Sampling and remixing objects
Makerbot have kindly published my views on object sampling here. In summary I see a future in popularising a design approach of making variations, iterations and mash-ups of existing objects by combining 3D scanning, computational ‘remixing’ and 3D printing.
The idea is inspired by sampling in music which was popularised in the 80s thanks to a radical reinvention of the way music was made. The young founders of the hip-hop movement weren’t getting the musical education they needed to make music from scratch using classical instruments, so they turned to technology; specifically the record player, and subverted its proposed use into a music making device, by only playing and repeating fragments of songs and merging them with fragments of others.
We now face a similar age of forced austerity and cultural policing. The cultural elite need us to buy their patent protected objects, the governments back them up by giving them stronger trade laws, and neglect the economic divide. New technologies such as 3D scanning (now free - see hypr3d.com), online marketplaces (shapeways, ponoko,etc) and 3D printing, altogether provide an informal economic system. What we need though is a radical rethink of the way anyone without formal design training can design objects and participate in this informal system to be more than a consumer, to become a participant.
Wired UK magazine recently wrote about upcoming copyright battles between the little people and the corporations here. Its worth a read because it shows hope for the public; the patent system has enough flexibility to allow new objects to be made as long as its not a complete copy, and all patents eventually expire, becoming public domain. Since scanning is just taking surface data, and no materials or manufacturing techniques are being copied, you already have a new object. Add some protocol computational magic - such as face count reduction or resizing, the translation is further abstracted. Process it further with Processing, give it a new name; its yours.