Prototyping: What Is a Prototype and How to Ensure Its Success?
A prototype is generally defined as a preliminary version of a product,
technology, or service that is aimed to test and demonstrate its
Looking at the topic from the point of view of an R&D service
provider of unique measurement solutions, based on MicroWire sensors –
RVmagnetics identifies the Prototype in the context of a science-backed R&D
startup company. In this concept – a prototype is typically a physically or
digitally constructed representation of the product or technology that the
company is working on. It is used to test and evaluate the feasibility,
functionality, and effectiveness of the proposed solution.
Definition of Prototyping
Prototyping allows the company to gather feedback from potential users and
make necessary modifications to the design before launching the final product.
It is an important step in the product development process, as it helps the
company to validate its ideas and make informed decisions about the direction of
There are several different types of prototypes that can be used in the
product development process. These types can be classified as:
Concept prototypes: These are high-level prototypes that
are used to test and evaluate the basics, or rather – the main concept or
idea behind a proposed product or technology. They are typically very simple and
may not include all of the features or functionality of the final product,
however these are not simply Proof of Concepts neither as they
showcase how the final product will be featured.
Design prototypes: These are appearance proves, may include
some of the key features and functionality of the final product, but the final
functionality is not the main objective, the objective is to showcase the
fitting of the functionalities in the proposed appearance.
Functional prototypes: These are prototypes that are fully
functional and include all of the features and functionality of the final
product. They are typically used to test and evaluate the usability and
performance of the proposed product or technology. This is a rather close step
to Minimum Viable Product.
User experience prototypes: These are prototypes that are
specifically designed to test and evaluate the user experience of a proposed
product or technology. They may include elements of the product's interface,
such as buttons, menus, and navigation, but may not include all of the
functionality of the final product.
Scale models: These are physical models of a proposed
product that are used to test and evaluate the product's size, shape, and
proportions. They may be created using a variety of materials, including
plastic, wood, or metal.
Digital prototypes: These are prototypes that are created
using computer-aided design (CAD) software. They are typically used to test and
evaluate the design and functionality of a proposed product or technology in a
virtual environment (e.g. Ansys).
The type of prototype that is used in the product development process
will depend on the specific needs and goals of the project. Some projects may
require multiple types of prototypes, or multiple iterations of the same
prototype, while others may only require a single type. The choice of the
prototype will also be influenced by the stage of the product development
process, the resources and expertise available, and the intended use of the
Prototype, is not a product, this we defined already, however,
let’s quickly brush over what else a prototype is Not, in the context of the
product development cycle.
Prototype vs Proof of Concept (POC)
Sure, a prototype proves a conceptual point of a final
product/technology – and this might just seem like wordplay, however when a
new product co-development is at stake, two or more companies should try and
agree on the definitions as well, so as to have clear communication between all
For RVmagnetics, with the perspective of Research & Development
activities to custom-create something that hasn’t been done yet – a
Prototype and a Proof of Concept (POC) are two different stages in the product
A prototype is a preliminary version of a product or
technology that is used for static/dynamic testing and demonstration purposes.
It is typically a physically or digitally constructed representation of the
product or technology that the company is working on. It is used to test and
evaluate the feasibility, functionality, and effectiveness of the proposed
solution. Prototyping allows the company to gather feedback from potential users
and make necessary modifications to the design before launching the final
Some would say a POC is not only important for validating the possibility of
certain features but also for identifying the obstacles and risks that will be
necessary to face in the further transformation phase of the POC into a
Prototype, and eventually a product.
In other, simpler words – a Proof of Concept shows if a feature
will work, and a Prototype shows how the final product will
Both prototype and POC are important steps in the product development cycle,
as they help the company to validate its ideas and make informed decisions about
the direction of the project. While a prototype is used to test and evaluate the
proposed solution, a POC is used to demonstrate its feasibility and potential.
Together, they provide valuable insights that can help the company to refine its
product and increase its chances of success.
Successful Stories of Prototypes and Not So Much
We believe it is important to learn both from successful and not successful
prototype launches alike. In fact, a shut down prototype is surely better than a
final product that didn’t succeed, thus prototyping is firstly an exploratory
investment activity to find the best possible option of an idea-to-market and if
it is overall relevant in the first place.
There are many success stories and failure examples of prototypes in the
world of technology and product development. Likely one of the most known
success stories is the development of the Apple iPhone. The original iPhone was
a revolutionary device that combined a mobile phone, music player, and internet
communicator into a single, easy-to-use device. Apple's development team
created multiple prototypes of the iPhone during the design and testing process
and used feedback from users to make iterative improvements to the design (this
is still the case with all Apple products by the way, and it is a successfully
passed tradition for all successful technology companies). The final product was
a huge success, and the iPhone has become one of the most popular and
influential consumer electronics devices in history.
On the other hand, there are also many examples of failed prototypes in the
tech industry. One notable example is Google Glass, a wearable computer with an
optical head-mounted display. Google Glass was a highly anticipated product.
Think about it, it seems like the ultimate device to have for a content creator
and an everyday tech-savvy individual, right? However, it failed to gain
traction with consumers due to privacy concerns, technical limitations, and a
high price tag. Despite the initial excitement and hype surrounding the product,
Google Glass was ultimately discontinued in January 2015. Do you think the
Facebook / Ray-ban smart glasses (Ray-Ban Stories) will be any
In the context of failed prototypes, some companies may get
“lucky” and not have to take the prototype to the customer testing stage
before having to tank the whole project. Sure, it would have been nicer
to recognize the issues and settle the project in POC stage, but it is also much
better to have a failed prototype, that didn’t end up in public testing,
eventually failing or even worse, succeeding and then failing in the mass
Tesla's Solar Roof is a good example of this one: In 2016,
Tesla unveiled a prototype for a solar roof that could generate electricity
while also serving as the primary roofing material for a building. However, the
company struggled with technical issues related to the durability and efficiency
of the solar tiles, leading to delays and a slow roll-out of the product. Musk
famously admitted the issues with the Solar Roof project, while still trying to
make it work – he ended up putting the project in the trunk.
Project Loon is another example of a great idea, that failed
to turn into MVP due to technical issues. This was a prototype for a network of
high-altitude balloons that would provide internet access to remote areas was
developed by Google X (now known as X, a Moonshot Factory). One of the technical
challenges faced by the project was the development of sensors and other
technologies that could accurately measure and control the position and altitude
of the balloons.
As R&D service provider, coming to the market with the smallest passive
sensors in the world, RVmagnetics aims to learn from examples of
measurement/sensor prototypes as well. One of these good examples is the
development of the Kinect sensor for the Xbox
360 video game console. The Kinect was a revolutionary device that used
depth-sensing cameras and microphones to enable users to control and interact
with the Xbox 360 using gestures and spoken commands. The development team at
Microsoft created multiple prototypes of the Kinect during the design and
testing process, and used feedback from users to make iterative improvements to
the design. The final product was a huge success, and the Kinect has been used
in a variety of applications, including video gaming, home automation, and
Another successful example of a measurement/sensor prototype is the
development of the LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging)
sensor for self-driving cars . LIDAR sensors use lasers to measure distances
and create detailed 3D maps of the surrounding environment. This allows
self-driving cars to accurately perceive and navigate their surroundings. The
development of LIDAR sensors involved the creation of multiple prototypes, which
were used to test and evaluate the feasibility, accuracy, and reliability of the
technology. The final product has been widely adopted by self-driving car
manufacturers and has been instrumental in advancing the development of
These examples illustrate the importance of prototyping in the
development of measurement and sensor technology. Prototyping allows companies
to test and evaluate their ideas, gather feedback from users, and make necessary
modifications to the design before launching the final product. In the case of
the Kinect and LIDAR sensors, prototyping played a crucial role in the
development of these successful technologies.
So then what are the common reasons why a prototype ends up failing?
To name a few, especially relevant for prototypes with multiple stakeholders
Poor definition of objectives: If the objectives of the
project are not clearly defined and understood by all stakeholders, it can lead
to misunderstandings and misalignment throughout the project.
Misalignment of expectations: It is important to align
expectations with all stakeholders, including understanding the Technology
Readiness Level (TRL) of the project. TRL is a common standard used to assess
the maturity of a technology. For example, TRL 6 indicates that the technology
has been demonstrated in a relevant environment, while TRL 7 indicates that a
system prototype has been demonstrated in an operational environment. Here we
should clarify that a Prototype in TRL 7 is a major technological achievement,
however, further TRL 8 and 9 are additional crucial stages of getting the
Prototype into a technology that is ready for deployment.
Lack of resources: Also a result of a false expectation
setting, after certain POC, consultation and other evaluation efforts –
prototyping projects will often require significant, even more resources,
including personnel, funding, and equipment. If these resources are not
available or are insufficient, it can lead to delays and setbacks –
eventually a cancelled product, for the wrong reasons.
Technical challenges: Prototyping projects often involve
the development of new technologies or processes, which is as unpredictable as
can be. If the project encounters technical issues that cannot be easily
overcome, it can lead to de-funding, delays, and eventually unreleased products
Poor communication and collaboration: Effective
communication and collaboration between team members and stakeholders are
essential for the success of any project. If there are breakdowns in
communication or a lack of collaboration, it can lead to misunderstandings
How Can a Prototype Lead to a Successful Product?
One of EU Tech Chamber advocates – RVmagnetics currently has key
operations in the phase of developing new, and unique measurement systems based
on their own, smallest passive sensor – MicroWire. Usually, they attend to
use cases that other sensors were not able to address due to size, accuracy,
wires and connections and other limitations (Microwires are thin and elastic
like human hair anc need no contact to provide accurate real time
This, for them means custom-developing measurement solutions that hasn’t
been done before, thus acting as an outsourced Research & Development company
for their partners: they develop Proofs of Concept, and Prototypes of these new
smartened products with new added measurement features, to ensure competitive
growth. Since 2015 they have generated experience in the field which lead us to
conclude some key factors to ensure a prototype will lead to a successful, final
product, let’s go through them:
Clearly define the goals and objectives of the prototype:
Before beginning the prototyping process, it is important to define the goals
and objectives of the prototype clearly. This will help to ensure that the
prototype is focused on addressing the key challenges and needs of the project,
and will provide a framework for evaluating the success of the prototype.
Clarify the value of the potential outcome that the product
is aiming for
Involve potential users in the prototyping process: User
feedback is critical to the success of a prototype. By involving potential users
in the prototyping process, companies can gather valuable insights into how the
proposed product or technology will be used and what features and functionality
are most important to users. This can help to identify potential problems and
opportunities, and to make necessary modifications to the design of the
Test the prototype in a realistic environment: Prototyping
should be conducted in a realistic environment that closely simulates the
intended use of the product. This will allow the company to assess the
feasibility, functionality, and effectiveness of the prototype under real-world
Adding static and dynamic testing principles will help identify issues in
operation, prevent them or react accordingly when they come up, thus the
relevant environment is vital in the test plan/roadmap put together during
Use interactive design techniques: Prototyping is an
iterative process, and it is important to incorporate feedback and make
necessary modifications to the prototype as it is being developed. By using
interactive design techniques, companies can quickly identify and address most
problems or challenges that arise, and can improve the design of the prototype
over time (or, worst case scenario, they will stop wasting potential resources,
and will conclude learnings from the work that has already been done).
Conduct thorough testing and evaluation: Before launching
the final product, it is important to conduct thorough testing and evaluation of
the prototype. This can be in the form of medium to long-term MVP use,
adjustments in mass-manufacturing techniques, etc. The stage will help to
identify any remaining issues or weaknesses and will ensure that the prototype
is ready for commercial use.
Collect, consolidate and archive the learnings: no matter
the results, the Prototype-creation process affects the learnings that will come
in handy in future operations – both to use the gathered knowledge and
experience in the relevant projects and to know better before stepping into an
irrelevant one. If all the stakeholders archive their knowledge and experience
properly, the accumulative work will be effective even if the responsible
personnel within the companies are changing.
By following these steps, companies can increase the chances of success for
their prototypes and ultimately for their new products. Prototyping is an
essential part of the product development process and can help companies to
validate their ideas, gather valuable feedback from users, and improve the
chances of success for their products.
With a B2B sales & marketing background in INGO & Foreign Investments in government sectors, Tigran is now responsible for extensive industry research in RVmagnetics focused on marketing the company both in R&D and Business spaces. Tigran is up to date with trends in deep tech, sensors, and innovative startups in need of niche growth. He shares the knowledge with RVmagnetics communities via blogs, publications, and news releases, while also using his experience to Manage RVmagnetics' Key Partners' accounts.