I built the prototype of what became the StickyBud accessory for Google Glass in three hours. Here’s the story.
Back when MP3 players were hot, Oakley released the Thump, a pair of shades with an MP3 player. They had earbuds on articulating arms that snapped into the frame when you weren’t listening. It was elegant and bad-ass.
The Google Glass earbud plugs into the USB port and just kind of dangles there when you’re not using it. The original idea was to make a replacement cap for the Glass earbud that used a similar arm to hold itself against the frame. I realized immediately after printing a test cap that the ergonomics of the arm would be a pain in the ass.
Since the earbud contained a speaker, it had to contain a magnet. Sure enough, the in-ear bit was strongly magnetic. All I had to do was stick a magnet to the USB plug. The rest of the StickyBud fell into place.
Here’s the first print, which is just the sleeve that grips the earbud’s plug. When designing an accessory, I always frontload size-critical parts. There’s nothing more time-consuming than having to reshape an entire model because your width estimate was off by 10 mils.
Next up was a rough cut of the magnet tab. Every idea needs a rapid, disposable proof-of-concept to test whether the project’s even worth continuing. This print got the idea to reality ASAP, letting me feel and experiment with it. It worked beautifully, so I decided not to abandon this project.
The earbud was protruding a little too far from the project, so I set it back about halfway down the USB port. Too far towards the head and the tab tickled me under the ears.
I was having trouble returning the earbud to the tab, so I added this little ramp to guide the earbud into position.
Two more glitches to crush – it was possible to pull the thing down off the USB port, and it had some play against the frame. I added a lip to the top, exactly 0.4mm thick, so it printed as two full layers. This holds the StickyBud firmly against the frame and prevents it from slipping off the plug. I also added a back panel to glue the magnet more firmly.
Finally, the “gold master”, printed in clear, and fully finished, ready to use and announce! Open hardware, cheap tools, powerful modeling software, and sophisticated consumer tech allowed me to go from theory to product in mere hours. Why bother whiteboarding and brainstorming when building is faster?
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