Protei was represented by Cesar Harada at the PICNIC Festival in Amsterdam Sept 17 and 18th 2012.
I just answered a few questions to the organiser that I believe would also be interesting for our members to read.
1) How are you involved in promoting the concept of “new ownership: the shift from top down to bottom up”? What specific projects are you working on that relate to new ownership?
I am promoting the shift from top down to bottom up by the work I do. In several projects I either participated or initiated, ownership has been distributed among members. My path has gone from being a lonely artist, to become a designer in a team, to someone that maintains the vision, activates and moderates an open team toward clear objectives.
Our current active project : Protei [http://protei.org]
Protei is a shape-shifting sailing robot to sense and clean the ocean. It is a ground-breaking technology as it is using wind power and a shape-shifting hull to propel itself, pulling a long scientific payload or ocean-clean-up equipment. I started developing the technology alone in a garage in New Orleans as the Oil Spill was taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. I shared the designs, videos of the prototypes online and quickly several people that are a lot more knowledgeable than myself joined the project to make what Protei is today. Protei is now developed by an international community of makers, engineers, scientists, sailors, environmentalist, hobbyists and kids. The technology is Open Hardware, the code Open Source, that means that everyone is free to use, modify and distribute our technology.
Protei will come in 2 main sizes 1m and 6m long to sense and clean-up oil spills at sea, collect plastic debris at sea, measure radioactivity around Fukushima, map whitening coral reefs, monitor fish population, provide general oceanographic data, provide a satellite data connection to underwater vehicles and probes.
We hope to revolutionise how we study and clean the oceans by providing a simple, affordable and extendable autonomous sailing robot that can operate for extended periods of time at sea.
One of our future project : International Ocean Stations
My long term goal beyond unmanned remotely operated probes (Protei), is the development of the next generation of inhabitable ocean laboratories. Since 2009 with a group of collaborators, we have been developing a new type of vessel that is extremely low-cost, safe and that would permit the deployment of floating exploration laboratories around the oceans. The concept is a semi-spherical structure that is flexible and filled with water : the structure cannot be flipped over, it remains stable in the worst weather conditions permitting researchers to stay on board for extended time periods. Many of these floating laboratories would operate around the world providing real-time environmental data with Open technologies. We have 1 International Space Station that took more than 150 billion dollars and 25 years to develop ; I believe that in a few years we can develop many International Ocean Stations for a fraction of the cost for greater good.
We need to understand and protect our oceans better. The ocean is where life comes from, and it is also the future of our world growing population when it comes to food, energy, transport and security.
2) What companies or organisations do you think “get” new ownership and are at the forefront of this mega trend in terms of their products, services, experiences and business models? Why have they been successful?
I think Arduino is a company that have been good at sharing the ownership while providing a platform product, powering many other open hardware projects. In these last years, Arduino has transitioned from being a underground marginal micro controller to be retailed today in every local electronic stores while staying open hardware. [www.arduino.cc] and [Arduino Business model].
Another business model in our field (ocean robotics) and that I find amazing is the global network of Argo ocean profilers. You may have never heard about this, but in every sea, there is at least one floating scientific instrument that floats for a few hours on the surface, than dives up to 2000m where it stays for usually around 10 days, surfacing again for a few hours, transmitting information to satellite such as the temperature, salinity, sometimes pH and several other environmental variable at different depth. There is more than 3500 of these “mini submarines” in operation today. It took 25 years to develop this network of environmental sensors, but it is our most precious instrument to understand geochemistry, climate change, sea level rising and many other changes of our planet. The technology is developed by a large international scholar consortium, the information it produces is in near-real time and accessible for free. [www.argo.ucsd.edu]
A product that I like to take as a good example of success in terms of development are the quadrocopters.
Quadrocopters were a lab curiosity 15 years ago. Then, many toy manufacturers haven competing to make them cheaper and cheaper and over the course of 10 years as the price dropped, the quality and manoeuvrability of these machine sky-rocketed to the point it became an affordable toy, that engineering students could afford buying and test crazy control algorithms with, or buy many of them to operate them as a swarm. I like the fact that from the lab, it became a cheap toy, to come back to the lab as a platform for research. I want to see Protei be the Quadrocopters of the oceans as highly manoeuvrable workhorses, but performing research and clean up efforts.
Protei is trying to learn from these 3 bottom up projects :
– to be a great open hardware product that manages it’s transition from underground electronic culture item to become a standard sold in every electronic store (referring to Arduino).
– to be a global academic project that is exploring the ocean and making all the information available for everyone all the time (referring to Argo Network).
– to become a product that uses the market competitively to become cheaper and better, to serve environmental activities (referring to Quadrocopters).
I believe it is possible to manage such collaborative project if the vision and the objectives are of obvious general interest, the technology excitingly new and the project managed rigorously while being open.
3) Why did you agree to speak at PICNIC? What are you hoping to bring to the event? What are you hoping to get out of participation?
I am eager to meet other practitioners and theoreticians to share their experiences, difficulties and findings. I look forward to interact with the audience and perhaps sparkle new collaborations.
We built Protei_006 in Rotterdam last summer, I love Netherlands because it is a small connected country of entrepreneurs. As you know, many Dutch cultural organisations have seen their budget cut up to 75% and I am eager to see how they will re-invent themselves to become economically self-reliant, when art becomes an industry that has to wrestle in the arena of innovation and technology. Protei is at the intersection of art and science and I believe should become a pilot of how to make this transition from art to a beautiful, environmentally and economically critical technology. In the Netherlands Protei has been produced by the V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media, we’ve been working with TU Eindhoven, TU Delft Alumni and I want to see Protei Dutch community grow stronger and stronger.