LaMetric: Using 3D printed prototypes for product development and crowdfunding

3D printing has already had a huge impact on the future of how products are conceptualized, designed and developed. Smart Atoms, a group of tech visionaries, designers and engineers, has created LaMetric, a standalone, customizable, hackable smart ticker that tracks key life and business metrics and displays them in real-time. Before launching their Kickstarter campaign, Smart Atoms prototyped LaMetric using Shapeways. Smart Atoms CEO Nazar Bilous discussed the process of developing LaMetric and how 3D printing is a key component of product, and hardware, development.

LaMetric - track what's important to you

LaMetric – track what’s important to you

What inspired you to create LaMetric?

Most of our team used to work in a digital agency before forming Smart Atoms. Every day each of us was curious about the most important digital product numbers including app’s ranking, downloads, website stats. It took a lot of time getting them from different slow loading sites and we decided to solve it by having a simple device that saves our time, tracks the key numbers autonomously and shows them fresh for the whole team.

Nike+ Fuelband was a huge inspiration at LaMetric concept stage. Its amazing screen made the highest impact. We wanted to get the screen that looks like it is a part of the black casing when the device is switched off and clearly projects the screen across a large physical space with bright, sharp, square pixels. Most people that saw the 3D model doubted it’s even possible. Which motivated us even stronger to reach it.

How did using Shapeways help you develop the LaMetric prototype?

In the course of several prototype iterations, we moved from an ugly brick-like box to a rounded bar, after which most of the early adopters wanted to put LaMetric at home or office. We now understand Apple’s passion for rounded corners, this works well in the 3D world, too. Initially, we created the casing using an average domestic 3D printer, but the quality was not good enough for us to get profound feedback from beta testers, especially “look and feel”. We discovered the Shapeways service that quickly transformed our model into high quality device parts.

LaMetric parts prototype: homeprinter left, Shapeways right

LaMetric parts prototype: homeprinter left, Shapeways right

What need will the product fulfill?

In the age of information overload it’s important to have personal information radiators or status panel to be more productive. Main indicators like weather warnings, amount of new emails, amount of daily tasks and how much you’ve already solved, money balance, time to meeting and others give you immediate understanding of where you are and what to do next.
LaMetric eliminates the need to check multiple apps or news sites for the information you need. Instead, you receive everything at a glance, all in one place, in real-time.

If you have a family or small business it’s twice important to track shared indicators and boost group productivity via getting communal experience and discovering something together. It can be tracking important dates(events, deadlines, anniversaries), profit numbers, product rankings, social metrics, leads amount, sales figures, visitors amount, youtube subscribers, mentions and others. In this day and age of personalised devices and individuals with their heads buried in their smartphone screens, people crave these shared experiences, a sense of belonging, a sense of greater purpose that make them more motivated and productive.

In a digital world, why develop hardware?

By developing hardware you can discover new tangible interactions and experiences. The digital world doesn’t give this.

Final LaMetric prototype

Final LaMetric prototype

How does having a well developed prototype help when launching a crowdfunding campaign dedicated to hardware?

We added photos of all our prototypes to the Kickstarter campaign page to show people our understanding of quality and where we’ve spent a year of hard work before launch. It builds relationships with your backers. It’s very important in crowdfunding, and it’s all about transparency.

How do you think that 3D printing will help the future of hardware design, iteration and development?

3D printing helps quickly build iterative prototypes, test with your early adopters and get feedback on idea, form, size etc. It increases the speed of building hardware products and gives not expensive tool for everyone to create things. For us, prototypes built with Shapeways additionally allowed get feedback how LaMetric looks and feels. 3D printing will have a significant impact on IoT industry and bring a lot of new exciting devices in the near future.