Eve-Tech’s crowdsourced computer: the laptop designed by its users – The Guardian

When Finnish startup Eve-Tech launched its first device, the T1 tablet computer, it received positive reviews for its premium feel and budget price.

However, there was also a lot of feedback from reviewers and users about how it could have been better, including criticism about the quality of the outer casing, ports and rear camera.

The feedback got co-founder and CEO Konstantinos Karatsevidis thinking: what if those people could provide feedback during the design process so it could be incorporated into the final product?

“We decided to get those people into one big online community to create the product that’s perfect,” said Karatsevidis. “We are crowd-developing consumer electronics together with end users.”

Eve-Tech built an online platform where technology enthusiasts not satisfied with existing products could sign up and help shape the design of the company’s second device, a Windows laptop-tablet hybrid computer called the Eve V.

The idea has drawn interest from Intel and Microsoft, with the former investing a six-figure sum and the latter “heavily supporting” the project.

For the past 12 months, about 1,000 active members of the forum have been suggesting and voting for features, specifications, components and design elements for the Eve V in a project codenamed Pyramid Flipper. The community has direct access to Eve-Tech’s product team, which includes people who worked on the Apple iPhone 6, Fitbit and Nokia devices.

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The Eve V is a Windows 10 device with a 12-hour battery life and 12.3-inch screen. Photograph: Eve Tech

“A lot of people are really unsatisfied by the devices on the market and would love to make something better,” said Karatsevidis, who says the community has been particularly useful for deciding where to make compromises. “You always have to make trade-offs. If you want a longer lasting battery you have to have slower charging.”

Similarly, Eve-Tech’s in-house industrial designers wanted a slim device with as few ports as possible. “But 90% of people would make it 1mm thicker if they could have all the ports and real all-day battery life,” he said.

The result is something Karatsevidis claims is “really different” from other products on the market, including those made by Microsoft, Samsung and Apple.

The Eve V is a Windows 10 device with a 12-hour battery life, 12.3-inch screen and plenty of ports (Thunderbolt, USB A and USB C). It has four speakers and a dedicated audio amplifier. The body is carved from a single piece of aluminium and comes in a range of colors; the community is currently selecting the final options. Its closest equivalent is probably the Surface Pro 4, but the Eve V will be significantly cheaper, Karatsevidis said.

One area where the community has been unexpectedly vocal has been the form factor. “In the beginning we thought that tech geeks and hardware enthusiasts don’t care about the design, but to be frank we found the complete opposite. For them to love the product it has to be beautifully designed,” he said.

The Eve-Tech team has been building and testing the components and will send out the first prototypes to some of the community’s most active users in early November.

In the wake of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle, the high-capacity battery will be under a lot of scrutiny. Eve Tech has been spending a lot of time working with manufacturing partners in China and, Karatsevidis says, “everyone there is really worried about battery quality”.

Although we don’t know what exactly went wrong with the South Korean technology company’s battery, Karatsevidis suggests that the fast-charging system is tricky to work with and requires many months of testing – something Eve-Tech discovered when testing the T1 tablet.

“We had one that exploded. It was basically because the battery was mistreated at some point,” he said. “Batteries are really weird the way they behave. If they get damaged in some way destructive processes can start to happen.”

Although the Eve V won’t be available to pre-order until the end of November, Eve-Tech is already planning its next product: an external graphics processing unit, or eGPU. This is a stepping stone towards exploring the realms of augmented reality and virtual reality. “Only 3 or 4% of computers support AR and VR, so an eGPU is a way of making some more computers support AR and VR,” said Karatsevidis.

In the long term, Eve-Tech has even bigger plans. “The dream would be to develop an electric car with the community or a cyborg robot.”

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