Dublin Web Summit 2014 Day 1: Machine stage

Technology conference Web Summit was held in Dublin from 4th to 6th November, an impressively huge and very well organized tech event, where around 20,000 attendees from more than 100 countries met. During three intense days, we found gathered a great amount of insightful speakers sharing their ideas, enthusiastic startups willing to met investors, as well as countless workshops, roundtables, network sessions, presentation pitches, demos, stands, and also night parties.

Actually, the event featured several summits happening at the same time: Builders, Enterprise, Food, Machine, Marketing, Music, Sport, amongst others. The first day, we mainly attended the Machine Summit, where a line-up of noted speakers discussed about topics like the Internet of Things, smart cities, wearables, robotics, 3D printing and human-machine interaction.

Web Summit
The Web Summit beehive

From Hollywood to the real world

In the morning, one of the first speakers that impressed us was the interface designer John Underkoffler, pretty widely known for his work as science advisor on SF films like “Iron Man” and “Minority Report”. This MIT Media Lab alumni gave us a visionary glimpse of where human-machine interaction is heading. It looks like definitely you can forget your mouse, keyboard and other devices as 3D space UI is becoming the emerging trendOblong Industries, the company where Underkoffler serves as a CEO, has been working since more than a decade to make real the cool gesture-based data interface technology featured in the film “Minority Report”, and they are almost there with G-Speak, an spacial operating environment, whose first commercial application is the conference room solution Mezzanine.

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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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Future Music Forum Barcelona

Any content business that is struggling with new digital models nowadays, shall take a look at music industry: they were the first ones to face the challenge, and now they are pioneers in finding innovative solutions. Knowing this, Future Music Forum has brought together a leading-edge clique of professionals, eager to explain their answers to the questions asked in such troubled times.

Lodged at the old Damm Factory, well-known in Barcelona as one of the more active music sponsors in the city, Future Music Forum has provided a superb stage for some of the biggest stars of the business behind the scenes and out of the traditional labels field.

In the hall of Damm's Factory at Barcelona: an unexpected way of joining beer and music
In the hall of the old Damm Factory at Barcelona: an unexpected way of joining beer and music.

One of the brightest talks of the event was Mark Mulligan‘s, co-founder and analyst at Midia Consulting, who emphasized how technology has an essential role to modify the relationship between society and music: from the birth of radio to Spotify today, reactions have been many and very different, but music has survived, enlarging its reach. Using Mulligan’s words: “Not fighting the technology is the best we can do”. In his speech filled with graphics and data, he settled the four main phases on digital music: first, piracy; second, download; third, streaming; and fourth, the rise of curated and listen services, which is the one where we are placed now. Asserting that there is still a long way to go through, for instance on the streaming path or the fans engagement, he pointed out that “artists still need to find their pop-corn”, as they haven’t found yet the alternative way of getting the expected revenues from their work. Continue reading “Future Music Forum Barcelona”

Big Data in the Music Industry: An interview with Chris Carey

Much has been told about music industry blurry situation, the effects of the digital impact on the business and the trial-and-error approach to their future model. In such a context, a new sort of “fortune tellers” have aroused: Big Data specialists, holding in their hands some of the big expectations of the music industry.

Far from this image of “clairvoyant”, Chris Carey surprised us with his straightforward, realistic pitch. Nothing deliberately obscure or tangled in his answers, but a sincere interest in explaining clearly the role of Big Data as an useful tool to give some light in the nebulous scenario of music industry today. One of the more celebrated Big Data specialists on music business, Chris Carey co-authored the influential Adding Up the Music Industry papers at PRS for Music, leaded innovative initiatives as Global Insight Director in strong companies as Universal Music Group or EMI Music, and now he is the founder of his own company, Media Insight Consulting.

P.N. From a technical point of view, how are Big Data used in huge music companies ?

C.C. Working in EMI or Universal we put emphasis on making sure that all the important data were grouped together in a way that everyone could connect: sales figures, number of streams, e-mail responses… The biggest challenge in front of Big Data is to put them together in a way easy for people to connect. At that point you need to ask more questions of the data, and so we are careful of how we structure them to make sure that they can answer all kind of questions: artist level questions, album level questions, fans level questions… What this means is that for an artist you can say how his music compares to the genre overall, and so for instance an artist can have a profile of the standard rock genre. Comparing their behavior to a norm, to a genre group, you can see how they behave. You can take it even further and see what happens when you compare one artist to another, or compare one song to another.

Chris Carey at Sonar +D
Chris Carey at Sónar +D Barcelona

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The Curve: From Freeloaders into Superfans – Nicholas Lovell

By choice or by force, many business are quickly turning into free. Default price in many services tends to be zero, and this situation which at first affected music, books and other items, easily reproducible by digital means, now starts to have an effect on physical items too: this was one of the impacts of the transformation of atoms into bits, and this will be one of the consequences of the transformation of bits into atoms. The free circulation of files on-line and the spread of digital fabrication join to create a new background where obtaining a particular object won’t be necessarily related to its purchase, as it could be made for free.

In his book <<The Curve: From Freeloaders into Superfans>>, Nicholas Lovell analyzes in detail this new business context where free products are taken for granted, and proposes solutions for those who are searching for a way to gain their earnings in the current situation. In Lovell’s book, you can find a very interesting and up-rising thesis: you can earn benefits from a free-of-charge business model, the key is just to understand what can you give without cost, who your customers are, and what are they willing to pay for.

The Curve Infography
The Curve Infography (thecurveonline.com)

Of course, this needs further explanation.

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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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