifteen timezones!
Assembly began! Together with our awesome assembly team we’ve already assembled hundreds of doppels.
Unfortunately, despite countless working units, we initially got a higher than expected failure rate. After careful analysis, we realized that a number of the units are shorting when charging.
It took two weeks but we solved the problem with an insulating sticker.
We made the tool to make the stickers and began to assemble! Hundreds of units have already been made and so far our quality control checks are also working well.
Our quality control checks are also working well. For example, this week we picked up a couple of units with imperfections which did not meet our aesthetic standards. We’re working hard to make sure every single doppel is perfect before the batch leaves China!
In November our very first shipment arrived in the office!
We did final quality control tests on these units in the studio:
On Friday 26 January the first batch of doppels finally left China. We couldn't quite believe it.
If you're a customer, you should have heard from us about our expected shipping timelines
We want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our Kickstarter backers and customers. This product simply wouldn’t exist without their support.
If you've got one coming your way, we really hope you love using it as much as we’ve loved making it.