Star Wars – Sabertron Awakens – Founder Interview
The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.”
Darth Vader – Sith Lord and Absentee Father
The toast of the gadget world, Sabertron, are gaining popularity in leaps and bounds, and well deserved. I can’t think of a gadget I’m more excited about than this. Office colleagues have been warned that duels will become integral to their job-role. (I think a duel may become part of the recruitment process).
I was very fortunate to be able to chat with the Sabertron Ninja himself, Tim Reichard (See him in action at the bottom of the page), and get his views on Sabertron, and the future of this much anticipated device.
So Tim, first thing first, and this is a very important question, was there a lot of discussions/arguments as to who would be the Sabertron Ninja? Or did you pull rank?
No arguments whatsoever. When we were filming, we had two costumes slotted for the main video (pirate or ninja), and Joe looked much better than myself in the Pirate costume so I defaulted to using the Ninja. Unfortunately the Ninja costume was a little small, but we took advantage of this fault and were able to add some comedy to the Kickstarter video where you see my belly jiggle, etc. We had the opportunity to show our Kickstarter at the Austin Hardware Startup Meetup Group right after the Kickstarter campaign ended, and were blown away by the response from the audience, receiving a standing ovation and comments that our video was one of the best Kickstarter videos they had ever seen.
What inspired the idea behind Sabertron? Other than the fact everyone wants to be a Jedi.
Honestly, I don’t think David and I had a firm grasp of our target audience when we first began this adventure with Sabertron. I had initially thought that the LARPing community would be our target audience but we found out that the Star Wars and Comicon crowd really appreciated what we had come up with. In addition, when you take on the task of inventing something, it is difficult to project the world’s reaction to your invention. What we came to find out is that the world loves Sabertron, and has been craving this new swordplay experience, along with the simple fact that this technology brings on many new and exciting opportunities to have fun. And that is the inspiration, to bring fun and a healthy alternative to gaming. The 80s brought us indoors to play video games (Atari & Nintendo), whereas Sabertron is bringing us back out for a more social, healthy and interactive experience.
Is there a “typical” user you are aiming for, or do you hope to cast a wide net?
Wow, the net is wide. Our target audience includes everyone from Star Wars and Lord of The Rings fans, LARPing and Cosplay communities, all the way down to kids who just like playing with glowing swords. In the beginning, we thought the niche LARPing community would be our typical user, but what we found out is that the entire world along with many types of users are interested in Sabertron. One key example is a Kickstarter backer who told us that he planned to use Sabertron as a lamp in his home… yes a lamp! I’m sure there more other unconventional uses for Sabertron we don’t even know about yet. Parents are pre-ordering Sabertron for their children (and themselves), so we see a wide age range of people purchasing. Many businesses have also shown interest, from venues like lasertag arenas to companies that want to use them for parties and team-building events.
The Future Of Sabertron
What are you working on right now with the Sabertron?
Let me start by letting you know what we have finished. The mechanical design has been completed and we have also finished the first iteration of production worthy firmware and electronics. What we are presently working on is a second revision for the electronics, this includes some updates and fixes. We are also refining the firmware and have established functionality to all the peripherals along with improving on the very important hit detection algorithm. For the first release of Sabertron, we really want to include everything we possibly can.
We’ve yet to get our hands on a set (wink, wink), but they look great. I imagine most orders would be for the lightsaber style over the medieval, do you have any other upcoming designs? I’m thinking Katana, Claymores, Nunchucks etc. 🙂
We have plans and many ideas for future new weapon designs. We also have plans to create a module that can be attached to your own weapons and used in the same way as Sabertron. Right now, these our plans because we are heavily focused on bringing Sabertron to market. Once we deliver with Sabertron we are highly optimistic and excited to bring many new weapons to market. Some of the new weapons include Katana, Claymores, axes, spears, etc.
Will there be film/game versions of swords? (for example Excalibur or Link’s sword from the Legend of Zelda games)
We really do hope so, but being able to create these branded swords requires some preliminary negotiation with the companies that own the rights to those brands. It makes a lot of sense to create limited editions and higher quality weapons that would appeal to the collector market. Our goal is to have our Sabertron technology become the standard for all such toys. Still, at present we have a single focus on developing Sabertron and are focused on quality.
Are you planning of hosting any events where people can either buy the swords or perhaps even try them? Even setting up some sort or competition?
Yes… we’ll have more to release on that later. 😉
How will the bluetooth sync work, will there be a smartphone app? How will this be implemented, can you rank scores with friends, etc?
The Grandmaster Sabertron will be the only version that has Bluetooth. Eventually we plan to have it sync with a smartphone app. As you can imagine, there is tremendous opportunity with this integrated technology, from heralding your victories on Facebook to a highly competitive cloud based leaderboard that could store rankings and numerous battle attributes (ex. Lord of the Rings Online but in the physical world). Think laser tag but with swords, plus integrating what is typically found in MMORPG for real world interactive gaming. Now that would be awesome and bring a new wrinkle on what we could be doing with a leisure time.
How often do you guys duel? and do you have some sort of league (if so who’s the champ?).
We have just started dueling again now that we have some good prototypes to test out, but for many months we had our heads down developing all the necessary technology that Sabertron uses. We can’t wait to begin the big marketing push of creating gameplay videos, hashing it out with Sabertron. We don’t have any league we are part of but hope that our fans will organically create leagues around the world.
In a tournament who would win out of these guys. Luke Skywalker, Errol Flynn, Zorro, and Inigo Montoya?
Luke Skywalker! (editors note: I’d have to say Inigo Montoya if he’s using his right hand)
I believe people have been waiting for Sabertron for many decades now. The crowdfund success can be attributed to many factors: video quality, social media marketing, tech blog reach, and the obvious awesomeness of the Sabertron concept. We have some people tell us that Sabertron could truly become the toy of the decade, and this kind of feedback fuels our drive to create something amazing with Sabertron . In retrospect, we learned so much from launching the Kickstarter campaign. Reaching the tech pub community pre-launch and orchestrating the Kickstarter launch with a few major tech blog releases is key. Also, if the video is captivating enough it could really go viral. We found out that Reddit was another key social site. We released a rough Sabertron video on Reddit and saw about 50,000 views of our video in about 24 hours, which in turn generated over $50K from Kickstarter backers. This was pretty lucky and came as a pleasant surprise. I feel like you need to have some very strategic planning along with a little bit of luck to be successful on Kickstarter. The planning will take months, it is naïve to think you can have Kickstarter success without putting in the time to do the pre-launch work necessary.
Crowdfunding can, and often is, a force of good. However there are an increasing number of campaigns that are clearly just fishing for money without having a real plan, what do you make of these companies that look for money before having a solid product/idea?
I’m not aware of many of these Kickstarter projects. However, we have heard that some of the people who have funded Kickstarter projects in the hardware sphere, fail to delivery because they lack many years of real world experience and may also attempt to manufacture too quickly in Asia, which brings many challenges even though it may be more cost effective. We have had feedback from a hardware consultant, familiar with other projects, tell us we were far ahead in our electronics work in a matter of a few months than these other Crowdfunded projects were in over one year. The main difference was the level of experience, since the average age of our team is around 40 years old. Our CEO John Davidson has been a CEO of his own company for over 17 years. David Lynch was a Senior Member of the Technical Staff Engineer at AMD. The organic growth of a company should be first, develop a solid product/idea and then ask for money. This is only logical.
Finally what does the future hold for the Sabertron team? (other than world-domination though non-lethal swordplay)
Who knows, but we have many exciting ideas for extensions of Sabertron and beyond. We have plans for several other products. But one step at a time, first we must introduce the world to Sabertron!
Well that was Sabertron Ninja Tim. Check out his moves below in the awesome Sabertron kickstarter video
I’ll keep you up to date with the latest from Sabertron in the coming months (We’ll take a peak soon at the recently announced Blackout Edition – see below for pictures) . Expect a full review (and plenty of duelling action) when Sabertron is released this year. For those in the UK I’ll be looking to host Sabertron tournaments with prizes up for grabs, so keep your eyes peeled for more info.