Picked up a copy of the MIT technology review ( at the library) an impressive sounding journal where I read about a company called Supermechanical that was created by some MIT Medfia lab alumni ( that seems like a phrase you hear a lot in innvation news) who funded their business model VERY successfully through KickStarter. The product/intelligent device they have created is called twine, and it’s a great example of what I want to call “Maker Microcontrollers” or technology tools that encourage/enable modification and invention. Lately I’ve been thinking about intelligent devices a lot ( this post was dictated to Siri ) and as I begin doing some reading I found that KickStarter is launching all kinds of new ways for us to interface with intelligent machines. It seems like a threshold of sincronicity in very small scale technology has been achieved. It is now possible to crowd source funding, get global input on product development and improvements and bring something out to market really quickly. Is there a Moores law of machine to machine and and intelligent devices percolating?
When I’m working on the projects I’m intrigued when I talk with the facilities and building systems engineers to find that lots and lots of buildings are beginning to develop automation systems that can generate reports, give real-time data and feedback through cloud based reports or a lobby screen. This kind of real time data involves people in the building making everybody more aware of their environment and how they’re affecting it as well as the environment effecting them.
Some other areas being developed include a $10 spectroscopic attachment for cell phones that allows someone in the field to analyze everything from oil spill pollution to and well water toxicity to qualities of wine.
Just as Google maps made it quickly possible for us to know where are and what is available around us when we know more about the environment and how we impact and interface with it we’re going to make much better informed choices about everything from the best traffic avoidance route to how long a bikle ride was. These new devices come up with answers and ask you to develop the questions.
A smartphone is an amazing tool, a tool that gives you new abilities that started out as a way to make phone calls. Now it connects to the Internet and suddenly there’s all kinds of additional information available whether it’s dictionary definitions or translations or any number of pieces of added intelligence that you would not otherwise have had.
Computer scientists trying to explore whats possible and product designers are all very well aware of the potential for this. The Italian made Arduino boards which became a popular way of developing new microcontroller devices now have a whole range add-ons to make them more intelligent. This year, the big news is a very small Linux computer with considerable power to drive innovation that costs 35 dollars ! Raspberry Pi. Most recently the Gertboard which allows you to use the Raspberry Pi computer to drive actuators, srvomotors and environment sensors. Cameras, Multimeters, you name it and some hack/mod advocate in a garage is developing it now. Did I mention that these microdevices use VERY minimal power and can run off small solar panels?
So where will this go ? I like to return to the embodied hand made objects generated from some of my favorite objects, old woodworking tools… where simple is good but these days not many people understand how a handsaw functions. Although, there is a renaissance there as well.
That is to say that a handsaw is a series of sharp chisels which once across cellulose fiber slice off sections of the cellular structure in a way that allows you to shape fabricating structural material
There was an article where the military had taken giant 3-D printing capability into the field and they said that they were able to manufacture a part for a minesweeper in the field. When we work on islands the ability to make spare parts from whatever is laying around is part of the challenge of working in those environments.
When I was a boy my father showed me how to make a crystal radio wrapping copper wire around an old toilet paper tube, it was amazing and the Arduino and microprocessors and microcontrollers maker movement seejust extension of that.