San Francisco Studio Visits

Last week I toured San Francisco to visit some of the people who are pushing the envelope of innovation, as part of my job for Digi Collaborative R&D. It was a fantastically productive trip that has me brimming with ideas for kits, workshops, design challenges and a few potentially high-profile projects. My stops included Frog Design’s headquarters where we talked about strategies for prototyping wireless devices, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories in Sunnyvale where Windell Oskay showed me the latest in EggBots while we discussed networking low-cost mechanical music, and the Sensoree studio where Kristin Neidlinger shared her imaginative interactive wearables. Finally I got to visit Noisebridge, the legendary San Francisco hacker space where Gian Pablo Villamil was my guide to radical inclusivity and their cornucopia of equipment. It seems like almost everyone doing anything interesting in the Bay Area has some connection with Noisebridge! Gian Pablo got a ConnectPort X2 from me that he’ll be using to extend his work with Lynn Hershman onto the Internet. It turns out to be the perfect solution for plug-and-play museum device networking, something I’m keeping in mind for upcoming work.

The next day I was lucky enough to spend an hour with Jennifer Parker of UCSC’s OpenLab. The Lab is a collaboration between art and science researchers, adding depth and communication to the work of both. We’re thinking about initiating a mesh networking workshop that could extend OpenLab’s current efforts in astrophysics visualizations into physical spaces. Then it was on to a productive discussion with Dan Woods, the Associate Publisher for MAKE. (He’s part of the relentless O’Reilly tag team that ensures I’m always writing when I should be sleeping.) We chatted about a line of Maker Shed XBee kits and how to best straddle the line between closed and open-ended device networking projects. My final stop took me behind the scenes at the Exploratorium. Chris Cerrito generously showed me around their massive shop while we discussed exhibit design, visitor metrics and sensor networking for new exhibits, both indoor and outdoor. Chris is already using XBees to log data for skating events inside the museum. I’ll be developing some workshops to offer for the staff at their Tinkering Studio, to give a taste of device networking for the place that got me excited about interaction design in the first place. Much great work to be done!

Here’s some other snapshots from the excursion: