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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Sónar +D – Day One

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?

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OFFF Festival Barcelona 2014: Beyond The Stages

At OFFF Barcelona 2014, we also found some interesting stuff beyond the stages, take for instance  The Folio Club, the Barcelona-based platform aimed at promoting and producing independent editorial projects. They also provide offset-digital printing services. We talked with Ana about the print-related projects they promote, she also told us that The Folio Club helped to produce The Poool, the delightful OFFF printed magazine.

At “El Mercadillo”, a place full of exhibition stands with interesting products and services, we talked with Eddie from Camaloon, they make custom stickers and pin badges for personal or promotional use. They featured the Camaloon Be Noticed Corner where attendants to the Festival could draw and write anything they wanted.

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OFFF Festival Barcelona 2014 – Day 3

Here, our highlights of the third (and last) day at OFFF Barcelona 2014.

Kate Moross is a young Londoner designer and illustrator. She’s also head of Studio Moross.  With an encouraging DYI attitude and focusing on the business side of her work, she told us her story. From her first clients achieved shamelessly promoting herself on the early social network MySpace, to her current works for the likes of Adidas or Vogue. In the process, she has not lost any of her freshness, independency and visual impact. Moross has also been behind some of the most important artwork in British music in recent years. For instance, the ones for the British singer Jessie Ware.

Kate Moross on stage at OFFF Barcelona 2014

After Kate Moross, the lunch break came. People started to look tired after several nights of “juerga” and little sleep. But enjoying of the sun warmth and the beautiful views was revitalizing enough.

Disseny Hub and Torre Agbar

Noted german type designer Erik Spiekermann made one of the most memorable speeches of the Festival, full of caustic and clever remarks about Design, Typography and other related stuff. He has designed many typefaces of extended use and been part of the team that made the Helvetica Neue typeface. Spiekermann also appeared on documentary Helvetica.
Through the years, he got involved on Web Design. Talking about the never-ending task of making websites, one of his more retweeted phrases last Saturday was “Websites are always in Beta”. After a long and successful trajectory and near to retirement, he has started a new project, the gallery and letterpress workshop P98A , mixing tools and techniques from wood types to laser cut plates. Having spent a good amount of his career in front of screens, this is his way of going from bits to atoms.

"Forget Control", Erik Spiekermann at OFFF Barcelona 2014
“Forget Control”, Erik Spiekermann at OFFF Barcelona 2014

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