A Very Sad goodbye.
It is with an extremely heavy heart that we must inform you that OSSIC is shutting down and will be unable to deliver the remaining OSSIC X headphones.
The OSSIC X was an ambitious and expensive product to develop. With funds from the crowdfunding campaign, along with angel investment, we were able to develop the product and ship the initial units. However, the product still requires significantly more capital to ramp to full mass production, and the company is out of money.
Over the last 18 months, we have explored a myriad of financing options, but given VR’s slow start and a number of high profile hardware startup failures, we have been unable to secure the investment required to proceed.
This was obviously not our desired outcome. The team worked exceptionally hard and created a production-ready product that is a technological and performance breakthrough. To fail at the 5 yard-line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities.
The OSSIC X was started as a campaign to create immersive and interactive audio. One of the biggest questions was, in a world of small earbuds and phone speakers, do people really care about good audio? Are they truly interested in the next generation of 3D audio? The success of the campaign was a resounding “YES” that has had a ripple in the audio industry.
We will forever be grateful to you and the team members, investors, and business partners who believed in us and helped give our dream a fighting chance. We were able to achieve some amazing things in an industry that was, and still is, ripe for innovation. Your voice of support throughout these past 2 years will continue to bring change to the industry, as bigger players than us refocus their efforts into better, smarter, and more immersive audio.
Thank you for all of your support, and we sincerely apologize that we could not deliver all of the headphones.
- OSSIC Team
What was accomplished on the project and how were the crowdfunding funds used?
After spending over 2 years working on the Research and Development of the OSSIC X we were able to complete the development of the hardware and initial versions of the software.
The headphone went through 5 proof-of-concept level builds, 4 engineering/factory builds, and 1 pilot production build—where we completed 250 units and delivered the first ones to those backers on Kickstarter who pledged for the innovator edition reward.
It took, at times, 20 people with expertise in software, electrical, firmware, mechanical, acoustical, signal processing, and sound engineering, as well as UI/UX, industrial design, and program management to develop and ship those units.
The crowdfunding money we received played a huge role in allowing us to get as far and accomplish as much we did – funding half of the R&D and production costs needed to bring the product to life.
Why was this so expensive to develop?
Inventing something new while also developing complex hardware is expensive. The addition of stretch-goals to add mobile support increased the software scope from two operating systems to five, added an incredibly powerful 32-core processor onboard the headphones for processing, and required us to enter into substantial business development with mobile manufacturers to support multi-channel connectivity. It ultimately doubled the size of our development.
The unknowns that come from grounds-up development with so many new features ultimately stacked up to create delays and cost overruns.
What made this project so exciting, and ultimately ended up being its Achilles heel, was the complexity and scope. This project was complex because it had 3 large categories of development, all with new and unique elements: 1.) Hardware, 2.) Software, and 3.) Audio Ecosystem.
Hardware new/unique/different features: A typical headphone would only have 2 playback transducers, but the X has 8 playback transducers, 6 microphones, and multiple sensors. In addition to the complexity of more elements, head-tracking was a new feature, yet the trackers on the market were too slow. Thus we needed to upgrade mid-stream to achieve smooth tracking.
The software was complex because it required new algorithms to dynamically incorporate sensor information and beamform across the playback transducers. Additionally, with the stretch goals, we needed to support 5 different platforms: embedded-DSP, Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android for both UI and custom signal processing. A typical headphone has no software at all. The initial headphone units successfully incorporated custom algorithms and played back over Windows, macOS, and 3.5mm platforms. The iOS and Android app were created and were were on track to be finalized after working through the UI/UX with Beta backers on Windows and macOS.
Additionally, the audio ecosystem itself is complex as 3D audio continues to rapidly changing/developing. VR, gaming, film, and music workflows are different, with tools and formats varying across sectors, and VR/AR workflows were still being defined as we developed. 3D audio information is present in much of the media, but remained inaccessible to the user. Our goal was to ensure compatibility with as many devices as possible, and to give the best experience required ecosystem development and exploration of developer tools. To that end, developer tools including a VST plugin and FMOD Plugin were created, and released in beta to select developers.
How have other companies crowdfunding complex hardware projects succeeded?
Most crowdfunded companies working on similar complex hardware such as Oculus, and Doppler labs have raised >$10 Million in other investment before delivering on their projects.
As another reference, Creative labs claims to have spent over $100M working on 3D audio. http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/companies-markets/creative-brings-3d-sound-to-headphones-after-us100m-rd
Why can’t you ship the remaining units?
We were not able to secure additional funding, and are out of money. It would take more than 2 million additional dollars to complete mass production of the remaining backlog.
What about other investment?
OSSIC raised substantial Seed Investment from sources other than crowdfunding. Crowdfunding represented about half of total funding.
Initial investment traction was strong, but the slower than expected adoption of VR and the failure of several high-profile crowdfunded hardware companies made it challenging for us to raise subsequent financing.
We explored over 150 investor partnerships in total. While we had some we thought were going to come together, ultimately they did not materialize.
What about StartEngine?
In February of this year, OSSIC launched a crowdfunded equity campaign on the StartEngine platform, hoping it could raise the initial funds to start mass production, and be a catalyst for broader investment. While we secured $130k in commitments, it was not enough interest for us to be able to move forward into production and so we ended the campaign without taking the funds.
What about OSSIC the company?
The company is shutting down effective immediately. We have a very dedicated team up folks who have remained for the last 6 months, working for free, doing anything they could to try and make the company succeed. Through their efforts we were at least able to ship the innovator units.
Can’t someone else build the product?
We engaged with many larger companies who had interest in our technology, but ultimately none of them had both the appetite and ability to make the required investment to bring the product to market.