May 18, 2022
At KonteX, one of our core philosophies is value-centric design. While our first design goal is to achieve the best performance (e.g. the smallest headstage), we carefully consider the tradeoffs among the design decisions and try to come up with a design that has the optimal balance. In the case of the X-Headstage™, we researched all the commercially available connectors and compared them to the miniature, but hard to use, Omnetics connectors to find the most suitable connector interface to the data acquisition system. The µHDMI connector is one of the few that comes up the search — it is readily available and low cost, it has a sufficient number of pins, it has a mechanical keyed orientation plug-in design, and it is relatively small; Though not smaller or lighter, the size and weight of the µHDMI connector is in the same scale as the Omnetics connector and is not the limiting factor in the overall minimization.
Additionally, since the HDMI connector system is widely used, its mechanical connection is well tested and proven. In electrophysiology research, a common challenge faced by researchers everyday is plugging in the animal for data collection. Omnetics connectors are essentially the standard choice for awake and behaving research. However, due to the small size and pin density, they are quite difficult to use because of alignment and plug -in and -out force. If a mistake were to occur during the plug cycle, the expensive headstage/cable might get damaged, or even worse, the entire headcap/implant might fall off causing the experiment to be prematurely terminated. It is not uncommon to anesthetize the animal just to plug the animal in. This step can be time-consuming and may also affect animal performance in tasks relating to learning, cognitive, etc. When the X-Headstage™ is embedded with the electrode and the µHDMI connector is configured, the plug-in is fairly straight-forward and stress-free. The well-proven mechanical design provides lock-in feedback and keyed orientation to ensure a reliable connection. Compared to the 12-pin Omnetics alternative, the data collection through the HDMI system is no longer like rolling a dice.
KonteX also carefully designed the X-Headstage™ signal circuit to be largely compatible with the standard HDMI system. This means that some of the cables from consumer electronics can be used with the X-Headstage™ and XDAQ™. Our $50 HDMI cable is as flexible as the blue Intan SPI cable. This becomes an important feature as consumable part costs can add up.
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