Neil Gershenfeld

Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms

Bits and Atoms
55 minutes, 25.3mb, recorded 2005-03-16
Neil Gershenfeld
What if you could design and produce your own products, in your own home, with a machine that can be used to make almost anything? Imagine if you didn't have to wait for a company to sell the product you wanted but could use your own personal fabricator to create it instead.

Neil Gershenfeld, Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, believes that personal fabricators will allow us to do just that and revolutionize our world just as personal computers did a generation ago. He highlights the need for a micro-VC investment model in order to encourage the adoption of Fab Lab type initiatives and promote the concept of personal fabrication.

Dr. Gershenfeld is then joined by Dale Dougherty from O'Reilly Media, Bran Ferren from Applied Minds and Saul Griffith from Squid:Labs to discuss what it really means have a workshop where you can build your own tools and hack your own stuff. They consider aesign and creativity in science and engineering, sharing designs using iFabricate, "hands on" workshops, and just-in-time versus just-in-case education.

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Neil Gershenfeld is the director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms -- an interdisciplinary initiative which crosses traditional divisions of inquiry in order to bring together the best features of new digital worlds bits with physical world atoms. His own laboratory studies fundamental mechanisms for manipulating information, integrates these ideas into everyday objects and applies them in real world collaborations.

Dr. Gershenfeld has also led the Media Lab's "Things That Think" industrial research consortium, worked with Media Lab Asia on appropriate advanced technology for global development and is the author of numerous technical publications, patents, and books including When Things Start to Think, The Nature of Mathematical Modeling and The Physics of Information Technology. His most recent book, FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop—From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication, explores the ability to design and produce your own products, in your own home, with a machine that combines consumer electronics with industrial tools. Such machines, Personal fabricators, offer the promise of making almost anything-including new personal fabricators and as a result revolutionize the world just as personal computers did a generation ago.

His work has been featured by the White House and Smithsonian Institution, in their Millennium celebrations, and has been the subject of print, radio, and TV programs by organisations such as The New York Times, The Economist, CNN, and PBS.

Saul Griffith is one of four founding partners of the Squid:Labs LLC where they develop numerous mechanical, material, electrical, and integrated technologies. An MIT alumnus, Griffith holds a Phd. and a number of degrees in both Materials and Mechanical Engineering and has developed novel technologies to provide low cost prescription eyecare. He has received a number of awards in design and engineering including the MIT Lemelson award for inventiveness and Collegiate Inventors award. His principal research focus is in new multifunctional materials as well as minimum and constrained energy surfaces for novel manufacturing techniques.

Griffith holds multiple patents and patents pending in textiles, optics, and nanotechnology. On his days off, Griffith designs and tests kitesurfing kites and equipment for and initiated the science/engineering children’s cartoon series, Howtoons

Dale Dougherty is VP of Online Publishing, at O’Reilly Media, Inc. and editor of MAKE Magazine. Dale has been instrumental in many of O'Reilly's most important efforts, including founding O'Reilly & Associates with Tim O'Reilly. He was the developer and publisher of Global Network Navigator (GNN), the first commercial Web site. Dale was developer and publisher of Web Review, the online magazine for Web designers, and he was O'Reilly & Associates' first editor. Dale has written and edited numerous books at O'Reilly & Associates. Dougherty is a Lecturer in the School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS) at the University of California at Berkeley.

Bran Ferren is a designer and technologist and currently Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer at Applied Minds, Inc. He left Disney in 2000, where he was President of Research & Development and Creative Technology, to start Applied Minds Inc., with partner Danny Hillis.

Ferren is a board member of the International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA), and a senior advisory board member for science, advanced technology, and innovation management to seven US Government agencies, and the US Senate. He has received a number of awards for his work on special effects cinematography and lightening design including Technical Achievement Awards from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the 1998 Wally Russell Lifetime Achievement Award for lighting design, and a 2000 Kilby Award for significant contributions to society.


This presentation is one of a series from the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference held in San Diego, California, March 14-17, 2005.

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  • Description: Paul Power

This free podcast is from our Emerging Technology Conference series.