Interview: Stephane Rivard, Co-Founder of Stelulu Technologies makers of Stinkyboard
There are some companies that spend years perfecting the peripherals that you already own, the gaming mouse, the joystick or the controller for example. Then there are the companies that create peripherals that have never existed, changing how we interact with games and offering possibilities that were never available before now.
Stephane Rivard isn’t just the co-founder of Setlulu Technologies, he is also the acting CEO and one of the driving forces behind the ‘Stinkyboard’. Over the weekend I had a chance to interview the CEO and discuss his company’s latest peripheral, which will be hitting doorsteps this summer.
If you haven’t heard of SteLuLu Technologies in the past, that is most likely because it is a fairly new company based out of Montreal. The team behind the Stinkyboard consists of Rivard and five supporting staff members. These supporting staff members come from a wide-array of backgrounds, including electrical and mechanical engineering, industrial design and software programming backgrounds. Each of these members played a significant role in the development and design of the new peripheral. I was already very interested in getting my hands (feet) on the new device, but when I had a chance to speak with Rivard directly on the peripheral I couldn’t pass it up. New companies themselves are often times just as fascinating as their products, and with an innovative idea like Stinkyboard, this was a company that I wanted to know more about.
(Stewart) From concept to the day Kickstarter hit that $75,000 mark. How long was the process?
(Rivard) “The whole process from the initial proof of concept prototype to hitting the $75K mark was about 30 months and many, many hours developing and testing.” Rivard then added, “actually gaming.”
The footboard is constructed with T6 aluminum, reinforced plastics, steel U-channel and Cherry MX switches. These materials aren’t exactly cheap, even before you have to get them manufactured, shipped and assembled. How many designs did you go through before finalizing this for Kickstarter?
“We went through three designs phases, with many stages of prototyping in between before settling on the current model. Our first proof of concept was made in my garage using wood, RC Car parts, as well as arcade joystick and switches. Half-way through the project we actually had to scrape our mold and tooling. We just were not getting the performance out of the devices that we wanted.”
It could be hard to truly convey the technical details that went into making the Stinkyboard. Luckily the team did put a presentation video together when they launched their Kickstarter. I’ve embedded the video below, but I did want to touch on some finer ideas I had after the video.
You may think of a thousand uses for the board right away, but you’ll be surprised at just how many combinations you can think of, once you realize all that the board can do. Personally, I play a lot of RPGs, MMOs and FPS titles. Rivard gets into some of the uses for the FPS genre below, but where I saw potential for personal use was alleviating some of the standard buttons that I use everyday. Buttons like the shift-key, spacebar, auto-run and other commonly used tasks that would make my standard keyboard and mouse set-up even easier. Using the board would free up a lot of my standard actions from my hands and that’s something I think everyone is looking for in a peripheral. There is also something intuitive with strafing left and right with your feet, it’s just a natural motion that I think works well in a lot of situations and games.
(Stewart) It operates on Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and XP (all versions). Windows is very well covered, any chance of Mac in the future? Was there a specific reason Mac and linux weren’t included (time, cost, customer base)?
(Rivard) “The actual hardware is a HID USB device that is compatible with any HID computer including Mac and Linux. We plan to develop the MAC and Linus software once we get more financial resources”.
This obviously has a ton of uses in different genres, but during testing, which seemed to be the best fit for the foot?
“During testing it quickly became apparent the footboard provided a huge advantage for secondary actions (such as crouching, sprinting or entering/leaving prone-position in FPS). The device really allows the gamers to focus on the action without having to move their fingers off WASD. It simplifies gameplay, improves gameflow, increases APM or reduces execution time”.
As an editor I have seen Kickstarter launch brands into the stratosphere, and I’ve seen them crash and burn into dust. You are now a seasoned veteran of Kickstarter (congratulations). What would you do you differently the second time around, and what would you say is the most important factor in marketing yourself on Kickstarter?
“I think we would (have) setup our Amazon Payments and Kickstarter accounts earlier. This took much longer and was more complicated than anticipated. Our media campaign started two weeks prior to being able to launch our Kickstarter program”.
I imagine somewhere, at some point, a marketing or PR spokesman asked you changed the name. Why Stinky Footboard?
“Stinky was the first name that came to mind and it simply stuck. It is catchy, and it’s definitely memorable. As for footboard, we didn’t want to call it a pedal. It is really a board that you rest your foot on. So it became “Stinky” the gaming Footboard”.
Any third party peripheral can become an incredible tool when working with disabled gamers, have you had any chance to test the Stinky Footboard with this demographic? Is it something that you are looking forward on doing in the future?
“We are actually very happy to be working with the AbleGamers Foundation. They have been testing the device and we’re going to be releasing exciting news in the near future”.
When should the first shipments arrive? Will they be sold online exclusively, or will be seeing these in stores?
“We are on target to ship our expedited version by the end of May and the balance by July! It will be sold online exclusively in the next few months and we’re in negotiation (for) retail stores the fall”.
Anyone that plays titles on a PC or Mac should check out the board, it’s definitely something that I think will become a major advantage moving forward. You can visit the official website below, and get more information on the customization options and details from the development team, straight from their original Kickstarter campaign.
more info: stinkyboard, kickstarter