The Fab City Symposium took place on Monday 7th July, as part of the Fab 10 Barcelona Conference. Throughout this one-day event, noted speakers shared their experiences and insights on a range of issues related to digital fabrication, focusing on the role that technology, policy and society have to achieve self-sufficient and productive cities. Circular economy was also an important issue that some speakers addressed. The event was kicked off by Antoni Vives, Deputy Major of Barcelona, and Tomas Diez, head of Fab Lab Barcelona.
We were eagerly looking forward to hearing Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, and main leader of the Fab Lab movement. Of course, we weren’t disappointed: with his clear and condensed style, he explained the essential features of Fab Labs, their impact on society and economy now and in the future, and the roadmap of Fab Lab movement for the next years. Very aware of the transforming potential of these laboratories of fabrication, he emphasized their role as a tool to change the way we understand our relation with the day-to-day life and the objects around us. From democratization of fabrication tools to machines making machines, from programming of functional materials to the emergence of the personal fabricator, his speech guided us step by step by the road Fab Labs and Digital Fabrication will go through.
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.
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.
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.
Sputniko! is an artistic name based both on technology (Sputnik) and surprise (o!): and that is in some way a good definition for her work too, mixing design, technology, art and many other disciplines to cause our amazed surprise and constant delight. Hiromi Izaki, real name of Sputniko!, mathematician by career and artist by profession, seduced us with the softness of her manners and the strength of her ideas during our conversation at Sónar +D Barcelona. An Assistant Professor at renowned MIT Media Lab, while keeping her allure of “Woman of the Year 2013” by Vogue Japan Magazine, she shared with us her thoughts about technology, design, art, pop culture, and society in the world to come.
P.N. You are constantly mixing different areas from video to music to technology: how do you like to define your creations and installations? Is that wide mixing of techniques something deliberate to enhance your message, or just a way to feel comfortable to develop your work?
S. If I need to explain what I do and why I work with so many media, also working with many different genres of people, I think that artist would be a very convenient word that covers everything for me. I guess the reason why I work in so many different formats is that I have always been a hybrid, I grew up mixing techniques. I like just working with different ideas and genres because it give me an inspiration. I just can’t stop crossing borders, I just like it.
After his enthralling speech at Sónar +D, we were eager to have the chance of speaking closely with internationally renowned artist Daito Manabe. A multi-faceted creator, so many are his specialties that it is difficult to name them all: programmer, designer, VJ, researcher, technologist … Seeing his cutting-edge projects succeeding one another, it seems that a perpetual storm must occur inside his head. Nevertheless, face to face and with the company of his translator, Daito Manabe was a calm and collected man, with warm manners and fresh thoughts.
P.N. With so many facets of your creativity running on your trajectory, which is the one that would define you better? An artist, an engineer, a researcher?
D.M. I really don’t mind, I tend not to label myself. Actually I spent most of my time programming…
P.N. Your researches and inventions involving motility are really a bright step forward. Are you planning to apply them in implementations for everyday life, for instance using them with therapeutic purposes?
D.M. I’m open to work for any purpose. I have not a license as a doctor, but I will be completely open to work with some. I’m doing anything that keeps me interested, and that would be interesting too: so if someone ask me, I will be glad to explore that practical application.
P.N. Your works are always filled with technical challenges. Which technical problems use to hinder your projects?
D.M. Usually most difficulties come from non-existing hardware, as software is easier for me to develop. Sometimes it is difficult to control: for instance, on the physical electrical stimulus you can’t see everything on the screen, as the real impact of the power you are administering, so these are really important issues.
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.
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.
On Friday, as music at Barcelona’s Sónar Advanced Music Festival stages kept sounding non-stop, we had the chance of attending some cutting-edge presentations on the frontier between art and technology at Sónar +D.
The first stimulating proposal of the day came from Japanese artist/designer Sputniko!. Now working as Assistant Professor at MIT Media Lab for the Design Fictions Group, she is also a highly renowned pop-culture personality in Japan, with a wide expertise as developer of hybrid projects addressed to question boundaries between technology and everyday life.
Coining the term “New Pop”, she talked about the importance of creating controversial works and challenging proposals using the power of new media, specially the social ones. In her experience, you can develop an influential position as a popular figure and take it to make a difference through insightful projects with an actual meaning.
She usually makes known her innovative projects through music video-clips full of imagination and humor. Sputniko! exposed some of her more celebrated works, as the Menstruation Machine, a device which simulates the symptoms of menstruation for those who wear it. Also, she talked about her Lunar Girl project with space agency NASA, a project meant to approach young girls to space sciences.
A real designer for debate, Sputniko! gently shared with PostDigital Node some other thoughts in an interview that we will publish in the following days.