John is the Electronics Subsystem hardware designer for the Emotion Mood Sensing Ring. The electronic subsystem (ES) is essentially a tiny computer, which comprises a processor, memory, sensors, wireless charging and wireless communications technology. The ES provides the means for connecting a mood sensing ring to an app on a paired smart phone or other similar device, to enable the sensing of the emotional state that is being indicated by the included mood stone.
The major design challenge tackled by John was to drastically reduce the size of the ES so that it physically fits inside the mood sensing ring’s chassis. This requires shrinking the surface area of the current, proof-of-concept electronics subsystem—the one being used in our prototype mood sharing bracelet—by 80%.
John has decades of experience designing and developing electronics, especially regarding communications networking and high end computing systems. He recently sat down for a Q&A regarding the electronics subsystem of the mood sensing ring.
Q: What was it about the Emotion Mood Sensing Ring Project that motivated you to join the team?
A: I thought it was an interesting idea and I wondered if we could improve the accuracy of the original mood ring with modern technology. I remember that the original mood ring from the 1970s tended to be inaccurate and as such wasn’t always reflective of the true mood.
Q: You mentioned the 70s, what else do you remember about that time?
A: I remember being in college … studying engineering. Having come from a very small town in Kansas, college was a revelation. I loved college! There were all these people, from different countries, that had all these different experiences that I hadn’t imagined. It was a lot of fun. If I could have afforded it, I would have gone to college forever. I also remember short skirts, hot pants and the music: rock-and-roll. The Rolling Stones and Three Dog Night were my favorite bands and my favorite song was “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night.
Q: Going back to the Emotion Mood Sensing Ring project, what are you specifically working on?
A: The electronics, which are the guts or smarts of the system, are a really small computer chip with a bunch of peripherals that allow it to take temperature, humidity and anything else that we might want. It (the ES) parses information and posts it in small packets of data to your phone. The electronics track the emotional data of the (mood) stone on the top of the ring. How you are feeling is reflected in the mood stone.
Q: How would you compare the ES to computer systems that you worked on in the 70s?
A: 35 years ago, the equivalent amount of processing speed and memory would have been the size of a shoe-box, would have used 1000 times more power and would have cost a couple of million dollars. The ES is a lot smaller at the size of your thumb below the knuckle. It uses way less power. And, it is nowhere close to a hundred dollars, compared to a million.
Q: Technology-wise, has anything surprised you?
A: Miniaturizing the electronics was a challenge. It took more time than I thought it would to get the board to its current size. It’s the antenna, the battery, the coils, the battery charger and other peripherals which made getting the ES smaller a problem. There is a lot of stuff that has to go into a very small package. Also, the battery, from the perspective of finding a supplier who can meet our requirements was a challenge. Finally, the wireless charging is an outlier.
Q: Are you having fun?
A: Yes, it’s interesting. It keeps the brain working.