The statement "Hardware is Hard" has become the go-to phrase for companies interested in producing physical tech products. And it's true—compared with the typical product cycles of an app, hardware requires much longer timelines, larger teams and way more up front investment to get something off the ground. Despite these barriers, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the halls of CES are still lined with countless connected-autonomous-smart-wearable-device-gadgets etc—however many of them still fail to make it the final mile to market.
One up-and-coming company looking to redefine how hardware is fundamentally built, while also addressing how to break down these barriers is Silicon Valley-based Nascent Objects. Their platform enables anyone to easily create hardware from prototype to consumer-ready device quicker than ever before and offers support to bring that product from vision to launch with their new incubator program starting in July.
While advancements in rapid prototyping, open-source development platforms and 3D printing have lowered barriers for anyone trying to prototype a product, this is only a small fraction of the actual development cycle. Nascent Object's incubator will take applicants all the way from ideas to batch manufacturing and launch with the help of award-winning design studio Ammunition. Even more impressive, the first-time incubator will do this in just 8 weeks—a timeline that would be impossible without the help of their modular system and software platform.
Nascent Object modules allows anyone to build consumer electronics that are readily scaleable.
Nascent Objects is able to achieve this kind of incredible speed for incubator participants and users of their platform because their modular system allows for incredible flexibility throughout the entire product development process. On the product side, they produce a growing range of plug-and-play modules that give inventors and budding hardware entrepreneurs the chance to combine functionalities they need to bring their product to life. Each of their modules can be swapped out with the ease of replacing a battery and have the added benefits of pre-programmed firmware and certifications.
Nascent offers a range of modules allowing designers to easily build specific functions into their products.
While modularity is cool on its own, where Nascent Objects really sets itself apart is in providing software tools that automate technical engineering tasks and a revolutionary 3D printing-based manufacturing process. In the software tool, product designers drag-and-drop functional modules onto any 3D shape that becomes the form of the product. The software takes care of the mechanical and electrical design. The output is a product design file that is then sent through Nascent's manufacturing process, which prints both the object and the conductive pathways. Simply plug in the modules and you have functional hardware that can be easily scaled from batches of one to thousands.
See Nascent Object's software platform in action.
The obvious benefit here is that Nascent Objects has found a unique way to bypass many of the most time consuming and expensive parts of producing hardware products—allowing anyone to design and manufacture their products. Likewise, gadgets built with Nascent Objects' modules have the added benefit of being reusable, upgradable and customizable.
Modules come with a variety of functions and can be recombined to create literally tens of thousands of different products.
While developing the line of modules, Nascent Objects did a teardown of over 600 consumer electronics. What they found is that the majority of devices brought to market since 2012 could be build by combining just 15 different modules. They have tested this hypothesis by teaming up with Ammunition to develop products such as Droppler, a device to track your water usage via sound. The beauty of Droppler, or indeed the entire range of Nascent-enabled devices, is that microphone module can be pulled into an Amazon Alexa-activated speaker or sound reactive light and so on.
Droppler combines the Nascent Objects modules into an elegant form - the result of a collaboration with design studio Ammunition.
Nascent is providing additional support for aspiring designers and hardware entrepreneurs through their new 8-week incubator program beginning in July 2016. The first of its kind, Nascent Objects will provide the opportunity for promising ideas that use any combination of the Nascent modules to apply for the chance to team up and turn their idea into a launch-ready product.
Unlike many other incubators in the technology space, Nascent is providing the chance to tap into the excellent minds of not only their team, but also the creatives at Ammunition for a crash course in product development and go-to-market strategy. The format is simple but smart. Applicants from any background provide the idea and, if selected to participate, will work with Nascent and Ammunition develop the concept, analyze market fit and, of course, design and manufacture the functional product. Feedback and expertise will be delivered through flexible one-on-one sessions and design reviews either in-person or remotely. The result will be a launch-ready device that can be put into production at scale with flexible support based on the requirements of the project and consumer demand.
We're looking forward to what comes out of the first incubator class. For more information or to apply for the first incubator check out their website. Nascent Objects will be accepting incubator applications until June 21st for the program starting in July 2016.
Teshia Treuhaft is a Michigan-born designer. Upon graduating from back-to-back degrees, a BFA from the University of Michigan and MFA of Furniture Design from RISD, she moved to Berlin to pursue a research project considering shifting paradigms in design education. Teshia currently works at the tangible UX startup Senic.