Day 2
Neil Gershenfeld. Director of MIT Centre for bits and atoms.
State of the Art in Fabrication. $10 billion chip fab. Just spreading stuff around and baking it like we've been doing for thousands of years. Just with finer detail. But it's nothing compared with Ribosome fabs and DNA. Passes all the tests of computing. undamentally digital process.

So they're working on hardware fab where the materials and process are a computer. The spec for the design is implicit in the materials. Working downwards from cm to micrometers to nanometres.

Back to communications theory. Shanno showed that there is a threshold. With some error checking, there is a threshold. Below that you can get zero errors despite finite amounts of noise. Now the ribosome-DNA process has error checking built in and so can replicate with zero errors. This shows it's possible to have hardware fabrication with zero errors if you take a computational approach. The challenge is to do it at all size levels.

So MIT started a course, "How to make almost anything". Some projects: A scream body (scream anywhere in silence into a back pack and then play back the scream later). A browser for parrots. Defensive clothing to protect your personal space. It turned out personal fab means you can produce anything for a single individual. Laser Cutter+Sign cutter+small micron milling machine+automated electronics assembly. for $20K. An approximation of a personal fab plant. Labs like this now all over the world including the 3rd world. He's showing Ghana street kids using a lab to build stacking bots. In India building milk analysis machines for rural farmers for $1 of parts. Norway building mesh network sensors to track reindeer. India-Pakistan border putting up internet enabled qounset huts. Gives people something to do instead of shooting each other. Now using the labs to make the huts self-reproducing.

What's needed is distributed VC to help fund distributed fab design.

Personal Fab is now at the PDP11 era from the 70s but it's moving really fast.

Bits to atoms discussion
JB: This stuff reminds me of SF novels. Imagine a garbage can in the corner. Pour grey goo into it, download a program to the can and out pops a microwave.

Tim O'Reilly , Dale Dougherty, Bran Ferren, Neil Gershenfeld, Saul Griffith

Squidlabs. A startup to build personal fab plants in SF.
Applied Minds. High pressure rapid hardware prototyping. Building tools to support this. Merging creativity wth engineering by starting at the model, rather than the spec. (JB: extreme engineering to parallel extreme programming. There's a note there that the first time an engineer uses a CNC machine, they can't believe how dumb they are.)

The ideal workshop is one which lets you quickly build the tool you need to build the thing you actually want. eg Using a computer controlled water jet cutter or ink jet printer to feed cad designs straight through to complex physical shapes. I get the feeling that when Apple gets bored with music and video, we'll see them produce iFactory! See also ifabricate from last night. A community web site to break down a big hardware project into sub-routines that people can describe individually; When building a bicycle, somebody else can design the wheels. So a project becomes assembling designs from other people.

An aside "Just in time education instead of just in case education".

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[ 16-Mar-05 5:17pm ] [ ]