Talking with Enrico Bassi is the best way to understand how traditional technologies and Digital Fabrication can have a bright future together. In his role as coordinator of FabLab Torino (as you can read here), Enrico does a lot to help the diffusion of open hardware culture in Italian cities.

Enrico is one of the five members of the jury in our DesignWinMake contest and we managed to nail him down for an interview despite his busy agenda: Enrico not only coordinates FabLab Torino, he also teaches courses in many universities, like NABA in Milan, SUPSI in Lugano (Switzerland) and the Politecnico in Turin.

We started talking about the element at the core of our contest: open hardware. But, before we get into it, there'some important news about DesignWinMake: the deadline has been postponed to November 15, 2013. Now you have more time to register and send your projects that transform an ordinary object using open hardware (Arduino, openPicus, Raspberry Pi, etc.)

What does it mean to work with open hardware today?

It means giving people a chance to modify things they're already using, making information accessible. It's not a coincidence that [open hardware] products are always shipped with tutorials and documentation making them simpler to use. It's not about making money, people want to share with the community.

How did the design industry react to this new trend?

As you may expect, not well at the beginning. First we saw a mix of indifference and lack of interest ("they're toys!"), then some fear ("will we lose our jobs?"). Finally, some companies are launching interesting collaborative projects with Makers.

FabLab Torino and open hardware: what are you doing now and what are you planning for the future?

We constantly test new Arduino boards to evaluate their potential. For sure we'll be more involved in Internet of Things. We want to work more on the opportunities given by the web to simple objects in terms of usability, communications, flexibility... Our idea is to promote a more and more collaborative use of things.

Now it's time to stop reacting at the very last moment to hinder flexibility, we have to welcome it instead. Many services are based on this new fluidity (blablacar.it is an example) but there are few products that fit the bill. Open hardware goes in this direction.

And there are so many areas in which it can be applied, even in the industrial field (this means any equipment, not only 3D printers). Today it's easier to let people use objects they weren't able to handle or to 'reach' before. This opens new and very interesting perspectives! An ordinary drill, with the right tricks, could become a kitchen tool.

What are you expecting from DWM projects? What will you be looking for?

I'm expecting practical proposals, something that can offer a real benefit to the world. I'd like to see projects that solve real problems, perhaps through firsthand experience, rather than something developed departing from  market analysis. Think, for example, how difficult is, for a disabled person, even to use a spoon. I believe this is the right approach that contestants must take.

What does defines a Maker?

To believe in sharing and in shared research. And to have passion.

Enrico Bassi surely isn't short of ideas. And you?

 

 

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