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1 March 2024

8 weird things we do to test out products

Sometimes things get a bit weird when we’re on a mission to find the best products. When we’re deciding on a test method, we have to think about how that product is used and that can mean we find ourselves going to some strange lengths to replicate real life.

Here are 8 quirky things that have been done in the name of helping New Zealanders find the best products.

1. Smeared food over high chairs

Safety is of course the most important thing when it comes to testing high chairs, but we know parents want to make sure they’ll have an easy time cleaning them as well. So, we get the kind of food babies eat – baby food, Weetbix and milk, spaghetti in tomato sauce – and smear it to the tray, seat back, padding and harness. Then we leave it to dry. The next day we get to work cleaning it all off and rating how easy it is to clean as we go.

2. Dressed up mannequins like they’re on holiday

Two mannequins are put into their colourful holiday outfits and positioned in front of a detailed backdrop for one of the tests we do on the camera quality of mobile phones. Our tech writer Nick Gelling says the outfits have a lot of detail and colour, which can be hard to capture accurately in a photo. The photos taken of the mannequins are then compared using analysis software and expert opinion.

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3. Asked a groomer for some spare fur

We need a lot of cat fur to be able to do all our standard, stick and robot vacuum tests. So, we have a groomer who saves it for us to take back to the lab and embed in our test carpet.

4. Flexed electric blanket cords 5000 times

The idea is we’re testing for potential wear and tear between the electric blanket cord and the controller over time, but luckily we’re not having to do the flexing by hand. A 1kg weight is put on the cord and a custom-made rig moves the controller. Once the rig has flexed the cord 5000 times it’s checked for visual damage and internal damage.

5. Showered suitcases

If your suitcase is on the tarmac and it starts to rain, you want to know your belongings won’t be soaked when you get to your destination. So we put luggage through a rain test. First, we stuff the bags with newspaper and then we shower them for 10 minutes to simulate heavy rain. We then check the newspaper to see how wet it got.

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6. Spread jam on the floor

This one is to test the mopping function of some robot vacuums. As well as spreading jam, we also spill coffee, red wine, a mud mixture and soy sauce then put the robots to work to see how well they can remove it.

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7. Hooked athletes up to an ECG

This is about making sure heart rate monitors on fitness trackers are giving accurate readings. Athletes exercise on a treadmill or exercise bike while hooked up to an ECG; we take regular readings from the ECG and the trackers we’re testing so we can score them on accuracy.

8. Watched Big Buck Bunny on repeat

This quirky 10-minute short film is about a giant bunny that decides to take on the bullies of the forest. We use it to test the battery life of laptops by playing it on repeat for hours until the laptop shuts down. Our tech writer Nick Gelling says because the film is bright and colourful, it’s more of a demand on the display and therefore the battery.

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