Party Robotics Lives On January 07 2014, 0 Comments

Dear Community, We are pleased to announce that we will continue to be your premiere source of cocktail robots and open source cocktail robot components. We are grateful for the support we've received and excited to start developing the next generation of features and additions to both software and hardware. We have some partners and distributors that we will be teaming up with as well, and we will tell you about those relationships in the coming months. Also, there's a software update that's currently in the pipeline and Rob will be talking about that soon. For those who placed pre-orders, we will be charging the deposits at the end of this week and getting to work to get all of your hardware to you by the end of April. We will continue to accept pre-orders until we switch over to a conventional shopping cart experience which will also be happening soon. Pre-orders received before the end of January will likely be able to be shipped in the same timeline. Thank you for keeping us going, now let's build some cool stuff!

Pre-Order Extension December 30 2013, 0 Comments

2014 is just around the corner! We hope your coming year is full of success and happiness. For us, this is somewhat of an inflection point and I think our futures will be exciting no matter which way we go. Fortunately, more pre-orders have been coming in, and we're getting closer to our goal, but we're not quite there yet. This time of year can be challenging to get things accomplished with so many people taking holidays. So, after several requests and people promising to place orders in early January, we have decided to extend our deadline by a week. We will now be making the final call on January 7th. We'll let you know in another few days how we're doing. Happy New Year, and all the best!

Crowdfunding Update December 23 2013, 2 Comments

For those following along, we're trying to raise enough money by the end of the year to determine if we will be able to continue going with this project. Many of you have contributed already, and for that we're very grateful. At the moment, we are over 10% of the way there, but there's still a long way to go. If you haven't already, please help us by spreading the word. Thanks and Happy Holidays, The Party Robotics Team

Keep Party Robotics Alive December 16 2013, 0 Comments

Dear Owners, Supporters and Secret Admirers of Bartendro, Thank you so much for sharing your excitement about cocktail robots with us these past nine months. As you know, our Kickstarter campaign was quite successful and we’ve had a ton of fun building, learning and drink testing for you. In fact, we’d love to keep going and make more drink bots and components available for more people. We have a lot of ideas and improvements planned, and would also like to incorporate your feedback into future Bartendro models. We've already added things like an “I’m feeling lucky button” that makes random drinks, designed an awesome adjustable drip tray / cup holder, and even figured out soda dispensing for bars (this doesn't work with 2-liter bottles quite yet, but that will follow). In order for us to keep going, we need to know if there are enough of you out there that want more hardware. So, we’re going to find out by using Kickstarter’s method. We've set a goal for ourselves that we need to reach by January 1st. If we have enough pre-orders to meet our goal, we’ll be elated and will continue making drink bots for the world! If on the other-hand we don’t meet our goal, then we might just have to go back to our day jobs and let the open source community take over the project. You might notice that our prices are higher than what we were previously asking on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way what the real costs are of running a business. We broke even on Kickstarter, but now we are in the position that we need to ask for money again so that we can bulk buy components. Hopefully, by having our products properly priced this time we can sustain our business. While just having your own personal Bartendro at home is a blast, some of our backers have been using their bots at events and earning a pretty penny. One Kickstarter backer even bought a car with the earnings he made off of operating a Bartendro for three weeks! So, do you have some entrepreneurial spirit in you? Could you put a Bartendro to use making cocktails at events? Are you interested in being a distributor or re-seller? We have distributor pricing and volume discounts available. Send us an email if you are interested in large quantities. If you're interested in getting a Bartendro of your own, help us stay in the game and pre-order now! If we meet our goal by January 1st we will charge a 50% deposit in the first week of January and immediately get to work buying and building parts. We’ll have new bots to you by the beginning of April. For those of you who already have a bot, you can help us by spreading the word to your friends, family, and co-workers. We'll keep you posted every few days on our progress, and no one will get charged a cent unless we reach our goal. Thanks for your support! Sincerely, Pierre, Garran, Rob & Erin

Robots and Business Collide at RoboBusiness October 28 2013, 0 Comments

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Last Wednesday and Thursday, we were at the Santa Clara Convention Center checking out RoboBusiness for the first time. It was really great to see so many familiar and new robot companies.

We were one of 15 companies giving a 2 minute pitch about our startup at an event called Pitchfire. Probably not-so-coincidentally, we were placed back to back with Monsieur, the other cocktail bot on Kickstarter. We gave our spiel and a quick demo of Bartendro, but then we were asked to each take an extra minute to explain the differences between our bots and markets on stage. It may not have been the most appropriate thing to do, but I think it worked out ok. Barry is a good speaker and people were drawn to the mysterious black box that is Monsieur. We've worked hard and spent a long time making Bartendro's internal workings as clean and simple as possible, so we like showing that off. For the geeks and technically inclined, it's highly appreciated. How about you, do you like seeing Bartendro’s working components, or do you prefer an enclosed design? There were many exhibitors at the Sponsor Showcase; from growing companies like ReThink Robotics, and Unbounded Robotics, to established companies like Adept and ABB. Some of our favorites though were the innovative startup companies like Rise Robotics and Tempo Automation.

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We were fortunate to get a chance to impress a few people and connect with industry. RoboBusiness has been growing by about 30% every year. It’s clear that the future of robotics is bright, especially with so many smart and passionate individuals at the helm. Looking forward to being there next year.

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We came, we conquered, we Kickstarted and this is what we learned... September 06 2013, 2 Comments

So, Kickstarter is over. How did it go? What's next? Would you do it again? What did you learn? These are some of the questions our backers, family and friends have been asking us over the last few months. Hopefully, this blog post will satisfy everyone’s curiosity and give everyone more insight into our process and a glimpse into Party Robotics’ future.

Going through the Kickstarter process

We began preparing for the Kickstarter campaign about a month before we launched. In retrospect, two or three months would have been better.

We started with more traditional marketing the week before launch by putting flyers up in TechShops, maker/hacker spaces and universities.

We talked to other Kickstarters, getting a feel for what to expect. Everyone we spoke with was excited to share their experiences.

We thought it was important to launch our Kickstarter with a bang and pushed the go button the same night Bartendro appeared at BarBot in San Francisco. Over the course of the Kickstarter we brought Bartendro to several other events and trade shows.

Right after launching, we contacted bloggers that had written about similar products and introduced them to Bartendro. The most traction came after bloggers with CNET, Yahoo and Endadget wrote posts about us a couple days into the campaign.

There was a large chunk of time spent answering emails and slightly tweaking the Kickstarter rewards, especially during the first week after launching.

After we funded it took several days to receive the funds. Kickstarter took 5%, Amazon 3.5%.

Out of 479 backers, 7 were dropped because Amazon couldn't process their payment.

People discovered our project a day or two or three after the campaign was over and wanted to back us. If we did another campaign we would plan ahead for this.

Make more extras than you think you'll need!

We made about 5% extras, but are now wishing we had made more like 25% to compensate for quality issues and late backers.

Don’t forget about taxes

We will be paying sales tax for all the backers in our state.  We should have made an estimate of how many would back us in California in order to include that cost in our budget.

In order to buy goods without paying tax we had to get a seller’s permit/resale certificate. We will pay ‘use tax’ for any goods that aren’t sold.

Design - Be explicit in drawings!!

The power supplies from China initially arrived with the wrong connector even though the part number was specified correctly. Be very careful when emailing foreign vendors, miscommunication can happen easily.

Several days were wasted because we forgot to specify the color 'black' on our silkscreen drawings.

We got  quotes from several vendors and used mfg.com to compare.

It’s important to finish designing all the parts as early as possible. Some design changes may affect other parts. Since we were making most of the parts ourselves, we were able to catch the issues and adapt. This would have been much harder if we had contracted the parts out.

We considered using stickers for branding/model numbers etc, but silkscreening came out better and looks very professional when done correctly. Laser engraving looks even better, but costs almost three times as much.

Vendors were slower than expected. Anticipate adding at least 20% more time to any date that you are promised for goods. Unexpected delays and shipping time are rarely incorporated into their time estimates.

Most international vendors required a wire transfer in their currency. Sometimes, a check could be written to them to avoid those expensive wire transfer fees. This can take a few extra days, but may be worth it.

The manuals took more time and effort than we expected. We had users test our manual by going through the instructions. No matter how simple we thought it was, some people still had no idea what we were talking about. We found the addition of pictures and diagrams to be much better than words alone.

Manufacturing

Using an unproven powder coating was risky. We chose the color after looking at a small paint chip at the powder coating shop. While the color covered the small sample pieces just fine, larger pieces showed the material underneath. The painters had to lay heavy coats to mask the problem. The coating also sometimes got into the threads of the hardware and we had to run a tap through the clogged holes.

We purchased a ton of plastic bins of various sizes which was key to making assembly and packaging run smoothly.

Friends were bribed to help with pizza and beer. Just had to make sure that all free labor was double checked for errors.

To improve quality and reduce errors, it's was a good idea to have the next person in line check the previous person’s work.

We had to account for scrapping poor quality parts, including allowing time to return and receive new parts.

Inspecting all parts as soon as they were received was a must! Just because the parts sitting on top look good, doesn't mean the rest do. If the first time you see a bad part is when you need it, it's too late!

When shipping, try and avoid getting in and out of the box more than once. Double checking things we already packed was time consuming.

When making hundreds or thousands of something, seconds count. Optimize early on is highly encouraged.

Machining parts was time consuming and expensive. In the future we will consider more injection molding.

Large minimum order quantities were hard to reach even with Kickstarter backers.

It is going to be alright.

From start to finish, the Kickstarter took a huge amount of time. Everyone working on the project had to devote the time and resources to making it work. We also made sure to have people we could poke for extra help when we were stuck.

Having patience and keeping a cool, calm head was a lifesaver. Fortunately, all our Kickstarter backers were patient and knew that the process was time consuming. We tried our best not to promise hard dates unless we felt that we could meet them. We updated everyone as often as we could, changing dates only when it was absolutely necessary. People would prefer to wait and get a quality product than quickly receive a poorly finished or buggy product.

Shipping

International shipping from vendors was very expensive. It was often more cost effective to use sea freight and wait three weeks for delivery.

Cutting and folding cardboard pieces by hand was a pain and didn’t look great. We did that for the kits until we partnered with the packaging department at our local university. They were able to prototype things quickly and cut all the inserts we needed on their machines.

While USPS was the least expensive, it was not the best choice for international orders. We discovered that delivery cannot be guaranteed and once it leaves the US since the shipment is no longer tracked. We had to resend products because they never got to their destination after nearly 2 months. DHL cost about 50% more on average, but was preferable .

We have shipped to 23 countries so far: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

Customs

Backers need to pay duties, customs and taxes depending on their country. This can sometimes up to 30% of the purchase cost. We had to include an invoice for every international shipment so that the proper fees could be assessed and customs could properly process the package. If an invoice isn’t included the package will likely be stuck in customs.

If we could do it over we would…

Give ourselves more time to properly bring up a product line instead of trying to do everything ourselves.

Get a bigger working space. Working in a small space meant we were constantly moving things around, boxing, unboxing, and doing things in several stages which made everything happen slower.

Think more about keeping the momentum going after Kickstarter rewards were delivered.

Have our website designed by a professional.

Now what?

For starters, a much needed vacation! Next week ALL of the Party Robotics staff will be ‘out of the office’ traveling internationally. While Erin and Rob go back to their day jobs afterwards, Garran and Pierre will have some other loose ends to tie up and will be back at the beginning of October. If you have any issues during the next few weeks, try posting a message on our forums or email Erin. We will do our best to respond to you as soon as we can, but it might take longer than it has in the past.

Sometime in October we will have a shopping cart on our site where you will be able to order replacement parts like tubing and other available items.

Also starting in October, we will begin experimenting and prototyping dispensing solutions for carbonated liquids.

We are opening up pre-orders for bots and hardware with a target delivery date of January 2014, possibly sooner.

We have been approached by several companies interested in partnering with us and are exploring those avenues.

We will continue to make improvements to the software and hardware, listening to the community for their feedback.

That's all for now. We will continue to keep you posted as we come up with cool new things! Thanks for joining us on this journey.


Keep Calm and Build Robots August 01 2013, 0 Comments

The last few weeks have been exciting we’ve gotten to see what our backers are doing with their newly acquired hardware. One person decided that a dispenser which only pours one shot was not nearly ambitious enough. Once he got his hands on a dispenser he set out to create ShotBot R4, which can pour up to four shots using a custom designed rotating stand. Seeing projects like this, using our core technology, is just one of the many reasons we love being an open source company. As you acquire your kits and bots make sure to share your new creations with the community. Part of being open source is sharing our ideas, creating a community where everyone can help each other to create an even better product. Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

While some guffaw at the idea of open source it is one of our key tenets. To hear more about open source and Party Robotics check out this interview with our own Robert Kaye during London’s Music Tech Fest.

Back in the San Luis Obispo workshop, Pierre and Garran have been working night and day to prepare all the bots for shipments. Recently they’ve machined B3 spouts and aluminum tubing, been figuring out silkscreen artwork, packaging for large bots, and making final modifications to the larger bot’s spout designs. Our schedule has been modified slightly from when we were hoping to deliver at the end of our Kickstarter campaign. As work continues, new issues come to the surface and we’ve enhanced or modified our original designs to bring you the best possible product. Right now our anticipated shipment dates are:

August 5th: Begin delivery of remaining kits.

August 19th: Delivery of Bartendro 3 and Shotbots

August 31st: Delivery of Bartendro 7 and 15s

We will of course continue to keep you updated on our progress. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

[caption id="attachment_1087" align="aligncenter" width="400"]IMG_0035 Freshly machined aluminum tubing[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1086" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Testing out silkscreen designs Testing out silkscreen designs[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1085" align="aligncenter" width="400"]B3 spouts B3 spouts[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1084" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Peering inside of a large bot spout Peering inside of a large bot spout[/caption]

A New Addition to the Team May 07 2013, 0 Comments

Hello everyone! My name is Garran, and I recently joined the Party Robotics team as the mechanical engineer. I first met Pierre at the Cal Poly Robotics Club approximately 7 years ago. After school we worked together at iRobot for four years. I have lots of experience with complex mobile robots and am excited to get Bartendro up and ready to serve. Currently, I’m working on bringing the bots from prototype to production state. This entails a lot of modeling, creating drawings, and bookkeeping. I am also helping to build fixtures which will allow us to make precision parts quickly and easily.

Garran

We are done designing Bartendro 1 and 3, and all of the parts are on order. We adjusted the dimensions to accommodate larger bottles and Bartendro 3 has a new spout assembly. We also added new features so that the frame can easily be upgraded with a back cover and a cup holder.

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B3_model                   Now that the smaller bots have been finalized we will be putting the finishing touches on Bartendro 7 and 15. Most recently we have added a more accessible power socket and switch. While Pierre and I have been focusing on Bartendro hardware, Rob has been working on software upgrades. He’s creating software packages from the Bartendro source code so that we can use the regular debian package system to update the software in the field. This will make it simple to install all of the software for Batendro. Part of this is working out a security model for Bartendro. Given that we have a Linux box with its own network, there are a number of security implications that we need to consider. Afterall, we don't want random people to hack into your Bartendro and abuse it, or worse, waste your booze. While these features may not sound all that interesting to everyone who can't wait to get their hands on Bartendro, they are critical for making it possible to upgrade the software on the bots after we ship to our backers. Once these updates have been finished he will be building a system that lets us easily create the SD cards which acts as Bartendro’s brains.

Then, he’ll be working on creating a settings system. This will allow the owner of the bot to access the admin screen and change the behavior of the bot. Currently, all the configuration changes are settings in the code, which isn’t great for end-users. Around this time he will also create an option to let the owner choose if a bot is a ShotBot or a cocktail mixing machine. With this feature, any Bartendro 3 and up can be used in ShotBot mode, which simply dispenses a shot of whatever booze is in the bot, rather than making a mixed cocktail.

These are all of the most critical functions needed in order to begin shipping out the bots. After they’ve been finished Rob will begin looking at the new features people have requested and start working on the things that will make the most people happy. We are still somewhat on schedule with our delivery estimates. We anticipate being able to ship kits by the end of May, but Shotbot and Bartendro 3 will likely be going out by early June, and bigger bots will follow later that month. Want to check out Bartendro in person? We'll be at the San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire on May 11 and at the Maker Faire in San Mateo on May 18th and 19th. Bay Area Maker Faire Web Badge

Spout Design Updates and General Progress April 18 2013, 6 Comments

We have lots of updates for you this week! We’re finalizing designs, working on improvements, ordering supplies, organizing workspaces, and beginning our first backer reward mailings. Stickers are set to go out tomorrow and shirts and shot glasses have been ordered. Our backers voted on their favorite t-shirt design and “Robot Made Cocktails” is the winner. [caption id="attachment_695" align="aligncenter" width="355"]Winning Shirt Design Winning Shirt Design[/caption] Since getting so much exposure via Kickstarter, we’ve been invited to attend events and conferences across the country. Last week we went to the Cool Product Expo at Stanford University. There were 30 relatively new companies there, most of whom had also gotten their start on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Our booth was outside which wasn’t the best setup, making the lights and tablets nearly impossible to see. However, we met lots of interesting people and made some great connections. Several of our backers even came out and got a sneak peak at Bartendro! Next week, Pierre will be speaking on the Open Source Hardware Panel at DesignWest with Jason Kridner from Texas Instruments, Gert Van Loo from Broadcom, Chris Taylor from SparkFun, and Alex Wolfe from EE Times. He’ll also be giving a short presentation at the Gadget Freak DIY Lab Session. If you’re going to be at the conference make sure to stop by and say hi. One of the design modifications we’ve been working on is the spout assembly. While not a problem with the smaller bots, inserting the tubing for Bartendro 15 has been quite a pain. Working with a mechanical engineer, we have redesigned the spout assembly to pop on and off without any tools, making it easier to clean. The tubing separator has been opened up so that all the tubes can now enter from the side. [caption id="attachment_704" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Original Tubing Separator Original tubing separator[/caption] [caption id="attachment_707" align="aligncenter" width="400"]The original spout design made it difficult to insert tubing for cleaning and maintenance. The original spout design made it difficult to re-insert tubing if one popped out.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_694" align="aligncenter" width="400"]IMG_2039 New Tubing Separator[/caption] ShotBot and Bartendro 3 have also gotten a bit of a makeover, getting updated faceplates. These are nearly finished and ready to order. The dispenser electronics have been improved and we’ll be ordering the boards this week. Power supplies have already been ordered and are expected towards the middle to end of May. The miniRouter and Router boards are next up for production prep. We’re also looking at some cross bracing to add rigidity to the larger frames. Everything is still on track and our hopes are to have the first kit shipments out at the end of May and our first bot shipments in early June! Will continue to keep you all updated in the coming weeks.

Post Kickstarter Updates April 04 2013, 2 Comments

We did it! On March 31st we watched as the Kickstarter clock counted down to zero. At 8pm we pressed the pour button on ShotBot and took a celebratory swig of whiskey. With all of your support we were able to exceed our Kickstarter goal by over $60k. We’ve been furiously working on finalizing the latest revisions to the electronics and placing materials orders. If everything goes smoothly, we anticipate the Bartendro kits to begin shipping at the end of May and full bots shortly thereafter.

We’ve begun collaborating with several other engineers to help us refine some of our components, making them more production ready and durable for users. Out of this collaboration came the design for our bottle tops which I’m pleased to share with you here for the first time!

Bottle Cap

Bottle Cap

Bottle Cap

Bottle Cap

Some of you have noticed that we opened up the forums last week. We’ve created forums for discussion on software, hardware, firmware, drinks, and general topics. The drinks forum is the newest addition, just added today. This is the place to share recipes and talk about database enhancements. We’re trying to figure out the best method to rate and share drinks and how to handle drinks that have the same ingredients with different names. We’ve discussed the possibility of searching by region, voting on most widely accepted name, having an alternative name section, etc. There are a lot of possibilities and we would love to hear your ideas! Please note that if you share drink recipes it’s not guaranteed to be added to the database. However, if we see something intriguing we might try it out on one of the prototype bots and report back to you :)

We’ve had quite a few emails since the Kickstarter ended asking about how to purchase a Bartendro. Well, we’re not quite there yet. Delivering to existing backers is our first priority. If you’d like to be the first to get any updates about pre-orders then you should join our new mailing list.

Last, we’d like to invite you to come get an in-person Bartendro demo. Pierre and I will be at the Stanford Cool Products Expo on April 10th, if you’d like to come check out the bots and say hi.