(Video link HERE.) Bio 50 has applied open-source thinking to electronic appliances we use in our homes everyday. They’ve prototyped of a system built upon standard components that offers the user the ability to assemble, customize, repair, and repurpose existing products.

Check out their clever fan, hand mixer, and a balloon-encased lamp all configured from the same elements. 

Tilen Sepič
Tilen Sepič

A fan easily morphs into a hand mixer…

Tilen Sepič
Tilen Sepič

Sigh. For now, we’re filing them in our every-expanding Department of Wishful Thinking.

But the basic principle is something you can use throughout your life, in cooking, say. Once you understand the essential structure of a recipe, you can swap out ingredients to morph it into different dishes.

Here’s a Mario Batali recipe Sally annotated years ago as she made notes about what she might do with it. The essential structure is circled in pen with the note “great technique”. Then she notes the ingredients she would try swapping out and see what happened.

Maria Robledo
Maria Robledo

Using the core technique i.e. mechanism (like the motor above) she was able to make Lemon Lavender Jam, Tangelo Jam, Tangerinsicle Parfaits and Meyer Lemon Dessert Sauce and Art Filling.

Check out more “possibility thinking” in her award-winning cookbook The Improvisational Cook

via Designboom

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2 replies on “Open Source Systems for Everyday Objects, Food + Living

  1. This post is thought provoking. To me, it feels like the counterpoint of the minimalism.

    Reminds me of one of my supervisors who would prod me with statements like “I should just make it out of LEGOs”. And honestly, he was right: making stuff out of plastic toys is faster and easier. It’s also restrictive, ugly, for light use only, and too easily disassembled.

    Thinking about minimalism vs. modularity makes me think about how we choose our pros and cons. There are basic values in the heart of the designer. There are many summaries of these values but here are a few that come to mind: economy, quality materials, longevity, maintainability, features, flexibility, and durability. You can’t have a perfect design so there are trade-offs.

    For example, you could have a floor that is made from quality materials, such as slate or ceramic tile. Such a floor is durable but not easily changed. Using painted plywood flooring is easily reconfigured (painted), economical, but not long lasting.

    Another way I’ve seen this expressed (though with a DIY twist) is that you can usually have 2 of these options: cheap, reliable, or easy. Again, flooring. Plywood is cheap and easy to install but certainly not as reliable as ceramic tile or even marine-grade plywood or other laminates. Another example, from the previous century: MP3 players. Before the iPod, you could choose between an expensive player, a kit, or you could design your own. Buying a player was easy and reliable but expensive. The kit was more economical, still reliable, but not easy. And making your own player was something that was so hard that almost no one bothered. That final option was expensive, not easy, and not reliable.

    On a related note, Open source hardware is becoming the reality of this century. There are people making non-proprietary farm equipment (opensourceecology.org) and machine tools (opensourcemachinetools.org). Also, open-source cell phones and other electronics. There are thousands of open-source software projects, too, many of which figure heavily into the function of the open-source hardware.

  2. Thanks for laying out some of the pros and cons, Kevin, and your thinking on it. “Just make it out of Legos” reminds me of what I’ve long thought: why hasn’t someone fabricated lego-like interlocking blocks out of a strong a good-looking metal that WOULD have some viability in real life, not just play. I recently posted some lego-like concrete blocks that can actually be employed in building strong structures in many ways, yet obviate the usual approach to building with concrete block.

    I’m not sure the Open Source System these designers created are a viable product —or that Open Source was really the right language for what they made— but I like the idea of design that allows reconfiguring. I am constantly wishing for a modular aspect to some everyday object so that I could tailor it to my needs, from tote bags and backpacks to furniture. It often seems not-so-difficult to do; I redesign things I see in my head all the time. But the reality is, it takes serious thought, exploration, trial-and-error…worthy pursuits, if only there were time and money to do them.

    To be continued…

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