Desk Diary 20160106
I originally wanted to keep the lounge area free but what with more staff, equipment and stock, I've had to sacrifice the lounge for the company to grow.
I originally thought we had to move out this year to expand but of late I've been thinking about my original plan about expansion - to keep development and license management in Japan (like Good Smile Company) and production overseas (like Good Smile Company).
What I was thinking was to have manufacturing done in Japan at our factories and then assembly done overseas - in Malaysia to serve Asia and in the US too as the US is our biggest market. We would be able to lower our costs which means lower prices for our consumers.
I would only do this after a series of contained tests to see if it's practical and am able to maintain the same quality as we do right now through assembly in our Tokyo office. The key to this is to have a single person in each locale who is anal about quality control.
But I want to ask you - do you care where the product is made as long as quality control is maintained? Apple, Sony, Samsung etc make their stuff in China and Thailand but do you care where it's made? Lemme know in the comments as I'm very interested in your take on this matter.
Again, I'm only considering and have not made any solid plans.
When we first moved last year, my desk started off being on the other end of the office and slowly migrated to this end. I had to move desk to this side due to the new photo booth that occupies my previous spot.
I've been using my standing desk for a few months and am now pretty much used to standing up while working. I do make sure to strike a balance though and sit down from time to time like when taking a poo - pooing while standing up is known to cause various side-effects as I have been told.
Standing desks are much more comfy to use with a foot mat though. Kizuna in Tora Kigurumi enjoying the mat out of the box before I infect it with my vinegar feet.
This particular mat is comfy but difficult to clean - my socks pick up thread and other bits n pieces from the carpet and it sticks to the mat - not even hoovering removes the dirt and I have to resort to tape - first world problems eh?
We've been working on the 3D sculpt of Chitose since July 2015 and this is the final result. The next thing to work on is the wig, face masks for painting, smaller bust part and apparel. We are aiming to launch Chitose on her birthday which is 14th March 2016.
Here is just a handful of the 3D prints that we did to check the sculpt.
Having 3D printers in house greatly speedup the production process. The gray printouts you see here are the new default hands for Eiji - the current ones are more appropriate for a grasping hand but not a default hand.
Eiji is now up for pre-order and we ship in a couple of weeks.
And announcing another business that I want to launch in 2016 - glasses. These prototypes printed in house too.
There are a few reasons why I decided to start making glasses.
1. I had to make glasses for my Smart Dolls so thought it would make sense to start off with human size and scale down removing what was not necessary for the 1/3 scale Smart Doll.
2. I was fed up of the lack of selection of glasses frames on the market that suited my tastes.
Also, I was not happy with the current implementation of how a person who wears glasses would wear sunglasses without having to have a separate prescription pair. The third party clip on ones look terrible.
3. We already design apparel for Smart Doll so I thought it made sense to develop accessories too such as glasses.
4. Because we can.
It was my wife who found this office for us. I would have rejected it from the specs because it was located on the 2nd floor - at the time I was looking for offices on a higher floor because we needed as much natural light as possible to do QA on the dolls.
One side of the building has a huge white wall that reflects the sun and the other side is the river - this combination lets a ton of light into the office.
This is the other side of the office where all the hands on production is done for Smart Doll.
This is where we do all the packing for the dolls before they are collected by folks on the first floor for shipping.
The new Smart Doll care card that comes with each doll.
Now that we have just opened another soft vinyl casting factory in Tokyo, we have been able to further increase our production capacity but means that stock is taking up even more space. Instead of shelves, we use IKEA boxes which enable us to change the layout as needed with ease.
Unlike most hobby makers, I choose to keep a stock of components instead of making components based on pre-orders.
In the event of a natural disaster, we should be able to operate business for a couple of months before stocks are depleted.
Taking photos of dolls while out n about can be a handful (1st world problems) so I picked up a few goodies to make it a bit easier - the Peak Design Capture camera clip and strap. The clip lets me hang my Sony A7 from my belt while I adjust the pose of the doll etc.
Since we last spoke, I've been learning more about studio photography. Originally I didn't like photos of products in front of a white backdrop because that's not how we see them in real life.
However, in order to make the current Smart Doll official website cleaner (which is in a mess right now), I need a white background and realized that I can still include photos of the products in a real life environment.
Without any knowledge on the subject, this was my first attempt using a white cloth and always-on LED lights that I used for filming Culture Japan season 2.
This was the result - not that great with creases visible on the cloth. Ironing does not really help and neither does shining a light on the cloth from the top.
The next attempt was with paper as the backing which solves the problem of creases.
A better result but it still took ages to get a decent shot with the LED lights.
Then I learned about speedlights and after much googling I went for the ones by Nissin. Apparently a "speedlight" is a trademark of Nikon to refer to a flash but is now used as a blanket term for flashes just like how "hoover" is used for vacuuming the floor and "xerox" is used for photocopying and "smart doll" for all 1/3 fashion dolls ^^
I went for the DI700A + AIR1 kit.
The Air1 plugs on top of my Sony cameras (RX1 or A7 II) via the hotshoe and triggers any other NISSIN flashes nearby.
This is my current setup with the flashes facing away from the subject.
When the flashes fire, the light bounces off the white wall behind me and illuminates my subject.
Sorry - I couldn't find the "illuminate" scene from the demolition man so you have to make due with the trailer.
And this is the result - not fantastic but not too shabby either and much better than anything I've taken before. No Lightrooming on this yet either.
Here is another studio shot with the speedlights. Before I used to rely heavily on the lighting conditions around me but now the speedlights provide me with the right amount of lighting at anytime during the day. I will report back to you as I learn more.
I also picked up the Sony HVL-F20M flash too for when I'm out n about and need to take shots of the girls.
You know, I used to be a huge Sony fanboi (I even had a Clie) and then I went through a period where I disliked everything Sony (due to my many VAIOS breaking down) but now I'm surrounded by them making me a fanboi again.
I picked up these Sony bluetooth MDR-XB950BT headphones - not the top of the range but provide decent sound. They are over the ear which are great for folks who wear glasses.
I cant pair it to my PS4 for some reason though.
If you got a Smart Doll then they can hold onto your head phones for you in many ways - like this for example...
Or like this.
Infact, Smart Doll solves the first world problem of having to buy different cradles for different gadgets - Smart Doll can hold nearly any gadget you own - and all at the same time too.
Take out lunch from Tokyu Store - one of the items in the middle of being heated up by a maid.
Needed a WiFi router that could serve the second and first floors through concrete - went with the ASUS AC87U. Not blazingly fast but does serve its purpose. What Wifi Router do you swear by?
After gaining a lot of ground outside of Japan, I've been focusing my resources on increasing market share in Japan too. If you take a look at the official Smart Doll twitter account, you will notice that the amount of Japanese Smart Doll users have increased a great deal over the past few months.
We also had out first Japan doll event I-DOLL at Tokyo Big Sight in December and now Japan has become our second largest market for Smart Doll after the US.
One of the things that Japanese consumers seem to like about Smart Doll is its stability even without the aid of a stand.
Smart Doll can do piggy backs with ease...
And even shoulder piggy backs too.
Occasionally on weekends we would stick the two tables together to form a single display.
The shop feels like quite a mess at the moment - the apparel display next to the till especially gets on my nut. Am in the middle of planning another reshuffle of the layout this month.
For many moons having to reject apparel and parts just because of a 0.2mm dot in the wrong place was not fun - we just ended up with a load of unsellable stuff that cost money.
Then I had an idea of having an outlet in the store with the understanding that apparel or parts have something about them which was not quite ready for prime time. The result was that the outlet was an incredible success. When asked, we showed customers what was wrong with the parts (which in most cases was a small dot or air bubble) and they were surprised that we even rejected them.
We only sell outlet items in store as selling them online would just add to the costs of a items that we are selling at cost.
The TV in the shop runs a slideshow - previously on a Mac Mini but decided to use that for something else and leave it to this Intel Compute Stick to handle the slideshow and music - its been great so far with a batch script that runs to turn on the music and start the slideshow when the power is turned off as we usually just kill the electricity when leaving the shop in the evenings.
I was going to turn the TV into a menu for the shop but in the end I left it as is and continued to use the iPad as the shop menu. There are no prices on products in the shop as I feel they look unsightly - the prices are all on the iPad which simply displays the top page of smartdoll.jp
Business is going well and we still continue to bootstrap but I've come to a conclusion that we at at the point where we need an injection of cash into the company to take it to the next step - or another catalyst product. Its kinda like Back to the Future 3 where they need to prime the train a few times to get up to speed.
2016 is the year where I want to take on the challenge of making licensed character products. I say "challenge" because there is a lot involved - supervision by the publishing house/production committee and rules as to what region I can/can't sell in.
Anime licensing is so complicated which is one of the reason why it doesn't make money unless there is a big hit. I learned there are companies in specific regions which would buy the rights to an anime and just sit on it to see if anybody else wants to publish or make products from the title.
Snake about to reload his stock of fulton balloons. Speaking of which, I would sometimes broadcast my Metal Gear sessions to YouTube. My PSN ID is dannychoodotcom - feel free to add! My latest game is Gravity Daze for the PS4.
Working in the creative field means that we have a lot of creative staff - who like to make creative things ^^
Some of the first floor is dedicated to apparel development - all prototyping done in house before patterns and materials are sent to our factories in Japan or Korea.
Apparel items look simple but cutting the patterns is a complicated process. Although soon we will be using 3D software for the patterning.
Road bikes n bags decorate one side of the shop with my previous armor propped up on a mannequin which I found in a second hand store near my woods.
My wife had a bad accident the other day - if she was wearing one of these then we may not have had to take her to the hospital. She is fine now but I forbid her (and me) to ride the road bikes unless we got helmets. Not knowing anything about helmets, I went for the Kabuto brand.
Lately the roof of our office has been a spot for lunch, coffee and taking photos.
Convenience stores such as Seven Eleven can have nice bento's but you should also try super markets like Tokyu Store, My Basket, Ozeki etc where they can have fresher stuff as some of it is made on the premises.
Since a couple of months ago, we now have been including Soft Vinyl Chips - we usually throw these away because they are just flash cut away from the other shell. Now we include them with all Smart Dolls. Customers should take suspicious clothing and wrap it around the chip to see if it stains (leave it for a couple of days) and if it does then avoid using it.
This is how we test materials before we decide to use them. If these don't stain then I will be making woolly jumpers out of them.
When you start mass producing stuff - you need to make sure you got space for all the components that come part n parcel of the job - even for stuff that's not incredibly exciting like cardboard boxes. We have a whole wall dedicated for the storage of cardboard boxes ;-;
Pew pew - got another Buffalo Super Famicom USB controller for the Mac Mini...
...for the lads to beat each other up between breaks.
Ever since I started to take photos of two Eiji's together, I noticed that a large number of BL fans started to follow my MiraiRobotics twitter account - I also learned that there are a few BL cons in the US too ^^;
Both Atom printers taking a breather today.
Our office environment has to be kept not only dust free but smell free too as it would affect our products - Shoshu Gen to the rescue.
This is the Mirai Genesis Unit which fits in any Smart Doll. At the moment it's controlled by Teensy which runs Arduino libraries and has much more memory to play with but it looks like we need more computing power which is why we are switching to Android instead as per original plan.
The current Mirai Genesis Unit takes notifications from an Android phone and speaks them - it's just like Android Wear except that instead of a small screen you are notified by voice instead.
My current Android wallpaper.
That's it - I'm off to New South Wales in Australia to work as a bus driver.