Case Studies - Hardware Product Design
Magic Leap and Adapteva are two examples of startups that initiated hardware product design as a central part of their business model.
- Magic Leap is a Florida-based startup founded in 2011 whose business model is entirely centered around the development and sale of augmented reality (AR) headsets, which the company calls "spatial computers."
- Amid a burgeoning AR industry, including hardware product releases such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear, Magic Leap set out to create an "unprecedented" headset that could provide an "AR experience like never before."
- Specifically, the company endeavored to create an AR headset that could "bring cinema into the physical world" through the use of spatial computing technology.
- Although Magic Leap was particularly secretive regarding their approach to this challenge, it has since been revealed that the company broke through the boundaries of "weight vs. performance" in AR headsets by moving the processing power of the hardware product to a user's hip.
- With this simple adjustment, the startup was able to create a headset that was "light as a pair of headphones" and provided an "unrivaled volume of view," but still offered unique performance features such as spatial audio and high fidelity characters.
- Notably, the startup released its first set of augmented reality goggles, the Magic Leap One, this past August of 2018 to mixed reviews.
- Meanwhile, as of January of 2020, the startup was poised to close its latest fundraising effort, which would value Magic Leap at $3.7 billion and bring the company's total funding to $1.4 billion to date.
- Adapteva is a Massachusetts-based startup founded in 2008 that develops high-performance/energy-efficient manycore accelerator chips and computer modules.
- Similar to Magic Leap, Adapteva was founded in response to the growth of a new industry, in this case that of artificial intelligence (AI) and its integration within everyday products and services.
- Specifically, the company looked to create hardware products that could address the "extreme energy efficiency requirements" of AI products and services, such as autonomous navigation, software defined radio and machine learning applications.
- To achieve this goal, Adapteva took a "clean-slate approach" to computer construction, and designed each sub-component of their hardware with a focus on parallel processing and low power embedded computing.
- Additionally, the startup implemented a "very tightly coupled optimization flow" that considered a wide variety of requirements for the company's initial chip, such as performance, ease of use, power and ease of implementation.
- As a result of this approach, the company shipped its first silicon product in May of 2011 and has since progressed to producing hardware products with a 25X advantage in energy efficiency.
- Additionally, Adapteva is known for introducing the world's first 1024 core 64-bit microprocessor as well as successfully completing the world's first Kickstarter crowd-funded chip.
- Overall, Adapteva has succeeded in creating a profitable hardware business that will "stay open indefinitely" as its ships products worldwide.
- With that said, the startup's growth has been somewhat stymied by the slower adaptation of accompanying software markets, and the company's founder Andreas Olofsson has left Adapteva for a position at DARPA.