8/13/2014– Kelsey Breseman
We’ve just released Tessel’s Projects Portal, a site for Tessel hackers to show off what they’ve made. It’s designed to be simple: an aggregator requiring little more than a Github link and a picture to show off a project. The simplicity is deceptive, though: there’s something important happening at the intersection of open source software and a physically modular open system.
The interaction for the Tessel projects portal lies somewhere between Instructables and Thingiverse. Since your projects might require some special setup (hardware or software), projects are given space for photos and explanation– like Instructables.
There’s also the capacity for plug-and-play interaction. For example, clap-on lights is now a solved problem. Plug the pieces together, push the code, and clap: easy as Ikea. Projects exist fully-formed, and anyone can just download the product, like on Thingiverse.
But what happens when you build something more complex? A Nest-type project for your greenhouse, for example, or a motion-tripped home security camera. It’s not exactly DIY when the interaction is plug-and-play (and clone the code). It’s more like a system of highly configurable modular appliances.
This is, I think, a step closer to the promise of consumer 3D printing. When you think of 3D printers in every home, you think of people downloading products all the time, printing out the objects they need, maybe customized for their particular application.
With current 3DP, you see a lot of excitement, but not a lot of practical purpose in the consumer sphere. It turns out that there aren’t many everyday problems that can be solved with a specifically shaped piece of weak plastic. But what if you could add brains to that piece of plastic? What if right alongside the 3D file was a link to some code and two or three simple parts that you could slot together?
This is the intersection of freely licensed software and open source hardware; this is open source products. You can get a kit, tweak it to your needs, and interact from an interface (online or off) that you control.
What’s more, you can reach in to this product at any level; nothing is proprietary, and there’s no warranty to void. If you’re a software developer, you can fork the way that data is collected, the way it’s presented, the interaction with outside libraries. If you know hardware, you can swap out your own parts in place of our modules and still run the code. This is open; this is indie; this is just plain cool.
Open source has a lot of existing community and infrastructure, but not yet one with this particular facet of digital and physical modularity. That’s why we made the Projects Portal, hoping to develop it into a testing ground for open projects and products. We seek to empower, and this is a powerful idea.
You can use our Projects Portal to gauge reactions to your projects and products. You can try to determine if an interaction holds value, seeking beta testers from our community of people who already have the parts.
If you want to test out something someone has already made, you can
tessel run. It’s simple, and you don’t have to reinvent it.
There’s also the whole spectrum between: you can write a library for a component, or a node module for an interaction. You can make a piece of a project, a unitary interaction, so people can fork it or require it and build from there.
This is a whole open source ecosystem; it’s time to start building.
Check out the projects portal at projects.tessel.io.