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The system uses asynchronous (half duplex) communication and leverages compression algorithms to support voice over web site comms, according to Theatro’s Todd. Theatro also buffers all broadcasts between users to ensure they do not miss any communication due to crosstalk or simultaneous broadcasts — so a solid Wi-Fi network is a key component.
A connection to the Internet is required at this point. If a store loses power or loses its Web connection, the system stops working. The Container Store’s Thrailkill says an “offline mode,” or mode that lets the wearables work on the Wi-Fi network even if the Internet connection is down, is a requirement before a large-scale rollout. Todd says the company is working on this offline mode, and it should be available in the second quarter of 2014.
The wearables can also be remotely updated, so Theatro can easily add new features and functionality.
The Container Store and the Theatro Wearable
After working closely with Theatro for more than a year to develop the product, The Container Store deployed the Theatro Wearable Computer in its Austin store to about 35 employees.
The training process for new users was painless, according to Thrailkill. “It takes about 10 minutes for us to train them on this tool, and then within that first shift they’re using it very well. It’s pretty intuitive and we’ve been very, very pleased with how quickly people take to it.”
Thrailkill and his team also distributed laminated cards, listing all required voice commands, to new users for future reference.
The first time The Container Store employees use the Theatro wearable, they create a profile and then walk through a few quick exercises to ensure the gadgets can recognize their voices.
When an employee arrives at work, he picks up a wearable from the charging station, inserts the wired ear piece, presses the center button to initiate a voice command and logs on by saying, “log on John Thrailkill.” As soon as a new user is connected, all other staffers on the network get a message to notify them that a person has joined. When they want to communicate with someone, they press the center button again and say another command with a worker’s name. When the employees are ready to leave for the day, they drop the wearables off at the charging station. (The devices take about 45 minutes to fully charge.)