In this interview, Jane Fraser, the test director at Anki, gives examples of how the Internet of Things can be used to develop and test things today. She explains how to keep up with IoT technology innovations and get your testing job done at the same time.
Jennifer Bonine: We’re back with another virtual interview. Thanks for tuning in and joining us again, to our virtual audience. I have Jane with me. Jane, thanks for joining me.
Jane Fraser: You’re welcome, pleasure.
Jennifer Bonine: We’re glad to have you. Why don’t we talk a little about the company you work for or what they do. Kind of a little bit about your background so that folks out there have some information on you, and then we’ll get into some of where your passion is.
Jane Fraser: Okay. My company is Anki. We’re located in San Francisco. We’re a robotics company. Our first product is a toy. We basically after the old slot car version, brought into the 20th century by removing the slots, adding a brain to the car, and allowing you to drive it with your cell phone.
Jennifer Bonine: Wow.
Jane Fraser: It’s like bringing a lot of the robotic technology into the consumer’s living room. Also, by having an SDK, they can be used in schools and for people to learn more about robotics, which is our main goal.
Jennifer Bonine: That’s amazing. It’s interesting. Do you guys ever get involved in the World Cup of Robotics?
Jane Fraser: A lot of our founders have. We have a lot of PhDs from Carnegie Mellon. They’re no longer really in that as much, because we’re focused on our products, but they have been. I saw the soccer games showed that the robots tried to play soccer.
Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. People don’t know … This was a new thing for me. We actually have a person who works at the organization I work with whose daughter was in the World Cup of Robotics and she’s eight-years old. I think it’s just amazing to see a way to engage young people, to your point-
Jane Fraser: Yes, and that’s a lot what we want to do.
Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, engaging young people, and their interest in intrigue in technology, and like you said bring it to their living rooms, bring it to their every day, and not making it something they can’t engage with.
Jane Fraser: Yes.
Jennifer Bonine: Interesting thing if you’re out there, if you have children, if you are interested in it, go see about the World Cup of Robotics. It’s amazing what people are doing in the robotics space. So neat. Go check out the company. They should go look at the company and see what some of what you guys are doing. Kind of along those lines, you had a talk here at the conference around Internet of things and the connectedness of devices and stuff, so maybe tell us a little bit about that.
Jane Fraser: Yeah. It’s fairly similar as I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned, as similar as our company wants to share robotics. A lot of it is testing the Internet of things is not all that different from testing software. It’s just you have a thing. I should’ve brought my car so I’d have a thing. It’s in the real world. You’ve opened up to the environment, you have to understand all these pieces, and a lot more learning, but it’s still the ones and zeros, the input the output. Some of the things I’ve learned is one of ours; it was sunlight that affected our testing.
Jennifer Bonine: I bet, yeah.
Jane Fraser: Our cars, they drive on a road and have a downward-facing camera, and sun was blinding the camera and the car would drive off the track. It took about three days to figure out that this was sun.
Jennifer Bonine: That was impacting it.
Jane Fraser: Yes. It happened … I had one of my engineers come in and finally he came in early enough that he actually saw what I was trying to tell them. He stood there and he went like this to think about it, and the sun hit him directly in the eye and he’s like, “Oh, dear.”
Jennifer Bonine: It dawned on him, this is what’s happening.
Jane Fraser: He was like, “Hmm, okay.” Then we had to change the car, put a little shield almost like sunglasses on him so that he wouldn’t be affected by it. It was a totally new thing; you’ve got to think of your environment, the temperature, the dirt.
Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.
Jane Fraser: Even like an iWatch is, they had to look at, How does it look in the sun? What colors work better for when you’re outdoors or indoors? It’s a new kind of thing you have to really think about.
Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. You have to take a lot more factors into account that you maybe didn’t worry about before. As we get more mature in it … I remember when tablets first came out that you would use, and they weren’t any good outside. They would be in the sun and you couldn’t see. The first versions people had taken some of the environmental …
Jane Fraser: Yeah. We added now where you can change the lighting effects on them so you can actually see them. Some people just go, “Oh, I don’t want to get into that,” but I’m finding it just like so much fun. All of sudden it’s like, “Oh, I never thought of that.”
Jennifer Bonine: Right. It’s all these new things it opens you up to taking into account and thinking about. I had the opportunity to visit one of the labs for one of the med device companies. They’ve thought of this for a while, because when you think about cut cauterized tools that are machines basically powered in operating rooms, they’ve always had to deal with environmental factors. They have labs where they put the devices in extreme heat. Imagine you’re in the desert or somewhere very, very, very hot and you can’t cool the room, how does the machine or the thing perform in that condition? What do you do if there’s an earthquake and you have lots of jostling and you can’t control it and you’re in surgery?
Jane Fraser: We do those with ours. There’s testing labs that simulate the heat and the cold, and what happens to our product when it shipped from China, which we actually had a problem. We had to do better checks and better manufacturing on it, because the temperatures on the boat were affecting it. We ended up having to rework all our product when it got to the US.
Jennifer Bonine: Wow. To factor in transport even. Not even just use but transport and getting things from one place to another, and taking all those environmental things into account. Now, interestingly enough the product that you guys have is it available now, people can get it?
Jane Fraser: Yes. It’s been available for about a year and a half now, a little bit longer I think. It’s online at anki.com, Amazon, Toys R Us.
Jennifer Bonine: What’s the price point just so people know for this type of—
Jane Fraser: You can usually find it on sale somewhere for $129. That gets you a track and two cars. You can drive with your phone. Various track configurations you can you can make, and buy lots of extension pieces. We can go up to a sixty-four piece track currently.
Jennifer Bonine: Wow. That’s amazing.
Jane Fraser: Yes.
Jennifer Bonine: We were talking about, before we started I think, the capability that we have now to make the technology so much more affordable, the components more affordable and smaller.
Jane Fraser: The cell phone industry exploded and that brought the manufacturing for all these parts. The cell phones got smaller, the parts got smaller and the parts got cheaper.
Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.
Jane Fraser: Our actual cars, I believe it’s an iPhone 4 camera that we use.
Jennifer Bonine: Really? Wow.
Jane Fraser: A lot of the other parts are … Parts, the BTLE radios and that are parts you generally find in a cell phone.
Jennifer Bonine: Wow. It’s amazing what that did for a lot of industries to get technology more affordable and then be able to put it in the homes of the consumer where now people can own these things and it’s not outside of their reach.
Jane Fraser: There was that and one of the other big technology leaps was the Bluetooth low energy that allowed the connections very simply, very low power so you weren’t draining your battery trying to stay connected to your phone. Fitbit, the iWatch, all of these things are connected usually using the Bluetooth low energy to your device so that it gets a seamless connection.
Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. You’ve got the tracks, you’ve got the cars, are you guys seeing some other things coming down in the future?
Jane Fraser: We are actually working on another product, but I’m not allowed to talk about it.
Jennifer Bonine: I had to ask. You always have to ask.
Jane Fraser: It was supposed to be announced this month so that I could, but the announcement was delayed.
Jennifer Bonine: Hopefully coming soon.
Jane Fraser: Yes, it’ll be out for Christmas.
Jennifer Bonine: Okay, out for Christmas, so for all of you out there looking for Christmas gifts.
Jane Fraser: Yeah, it’ll be the best Christmas if you have a kid between eight and fourteen.
Jennifer Bonine: Eight and fourteen, okay, kind of children. See, we’re giving you Christmas gift ideas.
Jane Fraser: And the techie people that just love the toys.
Jennifer Bonine: They just love the toys. Let’s not forget there are lots of adults out there who love their own toys and things to have. Sometime in the next couple of weeks you think then if people go out to the website they’ll be able to-
Jane Fraser: I think it’s about a month from now we’ll have the announcement.
Jennifer Bonine: We’ll have the announcement. You guys are all getting in on it early, so you can go check it out before they’re sold out for Christmas.
Jane Fraser: Yes. We’ll be doing pre-orders for the Christmas rush. We are a technology company first. We’re trying to build a robotic platform. Our first two products have been toys, so it’s going through … A lot is taking the next piece of robotics, adding it to our platform, seeing how we can make use of it and how we can share it.
Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, with people out there.
Jane Fraser: Again, we’ll be developing an SDK, so that other people can actually program on it, see how the different technologies work and add to the education of people out there.
Jennifer Bonine: Wonderful. Now, before we wrap up one last question. For folks who are interested in IoT, which your talk was on Internet of things, and are trying to get started and are kind of overwhelmed, because a lot of people are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start or how does that impact me in my testing, what’s do I need to think about. Any good tips or advice on where to go to get information to get you started?
Jane Fraser: It’s limited what you can find out there. A lot of it is really is become a customer. Think about the customer and what the customer will do. One of things I did, I was at a stand up and my mechanical engineer walked by and he said, “Jane, what are you doing?” “Nothing.” He said, “What’s under your foot?” I picked up the other foot and you hear “crack.” He goes, “Give me my car.” He takes it and looks at it and goes, ‘Yup, parents are going to do that. They’re going to step on it. I will fix it so that it won’t break.” He said, “I’ll change the adjustments so that it will take more pressure.”
Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, than that to break it.
Jane Fraser: Yeah. It’s a lot of that. We throw the cars off roofs. We do everything with them just trying to make sure. We cover what the kids will do. I didn’t do well on; our dog can still eat it. They messed it up. Although our customer service department replaced it.
Jennifer Bonine: Not edible yet.
Jane Fraser: Yeah. Our customer service department replaced it.
Jennifer Bonine: Oh, wonderful. Oh, amazing. Thank you so much for being here with us, Jane. If people want more information or have more questions, because I’m sure I just scratched the surface, how can they get a hold of your or find you?
Jane Fraser: I’m on LinkedIn, I’m happy to connect, or [email protected]. Happy to answer questions, happy to help people get in this new world.
Jennifer Bonine: This is awesome. Thanks Jane so much for joining us. It was a pleasure.
Jane Fraser: Thank you.
Jennifer Bonine: Thanks all of you and tune in for more interviews later today.
Jane Fraser has managed tests groups from just herself to a team of 120. Her focus is in developing testers into key members of the community with true influence on the product and process. Jane has spent the past twenty years on a span of projects including publishing programs, web/e-commerce, games, big data, mobile, e-ticketing and robotics. As test director at Anki, a robotics and artificial intelligence company, she is managing the test team on the hit robotic battle racing game, Anki OVERDRIVE. Jane has spoken at several testing conferences and loves being able to “play” with hi-tech toys for a living.