The future is what we make it. This phrase has been variously attributed to the Terminator movie. Notwithstanding the source, there is some truth. The future is what we make it to be through our actions. One of our unique gifts is inventing, although it is often referred to as tool making. It is in our nature as human beings to try to solve problems and create new ways to do things.
Sometimes that urge results in changing the way things are done. Such is the case with the new generation of 3D printers. Maker Bot and RepRap are the leading edge of a new wave of “tools” that will change the way things get made. Just as 3D solid model visualization tools for the computer changed engineering 30 years ago, 3D printers will change how things get made.
The great value in this new technology is the reduction in amortized cost to make things. It becomes possible to “manufacture” a single unique item if the “tools” to make the item are cheap enough. This is extremely significant in all products and all technologies.
But lately there have been some interesting attempts at “invention kits”. Makey Makey is one that has gotten some attention since its opening on Kickstart for funding. I’m not sure I quite get the implementation. You make objects perform functions. I guess that’s kind of broad.
Personally, I don’t think people just randomly “invent”. Need for a solution to a problem, or need to improve existing solutions to problems, tends to drive inventing.
Maybe the real goal is educating. For designers who may not be familiar with how electronics are implemented, there is a definite need for new “tools” to help bridge that gap. In this category, however, there are some extremely fine tools already out there.
Lego has teamed up with technology folks from all walks to provide Lego kits that are an excellent platform for conveying all sorts of different technologies. Mechatronics is fully covered in the Lego educational system products with some truly amazing capabilities. Possibly the most mind-blowing example is the “Cube Stormer 2” the uses Legos to make a dedicated 3 axis robot that holds the Guiness speed record for solving the Rubik’s Cube puzzle. Pretty crazy.
But it makes a point. You can get these concepts across to a large audience with the right tools.