My Interview with the Luraco (iRobotics 6S) Engineers – Part 1

Transcript of Video Titled “Interview with the Luraco Engineering Team (Part 1)”

Dr. Alan Weidner: Hey, thanks for being patient with me this morning. I appreciate you guys being on the call, it’s good to see all of you again.

Manthan Sheth: It’s good to see you too.

Alan: Well now, is – I think what I’ll begin by doing is –

[Kevin Le joins the call.]

Kevin Le: Good morning, Doctor.

Alan: Hi Kevin, good to see you again.

Kevin: Good to see you.

Alan: Maybe I’ll go ahead and introduce each of you, and to my left, viewing left, is Kevin Le, he’s the VP and chief technology officer at Luraco, and then in the middle is Bryce Gaston, or Gastone as we would say in Canada, an electrical engineer at Luraco, and Manthan Sheth, who’s the electrical design engineer at Luraco. As my viewers may or may not know, Luraco Technologies is the manufacturer of the iRobotics 6S chair, which we carry in our showroom and on our website. I was just down there last week visiting you, and had a wonderful time. I just want you to know I really had a great time, it was just a real eye opening experience to go through your facilities together, and see how things operate and function. Also, it was great to have Vietnamese food at that restaurant, it was just outstanding food too. Welcome, it’s good to have you guys here, thanks for taking time.

Manthan: Anytime.

Bryce: Thank you.

Alan: Well, the gist of this conversation today will be to talk about Luraco, and about the chair, and some other things that you may feel like you want to discuss in this conversation. First of all, I thought maybe I could ask a little bit about the history of your company. Kevin, you might be best suited to this, since you are one of the principals, maybe you could talk a little bit about how Luraco came to be, and how, you know, you came to this point in your existence now?

Kevin: Well, you know, you have been at our facility, you know, we – Luraco Technologies was incorporated in 2005, uh huh, so it’s been about eight years for us now. You know, we have other endeavors, one is doing the research and development for the government, specifically military. We receive funding to perform advanced research and development for the US Army and US Air Force, uh huh, another division that focuses on the controller for the best freestanding tub and whirlpool industry. You know, you have seen a, you know, a catalog on our product line for that when you were here in our showroom.

Alan: Uh huh.

Kevin: Yes, and also, we have another business sect for – it’s a growing very fast, it’s the home health – health and beauty industry, for the health and beauty industry. So, the massage chair, it belongs to the health and beauty business sector, mm-hmm. We started the, you know, development and production for massage chairs about four years ago, uh huh. Yeah, our first massage chair was for the salon industry, uh huh.

Alan: Yeah.

Kevin: After that, you know, we started development for, you know, the home version of the massage chair, uh huh, and you know, our first launch for the home massage chair line was about a year ago.

Alan: OK. Now Manthan, were you quite involved with the – well, and I forget now how the responsibilities were split up as far as taking care of this chair and getting the boards made – and first of all, I guess maybe we could touch a little bit on the iRobotics 6S, which is the chair that you have out in the general marketplace, which is your first foray in to the residential home use massage chairs. How did that, how, what is you’re – what’s the involvement there, as far as development of the boards, there’s a certain portion of the chair that’s made in China, a larger portion done here in the United States, as I saw when I was there last week in Dallas, and of course, the assembly is done – but maybe tell me a little bit about how that, those things are split up, you know, who takes care of what as far as the chair development goes?

Manthan: OK, as for my role in the company goes, I’m the electrical design engineer, and I design the PCBs the motherboard, which is like the brain of the whole system, and which controls all the mechanisms, all the motors, the air massage, and all that. We also designed the keypad, the keypad PCB, and the interface which starts between the keypad to the motherboard. So, all that has been designed in house, all those PCBs, and then we assemble all those PCBs here in house. We have automatic machines, which pick and place, and place all those components on to the board so all the electronics, everything, is assembled here.

Alan: Yeah. Well, I saw that last week and I was so amazed by that. I took video footage of it, and I’ll be editing that video today, and hopefully putting it up tomorrow on the website, but I think it’s great for people to see what you do, and I was just amazed at the intricate work that went in to creating these motherboards, and all the electronic components. It’s quite a task.

Manthan: Right.

Alan: Now Bryce, what is your involvement with the whole process as well?

Bryce: My primary role in this endeavor is that I handle a lot of the software and the protocols between the different devices. I also worked on and designed the Bluetooth applications, as far as the hardware and the software for the …

Alan: For the …

Bryce: My background is, you know, primarily in software, so I handle more of the software side, and some of the firmware, and I work with Manthan to make sure that everything talks together, and everything works together well.

Kevin: Yeah, you know, here at Luraco, we’re all, we work together as a team, you know, so you know, so we have a, you know, team meeting regularly, so you know, people, you know – like Manthan doing hardware, but you know, sometimes Bryce can help with some section of the, you know, circuit, and I can help with something, you know, maybe in the discussion, or the, you know, the systems level. Yeah, we have three more engineers who are not here right now. Andy is a candidate, a mechanical engineering Ph.D candidate in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Texas Arlington. Siva, you know, he’s doing the hardware and software design for us, uh huh, he has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas in Dallas.

Alan: Mm-hmm.

Kevin: You know, you met Tom, Tom also has a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and he used to work with us on research and development for mobile phones for about 10 years, mm-hmm. So, all of our technical staff, you know, they all have a master’s degree in their field, and I have a Ph.D in electrical engineering.

Alan: Well, and I think that is such a great point that you’re bringing up Kevin, because you know, you’re the only massage chair company that I’ve met here in the United States that distributes chairs to the US marketplace, that actually has engineers that are involved in the production, and the assembly, and the engineering, of the chairs, most of the other companies, it’s done back in China, Taiwan, or Japan. You guys, I mean, you’re engineers, this isn’t like, you’re not like a bunch of scrubs that, like I was when I, you know, I went from digging ditches, to go to school, and make a career for myself – you guys, this is your career, this is your profession, and you’re well trained in engineering, and I think that’s important to understand. People that might second guess you and think that ‘Well, that chair really wasn’t assembled,’ or ‘That chair wasn’t really manufactured in the United States,’ I think the fact that you have, it sounds like six engineers, on the team working on this chair, I don’t understand, if the chair is completely made in China, and it’s brought here to the United States, and you’re just selling it and saying that it’s US-made, why on earth would you have six engineers on the team for the chair, there would be no use for those kinds of salaries, or that kind of education, or pay grade. So, I think that speaks volumes to the fact that you guys really do have a huge stake in the engineering, and the workings, of this massage chair, and I think that’s fantastic. I think that alone speaks to the fact that you really do, do what you say do. I think the fact that you get the body frame, and the motors, and some of the other components, the rollers and whatnot, from China, but all the inner workings of the chair, everything that makes the chair work …

Manthan: Yeah.

Alan: Makes all those parts work, is all done in Arlington.

Kevin: Yeah, you know, we have full engineering capability to develop, you know, basically any electronic product in house, you know. We can develop software, hardware, electronic hardware, mechanical hardware, and then we have the capability to produce those products that we develop in house. Now, you’ve seen all the machines …

Alan: Mm-hmm.

Kevin: You’ve seen our production lines, yeah, our assembly lines, yeah. So, we can do, you know, from the concept, to the product research, development, the production, all the product testing, we can do that in house, yeah.

Alan: Yeah.

Bryce: Our massage chair isn’t, you know, the only thing we sell. We sell, you know, to various other sectors of the economy, so it’s not like we’re just doing the massage chair, or just doing, you know, the salon products. We’re very diverse in what we do, and that helps us to bring in new ideas and new concepts that, you know, other companies might not be able to do because they focus on just massage, or just beauty, and we do a little bit of everything, so we get to, you know, hone our skills in different areas, and then bring them in to working on massage chairs, or what have you.

Alan: Well, I agree with that, and one thing that I do like about having all of you experts here locally, is if there needs to be a change made, or if there’s a problem with the chair, and it has to do with the PCB, or the motherboard, or just the reprogramming of the software, you guys can do it all right there, it doesn’t have to be sent back to China, and try to figure out a problem back there, and send, you know, broken computer parts back there, and have them try to figure it out, and then send back new parts. You can diagnose, and repair, and reproduce everything right there in house, and I think that is a real advantage for your company. I just thought of one experience, and Bryce, you may have been the one that was involved in this – when you first sent me the chair, you know, I noticed that the stretch program only had the ottoman going up and down.

Manthan: Mm-hmm.

Alan: In our market, having a chair that only has the ottoman going up and down is not much of a stretch. You know, you’re required to have that chair back go up and down in concert with the ottoman, and you were able to make that change, and you upgraded – and Manthan, you came to my showroom – and you upgraded the software.

Manthan: Mm-hmm.

Alan: Was that something that, Bryce, you had to program, or how did that work?

Bryce: I worked with Manthan to help, a) make sure the, you know, the other electronics would work like we wanted them to, and then second, I worked with the software so that, you know – you know, per your suggestion, the back goes back, and the ottoman comes up, and then, on the other side, you know, the back goes back, and the ottoman goes down – so that you get a full body stretch, rather than just the ottoman going up and down. You know, since we do all the software in house, we have complete control over what goes in to the software and what doesn’t, so you know, changes like that can happen very, very quickly.

Alan: Yeah.

Bryce: Also we, you know, supply, or we can provide, the reprogramming capability to distributors so that, you know, in the event there is a software upgrade, or a software change, we can send out either our technicians or engineers to reprogram it, or we can even send a box that reprograms it for you, with just a simple press of a button, it reprograms the motherboard, and then your, you know, the chair has the latest firmware. Eventually, we’re looking in to ways to reprogram it, you know, via the Web, but you know, that’s something we’re looking in to, but we haven’t figured out a good mechanism for that yet.

Alan: You mean, kind of like downloading a new software update, that kind of thing?

Manthan: Exactly, yeah.

Kevin: Yes.

Alan: Well that, I can see that coming, that’s going to be part of the future of massage chairs, is an instantaneous download of an upgrade.

Bryce: Yeah.

Manthan: Mm-hmm.

Bryce: We’re, you know, we’re very impressed with how, you know, Android and iOS get updates over the air, and we’re looking to incorporate something, you know, something along those lines, so that the user doesn’t have to, you know, plug in something to reprogram …

Alan: Yeah.

Bryce: Or have a technician out, it just, it grabs it from their home Internet access, and installs it in to their chair.

Alan: Well, that would be a great feature to have, just a great feature, and I just want to speak for a moment about …

 

Click on the following link to watch my interview with the Luraco engineering team on YouTube.

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