What does the Lioness Vibrator and Tesla have in common?

We’ve gotten a lot of updates from Anna on hardware, but today, I’ll be talking about the more important part: the firmware! (just kidding, Anna—put the heat gun down). More specifically, I wanted to share a bit more info about the upgradeable firmware perk everyone voted for (and unlocked) during the campaign.

What is firmware?

Some of you may be now wondering, what do you mean, “firmware”? Did I vote for that? Probably, since an overwhelming majority of folks put it as one of their top choices. We struggled to describe it and generally called it “upgradeability.”

Firmware is software, but specifically software that is loaded onto a hardware device. It’s usually in some form of C (for programming folks) and is compiled for the specific electronics in your device. It’s invisible, but drives almost all consumer electronics from your smartphone down to your microwave—and, if you’ve purchased a car in the past decade, your car.

Code drives everything nowadays. Including your car.

Code drives everything nowadays. Including your car.

What Does Upgradeability Mean?

Firmware updates are becoming more common, especially in smartphones. But most devices ship with a specific set of firmware and never change. Your microwave doesn’t usually get new functions over time (or at least mine doesn't). Basically, you don’t plug it in and download updates from the internet. For one, there’s no place where you plug directly into the electronics to do that.

Meaningful upgradeability isn’t just about “plugging in” though. Even if you create a way to “plug in”—which itself was a challenge for us and is done through Bluetooth "over-the-air", due to our device being water-resistant—most things just don’t have that much they can change. Your microwave isn’t suddenly going to be able to flash freeze stuff just because I put in new firmware. It didn’t have the right hardware. But even for stuff you’d expect it can do, like maybe make the light inside the microwave flash when you should open the door and stir the TV dinner, you often can’t.

I just want my TV dinners to not have frozen and burned bits.

I just want my TV dinners to not have frozen and burned bits.

True Upgradeability Takes Preplanning

The example I like to give for true upgradeability through firmware is Tesla. At one point, Tesla’s car chassis was too low, which was causing safety and scraping problems. No problem, they just pushed a wireless update that raised the chassis. Most cars can’t do this, because this is generally built into the hardware itself, or just hardwired in. Same issue with the microwave. You have to either predict everything you’ll need ahead of time (which is impossible to do)… or control everything through software.

That’s the problem with the microwave. Many of them just have it hardwired that the light comes on when power goes to the magnetron (the thing that heats up your food). If that’s the case, you can’t make it come on or off in other cases.

So, speaking of lights:

Recording, advanced filtering, etc. Ok. Apple-like charging light? Unbelievable annoying to code for reasons I've been told no one cares about.

Recording, advanced filtering, etc. Ok.

Apple-like charging light? Unbelievable annoying to code for reasons I've been told no one cares about.

Everything where we can, we’ve moved the functionality to software control. Even the charging light is controlled through firmware—which, surprisingly, has been one of the larger pains to program based on our PCB setup, how it connects our charger, the interrupts needed… (ok, the team is saying people don’t care).

What this means for you is our setup looks far more like a modern smartphone than it does a traditional vibrator. While we can’t change physical properties like the shape or suddenly make your vibrator microwave things (which you probably don’t want anyhow…), we can change almost anything in terms of base functionality or add entirely new functionality that uses our current very broad set of sensors.

So that means…

It took a lot more work to do, but given how much everyone wanted it, and just the concept of your vibrator getting better over time even after you get it, we thought it was worth it.

That means, while we can’t change everything, you should definitely give us any and all feedback when you get your Lioness on how you want it better. We might very well be able to do something about it through a simple update from your phone.

Constant improvement requires a lot of coffee.

Constant improvement requires a lot of coffee.

Stay Tuned

The team has informed me I am long-winded, so instead of a mega-post on data and firmware, I’ll be updated you all on data and some of the science of what we do in the coming weeks! Please let us know if you have any questions, and thanks everyone for their support.