Open Hardware Summit 2013 + experiencing Boston

Posted on September 24, 2013 in Hardware

On September 6th I was lucky enough to present a poster at the Open Hardware Summit at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium and stay the weekend in Boston to check out the area. The conference itself is a gathering of about 500+ open-hardware makers and enthusiasts and consists of both a poster and demo section as well as talks and panel discussions.

Poster for the summit

The poster I created for the summit is about my open-source assistive technology work that I have been pursuing this year. All of the projects are on-going, but I was able to talk about my prototypes and goals with attendees. The full poster is 36×48″ in size, and you wouldn’t believe how much hassle it is to print something that big!

The summit

The Summit itself was an all-around fantastic event, with lots of activity and many, many interesting people to talk to. Great talks and panels were taking place all day long inside the auditorium, but many people were also hanging out and chatting outside in the lobby where demos and posters were set up. I found myself excitedly bouncing back and forth between the two all day as I realized that all of the talks would be recorded and made available for free online after the summit, while I would only be able to chat with the demo/poster presenters in person. I was able to spend a good amount of time talking to nearly every presenter there discussing extremely interesting work including patch-based input devices, wireless sensor networks for outdoor environments and much, much more.

Perhaps one of my most favorite aspects of the event was being able to just walk up and chat with any of the speakers throughout the day. This lead to so many interesting conversations and connections that I had no idea I’d have. It was a heck of a feeling to casually hang out and chat with TED Fellows, writers for MAKE, people who have been on the the cover of Wired and the inventors and creators of some of the most important open-source projects in the world right now! I will definitely be going to future summits, even if just to meet even more great people!

At the end of the event was a party with free beer (1000 were ordered, half were drank throughout the evening). This video should give you a good sense of what it was like being there!

Artisan’s Asylum

After the Summit, I spent two days exploring neat things in the area, starting with the amazing Artisan’s Asylum. The Asylum is a 40,000 square-foot “non-profit community craft studio” consisting of 250 members, 140 studio spaces and more creative people than you can shake a stick at. I was expecting to drop by, take a tour and go back to wandering around Somerville, but instead I met some friendly faces and was invited to stay for the evening to hang out with speakers and presenters from the Open Hardware Summit! I ended up being able to stay for quite a while and have some extremely energizing conversations with even more awesome people.

I felt right at home at the Asylum, and like a kid in a candy store being so close to so many interesting, creative and diversely talented people. Every time I started thinking that I ought to head back to my lodging for the evening, more and more interesting things kept happening! Needless to say, I cannot wait to go back!

Tour of Nervous System experimental design studio

On Sunday, I got to visit the studio of one of the most inspirational design teams I know; Nervous System. They create unique, experimental designs based on custom generative simulation software, which they then realize using digital fabrication technology like 3D printing and laser cutting. Not only did I get to see all of the awesome stuff I’ve drooled over on their website, I also got to check out some of the new stuff they are working on. 3D-printed ceramic, full-color coral-ish pieces and an amazing CNC’d wooden table, and much more!

I picked up a neat 3D-printed necklace (from their “defect” bin :P), and a stainless steel ring. Huge thanks again to Jesse Rosenberg (half of the Nervous System core team) for letting me check out the studio!

Around MIT + Boston

Aside from visiting the Artisan’s Asylum and Nervous System, I also really wanted to tour the MIT Media Lab. I did my best, but unfortunately it just didn’t happen. In a last-ditch effort to get in, I walked up and looked at what I could from the street; it was all locked up and the whole area seemed a bit deserted. I guess that’s just what happens on Sundays, especially when a Caribbean festival has taken over nearby streets!

Still, I got to see the Media Lab from the outside and soak in the architectural glory of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), which has some of the most unique and unusual features of building you’ll ever see!