Friday, April 15, 2005

Review of Neil Gershenfeld: How Personal Fabricators Will Revolutionize Our World

Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, who runs a one-semester smash-hit class called "How to Make Almost Anything", is determined to produce affordable, replicating personal fabricators by 2025.

(This is part of a developing story about the rise of personal desktop fabrication and replicators).

Today we fabricate by melting plastic and whacking metal with a little digital help at each end of the manufacturing process. Soon, the materials we build with will be digital, forming themselves into the shapes we now force atoms into. That's the big change knocking at our door.

Speaking at the Emerging Technology Conference, he illustrated how, within 10 to 20 years:

  • Affordable desktop personal fabricators as powerful as an automobile plant will produce most any manufactured product you can imagine.

  • The products emerging from these desktop "FabLabs" will be saturated with accelerating computational intelligence.

  • They will be self-replicating.

Their ability to self-replicate will ensure they meet the exponentially rising demand. As they rapidly spread to thousands and then millions of people, they will mutate and evolve; enlisted to propagate their own next generation.

The Edge of a Revolution in Digital Personal Fabrication

Neil believes the only thing standing in the way of making this happen is getting the word out. These FabLabs are now only about $20,000. When they begin self replicating the cost will drop like a stone.

One business model involves setting up fab labs within communities. People would create for no charge and useful items would become marketable products.

Download the MP3 here. The discussion on desktop rapid prototyping is excellent too when Dr. Gershenfeld is joined by Dale Dougherty from O'Reilly Media, Bran Ferren from Applied Minds and Saul Griffith from Squid:Labs.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Watching Google Maps Snowball

Update Friday Apr 22/05:

Track your GPS enabled vehicle live with this innovative Google Maps hack. For a few hundred dollars in parts, using Google Maps you can track a vehicle live. With an onboard webcam you can zoom right down to street level and look out of the vehicle. See the picture for how cool this is.

Original article follows:
The convergence of Google Maps, Flickr and Camera Phones as an infrastructure for new social software.

You can tell it's a killer app when people begin developing more applications around it and using it in ways the original developer never guessed. Let's take a short tour of what's shakin' with Google Maps.

Convergence: Flickr, Google Maps and Camera Phones

Shortly after the launch, Google Maps showed up on Flickr, many of them annotated.

As cheap, plentiful phone cams with GPS flood the market, we're going to see some interesting innovation. Thousands of shots from GPS enabled Phone cams, posted to Flickr will be accompanied with the longitude/lattitude co-ordinates.

Update Tuesday May 3: Well, it looks like "Geobloggers has already started doing this. Try this annotated Google Map over the Golden Gate Bridge. Then click the yellow baloon to see the picture from the ground.

From above the trees or rooftops of some spot you're interested in at Google Maps, get your latitude and longitude, go to Flickr, run a search on that. You will soon tap into ground level photos of that very spot as thousands of people fill in the last mile.

Convergence: Craigslist and Google Maps

Check out this site, which brings together Craigslist home listings with Google Maps. Find homes for sale or rent within a specific area, and do a virtual tour. Wait until the Real Estate vendors latch onto this.

Take A Swivel Chair Tour

Start with this page. See Graceland, Neverland, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, MT. St. Helens and more from your desk.

What's Next?

Google Maps merged with recently released prisoner data, Wireless hotspots, nearest grassroots recommended restaurants, cash machines...

Wireless access, Google maps, and tagging will create sticky location-based fountains of useful knowledge.

This is one to watch. There's no telling what will spin off next.