Build your own product with Bug Lab's Open Source Hardware

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I’m floored. This is not a trick, nor is it a story out of Star Trek, and best of all its not even a concept. Yesterday, November 01, 2007, Bug Labs launched for the first time to the public, pictures of what to me would be one of the biggest break through in platform product design I have seen to date. I have to say the potential of this product will be endless. Bug Labs, run by some very clever people, has an interesting vision where Peter Semmelhack the CEO explains:

Consumer electronics products come to market today in a way that has not changed in decades. Companies employ smart people who try to divine what the majority of their target customers will want to buy, fund massive market research programs, build expensive production lines, execute huge marketing campaigns and the majority of the time fail to achieve their objectives (see “Innovator’s Solution”, Christensen, “The Change Function”, Coburn).
On Monday, NY Times reporter G. Pascal Zachary wrote an article that succinctly points out where this trend originated – “There is an unbroken line between Henry Ford (with his Model T) and Steve Jobs. The new iPhone similarly reflects the elite, corporate innovator’s drive to find one size that fits many.” It’s an expensive, wasteful model for everyone involved – producers, suppliers, customers and last but not least, the environment.

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BUGbase
This product, which I suppose follows along the same lines as the corporate vision, is just called BUG:

BUG is a collection of easy-to-use, open source hardware modules, each capable of producing one or more Web services. These modules snap together physically and the services connect together logically to enable users to easily build, program and share innovative devices and applications. With BUG, we don’t define the final products – you do.

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Essentially you first start with a Lego type product (The BUGbase), where by you then mix and match different components (BUGmodules: LCD screen, GPS, Speaker, Teleporter etc.) to build a product that you want or need. This basically throws out of the window the whole marketing problem of consumers asking “Why do I need to pay X dollars more for a feature on a product I don’t need?”.
Wait! There’s more.
The system is smart enough that it would continue to work with each and every new module that comes out. This BUG’s ability to be upgradable and scalable, means complete customization and offers amazing product longevity. I guess I don’t need to highlight the importance of such a product’s (small) impact on the environment and its nod towards fostering sustainable behaviours? Not only that I can imagine the BUG will be a marketers dream as the practice of identifying a target market and/or predicting consumer behaviour will be less important in the equation as mass customization it truly around the corner. We have come very far from our first solution of mass customization, the dinky interchangeable mobile phone covers.
Modular Series Entertainment System
As with many designers, I have played with a modular concept like this for many years and thus this product is very close to my heart. What started as a Teen fashion PDA with interchangeable accessories, my Red-Dot winning Modular Series Home Entertainment Concept is essentially the same idea but centred around audiophile system separates instead. They have succeeded where we have failed. Well done, and by god how I would love to work for a company like this!
Via: The always Crunchy Tech Crunch

11 Comments
  • csven

    November 2, 2007 at 11:07 pm Reply

    Caught that a couple of weeks ago. Was going to mention it in our email discussing Make’s mp3 guts but completely forgot. (apologies).
    Was planning on posting something on this eventually, but haven’t had the time or inclination.

  • DT

    November 3, 2007 at 12:30 pm Reply

    heh-heh, not to worry, I’ll take care of that posting!
    regardless I think this is much further up the food chain in terms of resolution and ease of use than the Make Mp3 guts.

  • csven

    November 3, 2007 at 11:16 pm Reply

    Agree. But it’s not the guts I’m thinking about, it’s the *idea* that electronic guts can be so easily acquired. Add that development to this and to the “Open Hardware License” (not sure where that ended up, btw) and to commercial projects like Neuros, as well as to more futuristic stuff like evolutionary hardware, and the product world starts looking extremely flexible compared to what we’ve known.

  • DT

    November 5, 2007 at 2:25 pm Reply

    I think it has never been a problem acquiring electronic guts for anything. Its just a combination of a few factors such as, greater public know how or interests, the lessening of peoples’ fear towards black boxes, and chain management moving onto the internet, that access to parts has become a lot more visible.
    As someone who tried to drum into out-dated engineers a similar concept, the problem is the ability to think on a platform level and outside of the immediate area between the left and right ears.
    Also I’m not sure about this open sourced hardware license concept and as you say its purposes and use in this situation with this product?
    To me this would mean allowing you and me to hack into the PCB and then re-selling our modified version of say a “pimped out” BUG. It is not easy but very possible these days. Just look at the number of iPhone hacks.
    Even if I had the knowledge to hack open my mobile phone and make it into a Star Trek transponder, how would the company stop me? Or why would it even matter, again unless I resell it?
    But do we want to? You see, this makes no sense when the reality most people will just mix and match modules. As a result why even call BUG open source?
    Well perhaps its open sourced in a sense you can write code to influence the function of hardware? So in reality open sourced hard ware is a misnomer to actually represent open sourced software?
    Hmm just thinking out aloud.

  • Mario Vellandi

    November 5, 2007 at 3:47 pm Reply

    I love the idea! Makes me think of a Voltron – GameBoy
    Speaking of mobile phones, have you heard of OpenMoko.org ? An open source cell-phone platform, built on nonproprietary GNU-licensed Linux based software. Wonder how that’ll play out..

  • csven

    November 5, 2007 at 9:33 pm Reply

    Maybe it’s “never been a problem” for you, DT, but for a great number of people I suspect it has been and still is, to a large degree.
    And the point I was making is what you’re reiterating. i.e. “greater public know how or interests, the lessening of peoples

  • Design manager

    November 9, 2007 at 9:24 pm Reply

    And how does it work in the hands of people who are not clever in hardware?

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  • Danny Bolton

    December 1, 2007 at 11:10 am Reply

    This sounds great. I’ve always wanted to build ‘electronic’ stuff but never had much skill with the boards and components stuff!

  • DT

    December 5, 2007 at 2:48 pm Reply

    Hi Danny,
    Yes hopefully this product will help us get past all those problems! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  • Nezer Harrison-Quao

    July 23, 2008 at 4:15 pm Reply

    I am a Ghanaian based in Ghana. I am in the formative years of building an Industrial Design Company.
    I will be very happy if you could provide me with all the necessary information that will help me to start right and stay on the right course.
    Thank you very much.

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