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 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.
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.
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.
RE.WORK Technology Summit was held during two days in Umweltforum (Environmental Forum). This church venue, situated near Berlin Alexanderpatz, is over a hundred years old and has been renovated with high-spec environmental technology.
Day Two opened with the Start-Up Stage. From the six participating start-up companies, all of them with interesting proposals, we highlighted the Berlin-based start-up LUUV, who presented a “bits and atoms” project looking very promising. They are aimed to produce and market the first 3D-Printed plug & play camera stabilizer for smart phones and action cameras, that allows to everybody to shoot steady footage at any time. Now, they are in a prototype stage and “looking for hardware-loving investors”.
Following the Start-Up Stage, Béatrice Marquez-Garrido presented us Future and Emerging Technologies (FET), an EU-backed funding programme whose mission is discovering new technologies with an emphasis on inter-disciplinary, collaborative and high-risk projects. During her brief presentation, she showed some innovative projects where FET is working on as the computer-controlled brain stimulation technology HIVE and the new generation of neuroprostheses Brain Bow. A call is open to submit novel ideas for radical new technologies.
“Meet the New Makers” session gathered to three noted speakers: Ronen Kadushin, Peter Troxler and Sebastien Bourdeauducq, discussing about topics as Open Design, Maker movement and Open Source.
Starting this session, the Israeli, Berlin-based industrial designer Ronen Kadushin enthusiastically talked about Open Design, to which he defined as design behaving as software. He also regarded Open Design as an opportunity for industrial design “to join to the network” and be part of “the cutting-edge society”.
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.
Besides the internationally renowned Sónar Advanced Music Festival, simultaneously this week Barcelona celebrates Sónar +D, a Creativity & Technology event, where some of the most cutting-edge artists and researchers get together in a wondrous kaleidoscope of highly talented people. Eager to know new stunning proposals, we were there from its Day One.
Our first discovering was the successful Belfast-born project Patchblocks , programmable mini-synth modules that caused a backing storm at Kickstarter. It has everything to delight inquiring musical minds: it is modular, it is funny and it is open. These modular synth units can be joined as puzzle pieces, and even they can be plugged to other musical instruments and gadgets, creating a wide range of sounds. Just “playing” with them, you realize the incredible variety of possibilities that these low-fi artifacts provide you, in a nearly-infinite constellation of combinations. There is a strong emphasis on the community side of the project, to share experiences and sounds. The perfect instrument to turn a musician into a maker!
After this, Andy Goodman and John Alexiou discussed about new trends on wearable devices, with witty statements like “In wearables importance is not on the device, but on the experience”. Andy Goodman, from the design agency Fjord, placed wearables on their very initial stage, remarking the issues their development still implies: recharge difficulties, tricky use of too small screens, and ugly appearance. He pointed out the great importance of the evolution of materials as the real way to improve actual wearables: to insert an electronic artifact on a textile piece, he said, doesn’t seem to him as interesting as making the materials of the textile piece fulfill a given function. “There’s no a killer app in wearables yet”, he stated. Would it ever appear?