The Kinect and the 3D printer seem poised to be the perfect match in realizing the dream of making replications of real life objects for repair, replacement, amusement and art. A recent project by blablabLAB entitled Be Your Own Souvenir took the art route in a very public application. I asked the collective a few questions about the project, process and future experiments.
First tell us a little about the project? This project was inspired by our daily life in Barcelona, a city flooded by tourists and everything that tourism implies. This fact, the rising prices, the feeling-abroad-at-home, the topic-culture, the not-productive disappearing places... produces a weird and contradictory sensation on us: actually we are “guiris” (tourists) in La Rambla. Talking about the city and the people is what its all about.
How was the reaction from the public?
The public at the beginning seemed shy, not understanding what was happening, but after a few minutes viewing somebody performing and seeing the reward for it, the result in print, many wanted to try. We ended up with a long queue and unfortunately we couldn’t attend everyone, since the resolution-performance ratio is very different in the two systems: the Rapman prints way slower (10 minutes) than the Kinects scan real fast (real time), which is a pity, because the Rapman can plot real accurate model, while the real time scanning wasn’t mandatory for this specific project.
What is (the background of) blablabLAB, who are it's members.
We are not the same people in every project. Friends keep joining now
and then. We all are blablabLAB. We love working with people from
different backgrounds and we try to innovate in media and means of
production and also change topics in every project.
We love talking to people from other fields, artists, technicians,
thinkers, etc. Also to “regular” people’s ideas and daily life
experiences. Both are very inspiring for what we try to do, which is to
bridge by-all-reachable tools (DIY knowledge, cheap/recyclable
material) things that can be “improved” in our world.
Have you undertaken any other projects with either the Kinect or 3D printing?
Actually we introduced ourselves in the 3D printing making our own
RepRap electronics-based cnc a couple of
years ago. Before finishing properly (salvaged steppers play bad tricks
sometimes) we got involved in other projects (bioart, computer vision,
arty lo-fi tech) so we never had the time to tune it. Afterwards it has
been reused temporarily for other projects like our friend yang02.org
automated graffity in barcelona or our other machine Haberlandt.
What do you see as being the greatest potential of 3D printing?
We are fascinated about this, our DIY interests make us want to print
everything. The potential as we just said, is huge, the ability to
produce your own goods as you want them to be is amazing.
The technology appears to suddenly enable a new production system: the
such named crowdsourcing. We strongly disagree with the current system
and look at the possibilities in a politic, positive way. Consumerism
has become even an environmental problem, and we believe this would
also be addressed by new means of production: closer to the consumer
(printing with a home build machine isn’t that easy) and thus making
all us more aware of the whole process.
3D printing connects the “open” concept, for long time present in
software development, with the hardware sphere, the physical world.
Computers and Internet have transformed the society. We see real good
things coming out of this, and we think “crowdsourcing” can be the next
step. This time we think “open” is leading the masses in the ubiquitous
How do you see the commercial vs DIY 3D printers differ what are each advantage and disadvantage?
There is a clear tradeoff between price-time and effort-support,
however these differences tend to get closer and closer everyday: open
is reaching amazing qualities at very low costs, although time is a
good to invest.
Besides this, DIY printers will always have a “social” side, a
community behind, which is very important in terms of social
development: empowers the people, and keeps them active in culture
production. [See the discussions about open hardware around the
Makerbot community for example] This culture is open and thus tends to
make anybody that can access the information equal: since Internet is
available to everyone (in poorer countries will hopefully soon be) this
means democratization of the world.
You used open tools, is that because they are free or is there a philosophical reason?
Share the knowledge is one of the leading ideas of our collective and
these tools are the perfect expression for it. Without them this project
would have been absolutely impossible.
Our development is not really enriching for the community, but it
spreads the usage of the tools, its limitless potentials. It is our way
What is next for blablabLAB?
We don’t really know, we have been working on a couple of projects,
which might get into production. May be a water computer build out of
fluidic logic gates for a medialab-museum sort of building. We have
some other ideas to use the Kinect on, and probabily will be supporting
a couple of open workshops around.
We want to get our hands back into the non-commercial RepRaps and plan
to build some with friends. Maybe some subtracting cnc as well. We will try to keep having fun, learning, and coming up with something that delivers something to the people.
A big thanks for the blablabLAB collective for taking the time to answer my questions and sharing their images, I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with next... And of course I am desperate to have my own army of mini-me.