Within the first few months of the engagement, Synapse created major improvements with Clifford’s mechanical subsystems:
- Neck: Synapse engineers strengthened the entire neck mechanism to make it more durable, but the key improvement was increasing the puppy’s range of motion. As a result, Clifford has the ability to lay his head flat on the floor between his paws, exhibiting a common puppy sleeping position.
- Tail: Through a novel cam-based design, the tail mechanism was improved so it could be tucked under the body while sleeping. The tail also received other upgrades that included getting an arc shape (compared to straight) when wagging and increased side-to-side wag motion to resemble a real dog.
- Eyebrows: Eyebrows and eyebrow motion were added because of Tombot’s research showing that “puppy dog eyes” are a key trait for the formation of emotional attachment. Just below the eyebrows are the eyelids, whose mechanism was changed to prevent damage from user misuse.
- Ears: A little further back on the head are the ears with an updated profile that improved safety and provided more lift and back-to-front moveability.
- Mouth: The mouth’s drive mechanism was modified as a safety measure to prevent injuries due to an accidental bite.
- Head: The head support structure was redesigned for independent control of pitch, roll, and yaw.
As important as the movements are, it is equally important that the puppy’s sensory system responds realistically. Synapse engineers built a state-of-the-art audio processing system and incorporated behavioral context recognition as part of Clifford’s design process. Using a beamforming microphone array with a Synapse-optimized audio front end, Clifford can determine from which direction he is being called, then respond by turning his head to his owner or any source of sound, and exhibit context-appropriate behaviors including making authentic puppy sounds. The redesigned systems allow Clifford to respond to over 20 different voice commands. Owners can customize their puppy’s behaviors including renaming the puppy through an accompanying smartphone app.
“Any innovative hardware idea is going to carry a large amount of technology risk. Without a partnership with experts like Synapse, the likelihood of failure is much higher.”
Tombot CEO and Co-founder Tom Stevens
The combination of Synapse mechanical, electrical, and firmware engineering has produced a high performing technology system that enables Tombot to bring to market a lifelike and transformative user experience.
To ease Clifford’s transition to commercialization, Synapse factored in cost and manufacturability for all of the improvements. Engineers designed the mechanisms that enabled all of Clifford’s motions with the fewest possible motors. The number of computer platforms was reduced and the electrical architecture was transitioned to production-appropriate chipsets. Tombot is on path to be the world’s first affordable, FDA-regulated, medical-grade robotic animal, and begin shipping to its many thousands of pre-order and waitlist customers from around the world.
At Synapse, we believe in the power of innovation to improve human lives. We are proud to bring Tombot’s vision to life and the positive impact it will have on people.