The $65 DIY robot that moves like a bug
September 5th, 2013
03:30 PM ET

The $65 DIY robot that moves like a bug

By Heather Kelly, CNN

For a tiny bug-shaped robot made of cardboard and plastic, Dash is surprisingly advanced.

The new $65 DIY programmable robot is built for tinkering. It comes with a gyroscope, visible light and infrared sensors, and an iOS app for controlling it over Bluetooth 4.  The Arduino-compatible bots also have LED lights and additional ports for expanding and hacking the Dash.

You can program in your own behaviors, making the robots move in patterns or follow walls. They can operate as a swarm and cooperate, or set off on individual tasks. Add in touch sensors and turn two peace-loving Dash robots into battlebots that fight each other and keep score on their multi-colored LEDs.

"Our goal is to get a robot into everyone's hands because we think they're great educational tools," said Nick Kohut, one of the founders of Dash Robotics.

Conveniently, Dash will fit right into in the palms of those hands. It has six legs, weighs about half an ounce, and its killer feature is being able to move quickly over various kinds of terrain. It can cover five to six feet a second and is able to cross sand, concrete and other surfaces.

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Design • Education • Innovation • Robots • Tech • The Next List
Study: At-home 3-D printing could save consumers 'thousands'
July 31st, 2013
12:06 PM ET

Study: At-home 3-D printing could save consumers 'thousands'

By Heather Kelly, CNN

Personal 3-D printers may sound like a pricey luxury or a niche product for geeks, but soon they could become a household appliance that saves people thousands of dollars a year.

Researchers at Michigan Technological University conducted a study to find out how much a family might save by printing common objects, such as simple replacement parts or toys, at home instead of buying them in stores or online.

"It was relatively shocking what the return on investment was," said associate professor Joshua Pearce, who led the study. "Realistically, it's in the thousands."

Much of the recent 3-D printer hype has focused on how the technology is going to revolutionize the manufacturing industry or what cool things it can create - human organs, duck feet, see-through hermit crab shells shaped like cities. But it's the small, mundane objects that could have the most immediate impact on wallets. (Especially if you print your own wallet.) FULL POST

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Design • Environment • Innovation • Tech
June 1st, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Swap-O-Matic: A vending machine for bartering with just about anything

By Laura Ly, Special to CNN

New York (CNN) - On any given day, the vending machine at Ample Hills Creamery in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, may offer anything from books to original artwork to toys.  If you see something you want, however, no need to take out your wallet.  The ‘Swap-O-Matic’ vending machine allows you to swap and trade items, rather than buy them.

“The Swap-O-Matic recognizes that there is a thrill in getting things.  The vending machine satisfies our desires for instant gratification, but it co-ops it and re-appropriates it to something that is a more sustainable method of acquisition, which is through swapping and trading,” said Lina Fenequito, the creator and primary designer of the ‘Swap-O-Matic.’

Fenequito wanted to call attention to issues of overconsumption and needless waste and aimed to find a creative way to encourage trading and reusing.  For her senior thesis project at Parsons School of Design, she built an earlier, low-tech model.  In August 2011, with the help of visual designer Ray Mancini and electrical engineer Rick Cassidy, Fenequito built upon her thesis project and created a machine with touchscreen capability and digital locks. FULL POST

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Filed under: Art • Crowdsourcing • Culture • Design • Innovation • Tech • The Next List • Thinkers
The Big Idea: Should the U.S. 'airdrop' millions of phones into Syria?
This photo, of a rally in Syria in April, was shot with a mobile phone.
May 29th, 2012
10:25 AM ET

The Big Idea: Should the U.S. 'airdrop' millions of phones into Syria?

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Can communication tools stop a war?

That's basically the idea one CNN commenter put forward on Monday. Responding to a story about citizen journalists in Syria, who risk their lives to upload videos and photos of gruesome massacres by the government, a commenter called goingmeta had this to say:

Rather than bombing by air or invading by land or even sending in international observers, we should airdrop about 20 million video cell phones. If there are excesses and abuses, nothing would turn the tide so quickly as giving each man, woman, and child in Syria the opportunity to record them and hold the authorities accountable for their actions. FULL POST

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Innovation • Internet • Smartphones • Social change
May 4th, 2012
03:11 PM ET

Ben Kaufman: Innovation happens outside the boardroom these days

Editor's note: Ben Kaufman is the CEO of Quirky.com, which helps inventors bring their ideas to the market. Kaufman is the subject of Sunday's episode of "The Next List," on CNN at 2 p.m. ET.

By Ben Kaufman, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Ninety-nine percent of consumer product companies are incredibly disconnected from the people that they serve. The process of trying to learn about what those people want only creates more distance.

We used to live in a world in which Big Companies made things, and people bought them, sometimes because they were the right things, sometimes because they were the only things. Before the Internet came along, this kind of worked. Before the Web, people’s expectations of how, where and to whom they could express themselves were very low. FULL POST

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Culture • Design • Internet • Tech • The Next List
DARPA wants to crowdsource the apocalypse
March 2nd, 2012
11:03 AM ET

DARPA wants to crowdsource the apocalypse

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - For being such a secretive and sometimes-frightening agency, DARPA also knows how to have a lot of fun with technology. In 2009, you may recall, DARPA, a branch of the U.S. Defense Department, set loose 10 red weatherballoons all over the contiguous United States and then paid $40,000 to the team that used social media to be the first to locate all of the balloons. What made the challenge so awesome was that no one person could possibly solve that puzzle alone. They had to use the Internet to do so.

A team from MIT (shocking, right?) won that contest in less than 9 hours.

Now the agency has launched a new project involving a global hunt for QR Codes. The "CLIQR Quest Challenge" started on February 23 and continues until Thursday at noon. DARPA says the contest is designed to "advance the understanding of social media and the Internet, and explore the role the Internet and social networking plays in the timely communication, wide area team-building and urgent mobilization required to solve broad scope, time-critical problems." The blog TechCrunch saw right through that government-speak and declared, more or less, that DARPA was preparing to crowdsource the aftermath of the apocolypse: FULL POST

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Culture • Innovation • Internet • Smartphones • Social change
When making a game is a game in itself
February 10th, 2012
10:02 AM ET

When making a game is a game in itself

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Something strange happened earlier this week: The people of the Internet - not exactly known for their generosity - gave $1 million in a SINGLE DAY to an online game that hasn't even been created yet.

Not only is this a milestone for Kickstarter, the "crowd funding" platform that made these donations possible; it's also an experiment in, as the blog ReadWriteWeb aptly described it, making a game out of the game-making process.

The game is called Double Fine Adventure. As of Friday morning, it had raised $1.2 million on the promise that:

With this project, we're taking that door off its hinges and inviting you into the world of Double Fine Productions, the first major studio to fully finance their next game with a Kickstarter campaign and develop it in the public eye ... This year, you'll be given a front-row seat as they revisit Tim's design roots and create a brand-new, downloadable "Point-and-Click" graphic adventure game for the modern age. FULL POST

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Gaming • Innovation • Internet • Tech