Do you own a touchscreen device? Chances are it has been tested by Finnish human simulator robots.
Imagine a robotic arm shaking and rotating a smartphone and using it with mechanical fingers to simulate how a real person would use their phone. Machine vision monitors the screen while several sensors measure accuracy and response times of the user interface.
This is what a typical testing system looks like at Finnish technology company Optofidelity. Since 2005 the Tampere-based company has been providing some of the biggest handset, computer and car manufacturers with lifelike user experience and performance testing.
In fact, Optofidelity is one of the global leaders (or the leader, if you ask the company) in robotic user interface testing systems for touch devices.
“Out of the ten largest mobile phone companies, eight are our customers and have purchased our testing technology inside the past two years,” says Pertti Aimonen, CEO of Optofidelity. “Most of them are based in the US and some in Asia.”
Optofidelity’s technology detects audio, visual and haptic events. It can be used for example to test how device performance changes during different product development phases as well as to expose potentially costly faults before devices end up in the hands of consumers.
While Optofidelity cannot reveal much about its clientele, it can name one: China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator. Not bad for a company which in the past 18 months has grown from 21 employees to over 50 and opened its first office abroad in Silicon Valley, California.
The secret of Optofidelity’s success lies in a unique combination of machine vision, robotics and cognitive measurement software. This helps to speed up customers’ R&D processes as the automated test system can be used throughout the product development phase to simulate real-life user experiences.
Optofidelity wants to be close to its customers. Its robotics testing systems are primarily assembled and tested in Finland with partner assembly facilities already in China and Taiwan and a US partner facility will be added soon. (Photo: Optofidelity)
Unlike people, robots won’t get tired or slow even if tests are repeated for hours on end.
“The best product quality, end-user satisfaction and faster time to market can be guaranteed only with automated end-to-end testing,” explains Aimonen. “The testing philosophy of Optofidelity is to test devices with a robot which simulates human behavior. You can define your own test cases, simulate long term product use and catch sensor and software faults before products are released to the market.”
When Optofidelity first started, it focused on R&D consulting and customer specific testing, which it still offers for its home market in Finland. But the company soon realised that to conquer global markets it needed to translate its expertise into products.
Consequently Optofidelity’s first robotics testing system was introduced internationally in 2010. Today the company has a test robot concept for any touch enabled device, be it a small wearable with curved display or a huge touch wall.
Keeping up with the demand
The change of direction has payed off. Last year alone, Optofidelity saw its turnover to grow by more than 60 percent. Around 80 percent of the company’s products are exported, mainly to the US and Asia, and used throughout the electronics industry from component manufacturers to operators.
“Nobody else offers the same combination where you can integrate, for example, component validation and performance measurements into the same system. The versatility of our products is a major advantage,” Aimonen says.
The fast changing world of technology means Optofidelity is never standing still. It invests heavily in adapting its technology to the latest testing trends, whether it is curved displays, 3D imaging, gesture control or communication between devices, such as a smartphone and a smart watch.
And we aren’t only talking about phones and tablets. The latest addition to Optofidelity’s customer base is the automotive industry.Car dashboards today not only have touchscreens, but can have gesture and voice control or offer advanced integration with smartphones. It all starts to sound more like science fiction than the real world.
“The current trend is machine to machine communication. There will also be lots of new control methods and the number of sensors in devices is growing. The industry leaders test and validate more components and end-products and faster than ever before,” says Aimonen. “At the same time, devices are very complex and product recall costs are high. There is growing demand for our testing technology as devices get more complicated.”
It looks like Optofidelity’s robots won’t be booking their holidays anytime soon.Text: Eeva Haaramo www.optofidelity.com Good News from Finland