Archives for category: od10beta

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining Martin Bauer (lasern lasern) on a roadtrip to Bremen. Up at the crack of dawn, we were bound for Fabcamp Bremen, a barcamp for fablab founders and enthusiasts organized by Axel Grischow and Karsten Joost The 5am wake-up and three hour drive was well-worth it!

We arrived in the Kunsthalle Bremen to a bubbling room of 30+ people, convening from all parts of Germany and the Netherlands to discuss how to bring Fablabs online in their cities and how to connect the projects. The Netherlands is leading the Fablab scene in Europe, by many accounts, and with great people like Ton Zijlstra, Peter Troxler, and Bart Kempinga, they’re really building an amazing community. Ton shared his thoughts on the Dutch Fablab network and why it was successful — an important difference between their set-up and Germany’s is the ease of founding a non-profit and collecting government money. Still, much of their impact can be replicated in Germany, I think, and to some extent, it’s already beginning.

In that vein, we learned about the first Fablab in Germany, launched in Aachen and represented by René Bohne, also known by his cocktail box fame (great idea, by the way). At Fabcamp, makers from Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, and of course Berlin were present, discussing their local challenges and learning from others what it take to bring a local fablabs online (in short, some starting capital, a decent space, and a core team to run it).

Fortunately, there’s been headway on the Berlin front. Betahaus, together with the Berlin maker-machers like Jay, Martin, Phillip and others, have been conspiring how to find the right machines, pay the rent, and get folks excited about making in this great city. The brainstorming is in its early stages, but these are the perfect people for the job, and it would do wonders to have a physical clubhouse for all the open design and fabbing this city pumps out.

To that end, and somewhat relatedly, the tentatively named “Berlin Beta Collective”, of which I am a part, is organizing an Open Design hub at DMY, the renown Berlin design festival. More on that later!

Back in Bremen, we were awed by the demos and ideas the participants brought with them. In particular, I found the total 3D modeling & printing solution from A1 Technologies to be quite impressive. Their set-up, available for under $2,000 and for the most part open sourced, brings you a 3D scanner (David), a haptic touch 3D modeling program, and the RapMan 3D printer. With this kit, you can scan any number of objects, manipulate them in your graphics program, and print out a prototype in a matter of minutes. A1 explained that their solution is great for the developing world and doctors on a budget; with their gear, you can scan vertebrae, tweak the contours, and print out a working piece for your patient right in the office.

Other fun toys were the immensely complex, multicolored 3D prototypes from fabtory. Granted, the machines they were using cost upwards of half a mil, but the products offered an outstanding range of possibilities. In one piece, for example, you could have 7 or more different consistencies of the material, or a blend of colors, or a crazy Obama bust with a photo of Merkel printed inside of it. These are definitely industry solutions for the time being, but as tools like Makerbot and RepRap become more sophisticated, I won’t be surprised to see such models popping up for a fraction of the cost.

Beyond the tech show-and-tell, it was great to meet the Fablabbers and talk about where the “movement” was headed in Europe. Business plans abound, but in many places, it still remains a challenge for these work/play stations to finance themselves. I’m really looking forward to collaborating with the Dutch teams, who were so knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and very open to helping bring the German scene online. Fortunately, we’ll be seeing more of them, like the Waag team who will join us at the Open Design event at DMY and the others at the annual global Fablab meet-up this year in Amsterdam.

A truly exciting time for “the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things”!

“Make something for dinner” was the assignment at the two-day Open Design workshop in betahaus. No, we weren’t just talking about preparing a yummy dish, but rather participants were to use open design principles and tools to build something to bring to the dinner table, or in the case of one group, even make the table itself.

About twenty of us gathered on the first day of the workshop, organized for the global Social Media Week and sponsored by Jovoto and Modular (thank you!). In the morning we introduced the various stations — corners of the betahaus cafe where you could play with new machines and materials, even make them yourself. There was a Makerbot and Arduino workbench powered by Philip Steffan (bausteln), a laser cutter commanded by Martin Bauer (lasern lasern), and a bioplastics laboratory led by mad scientists Jay Cousins, Chris Doering, and Mendel Heit. The fantastic crew from Waag Society / CC Netherlands (Bas van Abel/Erik Nap/Arne Hendriks) brought a car-full of toys — styrofoam, banana leaves, tubing, cardboard…in short, lots of raw materials to let our imaginations run wild.

The participants were given the assignment. They had two days to create something for dinner the following night. To get the creative juices flowing, Bas and Arne ran a hilarious brainstorming session, where we started to dissect the concept of dinner. The conclusion? It’s a social activity, and socializing comes in all sorts of forms: games, love, therapy, even food fights. These themes turned out to be the fodder for the designs taking shape over the next 48 hours.

Interestingly enough, it took the whole first day for people to talk through ideas, get familiar with the machines and materials, and to get in the mood to roll up their sleeves and make something. So as we wound up the first day, there weren’t any prototypes laying around, but our designs were boiling and ready to cook tomorrow when we returned to the betahaus cafe.

On the workshop’s second day, there was an energized makers attitude in the air. Tracy and Stefan., two workshop participants, had spent the night plotting how they would realize their respective projects. Tracy, teamed with Jost, would make a “Strings ~Attached” game board table, where utensils and glasses were tied together by strings under the table so that every bite and sip jerks a fork or plate out of someone’s hand. Stefan worked with Arne to develop the Twitter Cook Therapy project, a cooking corner for couples to explore the dynamics of their relationship by overcoming challenges arising from preparing a dinner together. An armchair psychologist audience would tweet their observations about the couple: how are they working together? why isn’t he cutting the onions, or did she grab the knife to fast?

Ronen dove into the food fight concept and laser cut a sheet of plastic into tiny finger forks engraved with “Social Media Week – Open Design” as dinner giveaways. The rings came in men’s and women’s sizes.

Jay, Chris, and Mendel really got cooking at the bioplastics station, where their concoctions landed them coverage on Make and Shapeways when they discovered they could laser cut their potato-based biomaterials.

The Dutch crew downloaded a few Instructables and also discovered some heat-sensitive utensils that when melted, morphed into fun and flexible shapes. They made a dueling two-edged fork, a helmut out of spoons, and impressive dancing robots who twirled on bended knifes. There was also an enchantment lamp which hung above our dinner table, heating sake bottles clipped into a customized plastic holder.

There was also a two-person platter, which diners would strap around their neck and coordinating their balance, could eat a shared plate. The Makerbot printed out a number of fun food-related items, including a tea pot and a sake cup. Philip also made a whistle, which I guess could serve to keep the peace at this chaotic dinner we were planning.

Interspersed among all the action was also an inspiration station, where people could take a break from tinkering, learn about cool open design projects, and share ideas. Wes had seveeral people offer their wisdom, although in the end this session turned out to be less formal than originally planned. It was more fun to hop from station to station than give a presentation. ^_^

The highlight of the workshop was when everyone wrapped up their projects and we sat down for dinner. Each project was showcased, and we had a lot of laughs about the strings attached dinner table, the scuttling robot dancers, and all the other goodies that adorned the meal. A courageous and cute couple, Benedikta and Matt from etsy, braved the Twitter Food Therapy experiment, and you can read the tweets (#tweefoody) to see how that went. (Synopsis: they’re still married!) :-)

The KS12 team, Gabriel and Patrizia, cut together a video from the two days, putting into praxis the idea of immediation — immediate documentation or “mediation” of an event. The film is a lot of fun and shows the playful spirit of the group and our various tinkerings. Plus, some now famous soundbites from Jay.

The feedback from the workshop and the ideas hatched there encouraged us to continue the conversation. Check in on the tag #od10beta, which is also being aggregated on with photos, videos, blog posts, and bookmarks about the theme. We’re also talking with DMY about how to extend this project and perhaps develop a “Maker Faire” of sorts for the DMY festival this June. Right now we’re barcampling suggestions, so if you too would like to get involved in open design / maker culture in Berlin, add your thoughts about how to make it happen!





What’s next?

Images: “Ronan’s creation” and “Lady Gaga Bot” by Fablab Amsterdam/CC BY; ”Makerbot” and “You can lazzzer biodegradable plastics!” by thornet_pics / CC BY SA; “Delivered in Beta” by KS12 / CC BY NC

A seminar about creativity and DIY culture wrapped up on Saturday at Braunschweig’s HBK. Over the course of three weeks, students learned about many open tools and processes, focusing on realizing their creativity both on and offline. They learned how to program an Arduino, how to be a Wikipedian, and how to license their work to enable sharing and remixing.

The wonderful organizers (Björn Bischof and Julia Schreiber) invited a diverse group of guests to join the last class. There were quite a number of speakers, and we had a long but interesting day ahead. The biggest take-away for me was seeing the students’ final projects — all very impressive accomplishments for people with little or no background in the topic. The teachers were excellent as well, and you could tell their passions and interests had infected the whole classroom.

During the show & tell, the students introduced their final projects, most of them executed with the knowledge they gained during the seminar. There was a homemade multi-touch screen, inspired by the infamous c-base ping pong board, made out of an old shoebox. One student harvests honey, and rather than walking up to 30km to regularly check on the combs, he created an Arduino-driven update system, which sends him an SMS if the hives change weight. Another project attached a chip to a ballpoint pen, which would make sounds as you drew. The further away from the starting point, the higher the audio’s pitch. Using this technique, the student could play a hand-drawn piano. There was also a Lilypad-powered game sewn into a glove. The player would press her fingers together in a given sequence to score points.

The last project we were shown was actually a six-month labor of love: an mega controller for manipulating and synthesizing tracks fed through a laptop. The clear plastic box housed a nest of cables and inputs, all wired through Arudino to create an impressive array of sounds. There was even a live performance that left the room grooving to the beat. (Hopefully video soon…).

Then the floor was handed over to the guest speakers. As we shifted to set up our presentations, it struck me how hardware, especially Apple’s, is in desperate need of standardization. I know they make a killing by selling final-inch adapters (I just bought one for 24EUR, thanks). But it’s not like one cable will do. Each laptop model has a different configuration, it seems, and nothing ever hooks up well to the projector. At one point, we were standing with — no joke — four unique Apple adapters, and none of them connected to the first speaker’s computer. Appreciate the exploitative biz model, Mr. Jobs!

Apart from that, the presentations went smoothly. Mey Lean Kronemann demoed her “shy lights” (Schüchterne Lichter), green dots on a dance floor that react to party-goers’ movement. Mey also built light-sensitive swarm robots for her thesis, and if you want to create your own, you can grab the design from her.

Felix Hardmood Beck scored some laughs with “My Little Soundbombs“, a beloved bundle of chips and wires that can be programmed to produce sounds, and tossed, for example, into mailboxes or up in trees, shouting expletives until the batteries die. He also designed the Geocane, which I had coincidentally seen three years ago at a UdK opening house. As a soon-to-be Santiago pilgrim, the cane had caught my eye, but with Felix’s piece, you don’t have to travel to Compostela for some adventure. The cane loads up data from geocaching (you can decide if you want to go to a social place or a quiet place, aka “Go Community!” or “Go Religious!”), and then head outdoors. The cane is equipped with GPS, and it vibrates to show you the way to go. I also had seen Felix’s latest piece, the Eyelight Dot Me, at the DMY in 2009. He shared a great tip for getting good coverage on designs: prepare print & blog-ready flyers that explain your product in an accessible and cool way. This makes it easier for people to pick up on your designs and pass them around, which is ultimately good for you. ^_^

Later on, M3nd3l wowed us with the bleeding edge of 3D printing and scanning. No stranger to tinkering, M3nd3l showed us how to scan a 3D object using a web cam, a container, and a lot of milk. There is also the Splinescan, NXT 3D scanner, and the David laserscanner (the latter can map a 3D object by simply swiping a laser beam across something placed in a corner). We also learned about the growing possibilities in 3D printing, not only Reprap and MakerBot, but did you know that people are already printing structures out of concrete and glass‽ M3nd3l also told us about some work to develop biodegradable printer goop — that’s great news, considering how much people are and will use these things.

As M3nd3l and others noted, it’s important in this field to share designs and improve on prototypes. That’s why free software and free content are corner stones to much of modern tinkering. There are of course many sites and good apps, but definitely don’t forget Blender, the 3D animation software, and Thingiverse, a very cool platform for sharing 3D designs.

Olaf had us reflect a bit on the roots of DIY. He noted that when he was a kid, back in the 70’s, the ideal was buying a toy that was complete. Why on earth would you want the hassle of making it yourself? Now, Olaf notes, we’re living in a de-culture, where even Fendi tries to ride the DIY hype by selling a customization kit for an 800EUR(‽) beige bag. He asks: what are we buying with such kits? Where is the value? (A great question for the Free Culture Incubator in two weeks, actually).

Olaf introduced a lovely quotation from Andy Warhol: “Wasted space is any space that has art in it.” If so, how does that resolve itself with Joseph Beuys’s famous line, “Everybody is an artist.” If we are all making things, and we even have (ironic) kits that help us realize our inner artist, what is the role then of The Artist, if any. What is the role of art?

While all the philosophy is hashed out, at least we can have fun with the clever, creative outputs of DIY artists like Aram Bartholl. Download a pair of his first person shooter glasses (above), for example, and see what all the fuss is about. You can also revel in IKEA hacking, as these manga artists demonstrated with their build-your-own-sarcophagus kit, “DIY, or How to Kill Yourself Anywhere in the World for Under $300“.

Hopefully neither you nor I will be needing one of those anytime soon. In the meantime, a huge thank you to the seminar organizers, the students, and the fellow speakers for an inspiring day in Braunschweig. As I mentioned in my talk, there are lots of things in Berlin that will continue to riff on these themes. If you’ve got time, be sure to check out the Open Design Workshop at the Social Media Week and the Free Culture Incubator at the transmediale. There be many-a tinkering to come!

Images: “First Person Shooter Glasses” by Aram Bartholl / CC BY NC SA. “DIY, or How to Kill Yourself Anywhere in the World for Under $300” by Joe Scanlan / CC BY NC SA.