And the winner is… 1

Posted by Conrad Benham on October 02, 2008

…it’s a draw. We were very fortunate to have regular Agile Hong Kong participant Jonathan Buford give a very interesting presentation in which he discussed his experiences as a Toy Engineer. He covered the major aspects of toy development and how they relate to software development. On display were some of the toys he has worked on as a consultant, including one he is busy preparing for the end of year sales cycle. Jonathan also introduced us to an innovative project management tool he is working on with his business partner.

Toys vs Software: Fight

Software development and toy development share a number of similarities.  In both, an initial idea must be decided upon: the concept. Once chosen, a prototype is then built to validate the functionality of the toy. This is similar to a spike, particularly given a prototype instance of a toy will never reach the stores. Sometimes a toy will even be modeled in Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. These models are used to verify the operation of a toy, particularly one that has moving parts that interact with other parts to create a complex mechanical system. The CAD model is used to help fail fast in the case the product won’t work.

A major differentiation between product development and software development is that the business can be tempted to use a software spike in the case it is successful, where a toy prototype cannot be used as it is a single item that requires the engineering of a new item before there is something of salable value. Once a design is proven, the tooling must then be created to actually build the product. Something that can take a considerable amount of lead time, 60 days is not unusual.

Toy development differs vastly when it comes to automated testing phase. The scope for automated testing is less than for software development. In software development it is possible to automate the tests for many parts of the system. However, according to Jonathan, while it is possible to automate the tests for a toy it is not so simple. Jonathon did introduce the concept of stress testing in which a toy is placed in a machine that shakes the toy. This automated test is designed to verify the strength of a product. While other tests can be developed they need to be made on a case by case basis.

Thanks go to Jonathon for giving an interesting and insightful presentation on the processes involved with toy product development.


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  1. Robert Lowe Thu, 01 Jan 2009 16:54:22 UTC

    Nostalgia buffs might like to know that I finally got around to posting some photos of the event.