March 10th, 2012
01:08 PM ET

Syyn Labs: A healthy recipe for innovation

Editor's Note: Doug Campbell is the founder of Syyn Labs, a radical, creative collective based in downtown Los Angeles. Be sure to check out CNN The Next List’s profile on Syyn Labs this Sunday at 2pm

By Doug Campbell, Special to CNN

“Would they be cool with us launching a rubber chicken into Space?”

A group of excitable characters are volleying ideas around in a gritty but colorfully decorated warehouse. A disco-starfish stands sentry next to a bear wearing a fez. A giant banana and a stuffed monkey hang from the ceiling. A conversation is underway.

“We can do it with fluid dynamics, by tinting layers of oils as they react to the data.”

“Thermal imaging should give us an accurate read of the audiences facial temperatures...”

“Either way, we should use robots... and the paint cannon.”

The brainstorming session resembles a dream in which Salvador Dali is teaching a class at the MIT Media Lab and everyone has ADHD. But this is real. And this is work. And this happens almost every day here at Syyn Labs.

It’s a humorous alternate reality, one where engineers demand creative fulfillment and artists have no fear of circuit boards.  But how did we gather such a group of quirky innovators? It all started back in 2008 when I met a hacker who was demo’ing an installation at an LA tech event. The event attendees were invited to send a word, via text message, to a phone number. Then Flickr images that were tagged with that word burst on to the projector. The images started innocently enough with “puppies” and such but since it was anonymous, the imagery soon degenerated into the inevitable body parts and profanities.

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Filed under: Geek Out • Innovation • The Next List • Thinkers • Video