Hardware Freedom Day: Barcelona 2015

The Hardware Freedom Day is a yearly worldwide event aimed to spread out the possibilities of free and open hardware. Every year, open hardware enthusiasts gather to share their projects and interests through activities such as workshops, talks, presentations and competitions.

The 2015 edition took place last Saturday 17th January, with an array of events around the world. At Barcelona, for the first time ever, the Hardware Freedom Day was celebrated with an event organized by Caliu and electronics.cat in the area of El Clot, a former industrial neighborhood, looking for its place in the new industrial revolution of which Barcelona takes part.

We spoke there with Rafael Carreras, one of the promoters of the event, and he told us that being, since many years ago, an organizer of the Software Freedom Day, this year he had decided to take the initiative to join Barcelona to the Hardware Freedom Day too. He looked satisfied and pretty surprised by the amount of public attending.

The event, held at the Escola del Clot, was divided in two main spaces, one for talks and presentations on topics like 3D printing, Internet of Things and the platform Sentilo; as the other one was dedicated to more practical activities like workshops of Open Source Hardware, 3D printing and Arduino.  Workshops were run by Jordi Binefa.

Xavier Pi at Hardware Freedom Day Barcelona
Xavier Pi presenting Sentilo, the open source sensor platform designed by Barcelona City Council

As Barcelona becomes a worldwide creative production center, this kind of events shows the relevant role that DIY and Open Source communities can play in the open new world underway.

Making Arduino: Interview with David Cuartielles

Is it possible to sense if an specific technological advance was made with genuine good faith? Talking with the founders of Arduino, you always have this honest impression. Some time ago we interviewed Massimo Banzi at Barcelona (you can read it here) and few months later we had the serendipitous chance of talking with David Cuartielles, co-creator of Arduino, as well as Electronics Laboratory Director at Malmö University and an active promoter of open hardware and education through technology.

Arduino is becoming something like a household name in electronics, being used widely by the Maker movement. For those who are not familiarized with it yet, let’s summarize saying that Arduino is an open source board of micro-controllers which has revolutionized the way of making interactive objects: easier, cheaper and backed on the community cooperation. A new way of understanding electronics, interactivity and our relationship with the world around us . As put in <<Arduino: The documentary>>: “It’s kind of like I’m taking one step up a ladder and helping other people go further up the ladder”. Talking with David Cuartielles in the Web Summit at Dublin, we better understood why Arduino’s community is unstoppably climbing the ladder of technological evolution.

P.N. Every day manufacturers are launching new “compatible with Arduino” stuff. It seems that it could happen in the future that everybody will say “an arduino” for any electronics board, as it is becoming like a generic…

D.C. Yes, something like this is happening and I must say that it is a honor to me, as we are changing the way people understands the creation of hardware and software.

David Cuartielles at Dublin Web Summit 2014
David Cuartielles at Dublin Web Summit 2014

P.N. How did you start working together in the Arduino project?

D.C. It’s a funny story. I started studying electronic engineering and working in the University, and I realized that even being a passionate of electronics in that moment I didn’t really liked the practice of it. I was 24 then. So I took the chance offered by the School of Arts and Communication of Malmö University, On January 1rst 2001 I took my car, all my things, and I drove through the bridge to Malmö, Sweden. In the University I gave Java lessons to Industrial Design and Interactive Design students: people who had no former education on technology, meaning that I was teaching to people who didn’t knew what an algorithm is, or discrete mathematics, or mathematic thinking at all. It wasn’t easy, I had to invent a full series of methods. Now it seems normal because many people is working on this, but back in the year 2001 there was nobody.

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Dublin Web Summit 2014 Day 3: Centre Stage

In the third and last day of Web Summit, the enormous tech conference celebrated recently in Dublin, Ireland, we headed to the Centre Stage to attend the talks of some noted speakers arousing our interest. Here, our highlights.

A view from the audience at the Web Summmit Centre stage
A view from the audience at the Web Summmit Centre Stage

An hour of code

Hadi Partovi, co-founder of education non-profit Code.org, introduced us to the worldwide campaign “Hour of Code”, an initiative aimed to demystify computer science and inspire millions of school students to learn to code. The campaign, born in the U.S. in 2013, is backed by technology leaders like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and many others.

The Iran-born entrepreneur said that even if computers are everywhere, increasingly impacting every field of human activity, computer science is just on the recovery from a 10-year decline. In the U.S., there are fewer computer science students than 10 years ago, meanwhile in Europe only 11 countries have science/coding in the schools’ curriculum, at the same time as “every single industry is desperately trying to hire programmers”.

Initiatives like this Hour of Code try to address the matter. Even if anyone (teachers, parents, etc.) can host an hour of code anytime, the next milestone will be happening during the week of Dec. 8th – Dec. 14th, when they plan to achieve the goal of tens of millions of students around the world trying an hour of code.

Hadi Partovi introducing the "Hour of Code" initiative
Hadi Partovi presenting the “Hour of Code” initiative

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Additive creativity: Maker Faire Rome 2014

The Innovation Week Rome ended with the Maker Faire European Edition, a huge event where makers from all around the world met to showcase and share their innovative ideas and inventions with more than 90,000 people from all ages.

Showcases, exhibitions, workshops and talks in the field of robotics, 3D printing, drones, sensors, and many more, took place during 4 days at Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica.

Maker Faire Rome was promoted by Camera di Commercio di Roma and curated by Massimo Banzi and Riccardo Luna.

On this post we will focus on the Opening Conference that gathered an array of noted international speakers to talk about the future of the Third Industrial Revolution and Maker Movement.

IMG_20141003_125328
Young makers at work

I can’t let you do that, Dave

Science Fiction author and technology activist Cory Doctorow made one of the boldest speeches of the meeting.  Doing a strong call to make an active defense of liberties on the Internet, he depicted a chilling future if we don’t do something now about some issues: particularly, he addressed, privacy and freedom of expression. He talked about the interests of companies to limit liberties on the Internet, being done that for the ruling technocapitalism system it is not convenient that people can freely share their knowledges and discoveries –even they are already achieving to turn illegal the act of publishing certain informations.

Referencing Hal 9000’s quote of the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Doctorow mentioned the growing possibility of machines starting to decide what things we can communicate based in parameters predefined by companies.

Furthermore, he also remarked the importance of organizations like Open Rights Group to preserve liberties of individuals on the Internet, and finished saying that “The Internet is the nervous system of XXI century”, hence we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of these issues in order not to jeopardize the future of Humanity.

Cory Doctorow
Doctorow advocating for Internet liberties

Superhumans

Scientist Michael McAlpine from Princeton University presented his researches in the development of bionic humans. Some years ago, he developed a flexible material that produces energy when subjected to mechanical pressure. This can be applied to generate power from human motion, for instance portable electronics powered by walking. Nowadays, he is working on the creation of bionic organs through 3D printing, being the advancements so promising up to the point that McAlpine envision a future where being bionic will be something normal.

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Connected by default: Meet IoT (Innovation Week Rome)

From 27 sep to 5 oct, Rome hosted the Innovation Week, a place where leaders in innovation, technology experts, makers and many more met to share views on how the near future will be. Promoted by the Chamber of Commerce of Rome, and organized by the Asset Camera, in collaboration with Arduino and Make magazine, the Innovation Week took place in Auditorium Parco della Musica.

The Innovation Week featured many events, ranging from the huge Maker Faire European Edition to the Open Hardware Summit (here, our review of this event), as well as many other events covering an array of topics like social innovation, smart cities, Internet of Things, data society, wearables, creative start-ups, smart money, and so on.

Maker Faire cookies
Maker Faire cookies at Innovation Week bar

For those who are not familiar with the Internet of Things concept yet, briefly we can summarize it as the development of a wide network of interconnected everyday objects via the Internet. From traffic lights to fridges, lamps, and even your own body, everything could be linked to the web, sharing data and being commanded online. Considered as the “big next thing” by amateurs and specialists, Internet of Things (abridged, IoT) brings as many expectations as doubts about its impact on people’s lives.

Meet IoT was the event focusing on Internet of Things at the Innovation Week, showing how IoT developments can make our lives better, but also bearing in mind the challenges and even dangers this would mean. Following, our highlights.

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Getting back to the physical world: Open Hardware Summit Rome 2014

The Open Hardware Summit is the annual conference organized by the Open Source Hardware Association. The 5th edition of this international event was held in Rome, Italy on 30 sep – 1 oct, as part of The Innovation Week, which also featured other events as  Maker Faire: The European Edition, MEET IOT and Smart Money.

First day was fully focused on talks,  there we listened to fascinating speeches from a range of open source hardware experts. Following below, some of our highlights.

Second day was the community day, organized in small workshops to connect face-to-face and learn from key protagonists of the OSH movement.

“I’m a believer”

David Cuartielles, one of the creators of the platform Arduino, opened the summit with an encouraging speech. Being able to believe from his childhood and through his adolescence,  what Cuartielles believes now in his maturity is in open source, and particularly in open source hardware. A place where he finds there is still room to contribute to a greater good. So, he stated, don’t worry so much about open source being useful, but make it useful, go create stuff, and make things open.

David Cuartielles
David Cuartielles on OHSummit stage

Day-to-day robots

From design collective MADLAB.CC, researchers Madeline Gannon and Zach Jacobson-Weaver (also from EnArtDezArk) presented Robo.Op, an open, modular platform for hacking industrial robots.  This hardware & software toolkit prototype works as an universal shield adaptor to communicate with robots by using different software interfaces and devices. Their search goal is to approach robotics to a broader public, overcoming the current limitations in the area (prohibitively expensive, proprietary interfaces, private knowledge) with their proposal of modular hardware, user-friendly software and knowledge hub.

MADLAB.CC is also a collective that explores the edges of digital creativity by merging disciplinary knowledge from architecture, robotics, human-computer interaction and design. We had the opportunity to speak with Madeline and Zach about all these issues. The interview will be posted soon.

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Interview with Massimo Banzi: cofounder of Arduino

The year 2005 was full of big shocks: Hurricane Katrina, Indonesia big blackout, Avian Flu… and amongst all this, it was born a big invention, one with potential enough to solve many shocks in the future: Arduino. It was born in Ivrea, Italy, originally as a tool for students who needed cheaper hardware for their electronic projects. But there it was the seed of the next revolution: Open Hardware. The spread of Arduino has been immensely broad, enabling people throughout the world to develop a vast number of inventions which wouldn’t have the chance of existing without this “magic board”. In 2005, it was not hard to imagine free software, but to envision open hardware you needed to be really a visionary.

And the visionary was Massimo Banzi, cofounder of the Arduino project, who conceived an open-source platform to make electronics universally available and, most of all, to create a community strongly engaged with this vision. As an icon of open- source and Maker movements, we felt privileged to have the chance of talking with him during Fab 10 Barcelona and asking him for some ins and outs of Arduino wave.

P.N. When you started with Arduino, did you imagine it would grow as much as it has grown ?

M.B. No, no, no. It started off as a tool for my students, to teach my students. They are Design students, so they are very clever, very intelligent. They design the products that we use everyday, products based in technology, in electronics. I needed something that it would allow them to learn about electronics very quickly, so they could actually make, you know, imagine the products of the future. We made it for them. And then, obviously, afterwards it became useful for other people, artists, musicians, and makers in general, and then kids. So there were a lot of different groups of people that found the system that we started, it was useful enough and worked.

Massimo Banzi at Fab 10 Barcelona
Massimo Banzi at Fab 10 Barcelona

P.N. So you gave the tool and people put the ideas, was it something like that?

M.B. Yeah. The tool was designed for a specific group of people, and then it turned out to be useful for many people. I think this is important, when you design something for a group of people, don’t try to invent something for everybody, because if you try to create something for everybody, actually nobody likes it. When you try to design something for a specific group of people. Then other groups of people could say OK, this is interesting and useful…

P.N. We can not please everybody.

M.B. No, no. I think you should design things for specific types of person, and then if it gets more universal, that’s great.

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Fab 10 Barcelona – Sunday, 6th July

Sunday opened with the “3D Printing” panel talk featuring Vik Olliver and Roger Uceda from RepRap, Joan Ravantós from Stalactite 3D, Harma Woldhuis from Ultimaker, Sénamé Koffi from Woelab, and William Hoyle (moderator) from Ethical Filament Foundation.

RepRap guys explained the origin and evolution of their project, as well as the revolutionary concept lying behind it; a free 3D desktop printer that can print replicas of itself.  Showing a firm support to openness (“evolution needs open source” they said), and highlighting the importance of the community for the success of an open source project, their talk was one of the strongest points of the day. They also commented on RepRapBcn, a Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) project aimed to spread the use of RepRap technology in Europe. We spoke to Vik Olliver, core member of RepRap project. We will publish his interview soon.

Joan Ravantós from Barcelona-based start-up Stalactite 3D introduced us their 3D printer Stalactite 102, a high definition desktop resin printer with innovative technology and design looking pretty impressive. They just concluded a successful fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. Meanwhile, Harma Woldhuis from Dutch 3D printers fabricant Ultimaker told us the story of the company. Former participants of RepRap project, their founders launched this company in 2011, having had to go through a hard road to positionate it as one of the most successful open source companies within the Maker industry.

Finally, Sénamé Koffi from Woelab, a community of African makers and technology incubator center located in the small African nation of Togo, presented Wafate, the first 3D printer made of recycled electronic waste. By using these components, Woelab gives a solution to the problem of waste disposal while making 3D printing technology more affordable. This inspiring project deserved the first prize of Global Fab Awards this year.

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Fab 10 Barcelona – Saturday, 5th July

During one week, starting from 2nd July 2014, Fab 10 Barcelona meeting gathered the international Fab Lab community. It was a week full of events focused on open technologies and social innovation. Most of the events were held at Disseny Hub Barcelona.

Atmosphere was thrilling: you could feel the excitement of people around workshop tables, the conviction of speakers at the panels and speeches, the energizing sensation that something not just new but real (and wide-ranging) was growing there. The choices were so many, and related to so many areas, that it was quite difficult to pick out just some. And everybody was there to make the best of the event: not only in terms of knowledge, but in terms of human relationship as well. If anyone has any doubt about the strength of the Fab Labs wave, Fab 10 Barcelona was the place to understand why this is a movement meant to last.

Workshop at Fab 10 Barcelona
Workshop at Fab 10 Barcelona

On 5th and 6th July, it also hosted the Fab Festival, a myriad of simultaneous events as workshops, demos, talks and exhibitions with topics like digital fabrication, emerging communities and productive cities.

Saturday started, for us, with Foodini, the 3D food printer by Barcelona-based company Natural Machines. Foodini prints all types of real food as burgers, ravioli or pizza, using fresh ingredients. During their workshop, they presented the printer as a kitchen appliance that can contribute to a healthier eating lifestyle, encouraging people to make their own food but saving them some of the most time-consuming cooking tasks. Foodini printers may also be helpful for professional use. They are on prototype stage, expecting to start shipping units in the second half of this year (2014). Its price will be around € 1,000 ($1,300).


Next we attended the workshop of e-Nable, a global community of makers, engineers, designers, parents and many others who create and design assistive hand devices for those in need. These designs are open source, and can be downloaded and 3D printed for less than $50 in materials, being available on Thingiverse. If you are interested to collaborate, you will find more info on their web site.
During the workshop, Kachina Gosselin and Jon Schull from E-Nable kindly showed us how easy is to make one of these mechanical hands. They also told us encouraging stories about members of the community, for instance a 11 years little girl who knew the project and decided to make hands for other children. They also told us about the origin of the community, which is a beautiful story deserving a separated post. The most touching moment of this workshop happened when a young couple came on stage, looking for an affordable solution for their 7 months child who has a not fully developed hand. E-Nable devices can become a viable alternative to expensive commercial prosthesis, particularly suitable for the growing child.

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Sonar + D – Day Three

The last day of Sónar +D Creativity & Technology Conference was maybe a quieter one, with less talks and workshops. Anyway, we discovered some really interesting stuff.

Data Cuisine, Helsinki-born research project by Moritz Stefaner and Susanne Jaschko, was one of the most surprising projects presented during these three days. Using food as a medium, they represent data and tell stories from the local context where food is cooked.  On stage, they presented the results of a 4-day workshop done at Barcelona as part of the CCCB’s Big Bang Data exhibition. Expressing data on a physical medium beyond the screen, they managed to get our attention on important issues as the unemployement rate or the state of scientific research in our country.

Moritz Stefaner and Susanne Jaschko from Data Cuisine on stage
Moritz Stefaner and Susanne Jaschko from Data Cuisine on stage

We missed the Friday live demo of Belgian creative studio Superbe but on Saturday we visited them at their stand at the MarketLab to know about the two products they presented at Sónar +D: Geometric Music is an app that enables to make music with sounds you record in a very intuitive fashion by using geometric forms and colors. On the other side, Minimom are Arduino-based little boxes to play with 8-bits recorded sounds. There are different models with different functions . By combining some of these little boxes you can have a physical experience and create real music. Superbe is also working on a prototype with more advanced features.

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