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Protei is recruiting 3 interns to explore and save the oceans

Protei, the Open Hardware, shape-shifting sailing robot,  is about to come out to the world.
We are looking to grow our team to take part into this great adventure.
We are looking for 3 smart, hard working good people  for

If you know people in Hong Kong, or people passionate about the oceans, robotics, Open Technologies for the Environment, please share – Thanks!



This is why the future sucks

20130330 Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is a spectacular city. The mountains that surround the city. The beauty of the ocean. The powerful winds. Captured above by our wonderful media team having lots of fun at work.

Before I die, I want to ..., Cape Town, South Africa
First thing we did in Cape Town was to go and meet with Gabriella’s friend who owns a fashion shop called Unknown Union in the hip area of the city. At the entrance of the shop, we were so surprised to find the installation of a my friend Candy ChangBefore I die, I want to …” !

Every time I come across Candy’s work, it reminds me of the good times I had when I was living in New Orleans a few years back, living in the same street as Candy in the Bywater. It reminds me of my dreams, it reminds me that everyone has amazing dreams, and we’re all in this world to make them all happen…

The SAP pitch event

Protei in Cape Town, South Africa

cape town, south africa

The pitch event went very well, additionally to our “classic” pitch we added a soundtrack that was emotional and I think it really worked !I love the idea of making a music hall instead of a pitch event :) We won the SAP pitch event in Cape Town and the reward was …

A diner in a chic restaurant with all mentors and special guests

Protei wins SAP Pitch in Cape Town and diner with Unreasonable at Sea Mentors

From left to right, Kamran Elahian, Chris Shipley, Gabriella LevineRozan Ahmed, Daniel Epstein, Prince Fahad Al Saud, Cesar Harada, Matt Mullenweg, Mimi.

We were very fortunate to share the table with this group of exceptional people. Many of which were our influential mentors.

Koeberg, Africa only nuclear power plant

cape town, south africa

We spent about 2 days investigating about Koeberg, Africa one and only nuclear power plant. We rented a car, drove there twice.

Protei in Koeberg, South Africa

You may be positively surprised to hear that the levels of radioactivity that we measured around the nuclear power plant were acceptable. In fact we had higher levels in the center of Cape Town than close to the Koeberg plant. We measured levels on the beach, and in the water at about 1 meter underwater with the sensor we customised with Safecast for the Fukushima expedition. We were able to pay a little visit at the Koeberg Visitor Center and learn all about the plant and the technology they use. Many kids were also visiting. We were not allowed to approach the power plant closer than 2 kilometers. According to documentation in the plant, the cooling of the reactor causes the temperature of the sea to be significantly increased (up to 10ºC) outside the plant outake of water. It was surprising to see that the Nuclear power plant is installed in the middle of a natural reserve that is a highly secured perimeter. What it felt was that the natural reserve was more of an excuse to keep curious people and activist at a greater distance… I’m now curious about the radioactivity levels at Vaalputs in the Northern Cape where the used fuel is disposed.

The local makers

Protei in Cape Town, South Africa

Thanks to our connexion Ralph Borland that we knew from the Science Gallery back in Dublin, we were able to have a really nice insight into the maker / designer culture of Cape Town.

Protei in Cape Town, South Africa

We were introduced by Paul Mesarcik to the local designer / maker’s world.
Below Protei INC Art Collection very first acquisition !!! Who is the artist?

Protei in Cape Town, South Africa

The Cape Town University

OPENROV cape town, south africa

We were delighted to find a customised version of OpenROV at the University of Cape Town. Protei and OpenROV have shared a wonderful time at TechShop SF Summer 2012, it is super encouraging to see OpenROV in other countries, being modified and used.

Protei in South Africa

Thanks to Paul Mesarcik that studied electro-mechanics at Cape Town University, we were introduced to Dr Robyn Verrinder of the Research and Instrumentation, Departement of Electric Engineering of Cape Town University. We discussed with local researchers their their latest development in autonomous sailing robot. Above, a freshly build hull that is being compartmentalised and ballasted with fishing lead weights in the bulb. Quite a few researchers are now interested in developing autonomous sailing robots, this is the people we want to involve with Protei!

The Gangster Incubator

Protei in South Africa

We were lucky to meet Marlon Parker (Facebook) of Rlabs who introduced us to many inspiring young people in a not very inspiring neighbourhood. They explained us about their community, the hope they found, how the access to technology helped them feel empowered to look a their future, how it re-enchanted their lives.

We want to keep in touch with the RLabs.

Shuttleworth Foundation

We were lucky to meet with some people at the Shuttleworth foundation. Thumbs up for the Foundation!

Marine Transect, Moving Sushi

The stereo imaging system in action underwater
They explained us how they  sample the coral reef ecosystem using stereo-video to determine fish density, biomass, diversity and community structure along 1 500 km of the Western Australian coastline.

We were kindly introduce by Bernelle Verster of TEDxCapeTown to the amazing crew of MarineTransect & Moving Sushi Michael and Linda Markovina, Justin Beswick .

They just arrived from a 4 months journey the day before our departure from Cape Town! We had to meet!

The East African Marine Transect expedition is a not-for profit expedition that is managed and facilitated by Moving Sushi. Moving Sushi actions strong ideas by facilitating globally important marine-based scientific expeditions to explore the relationship between humanity, our marine environment, science, technology and how new knowledge is communicated and shared through open source channels.

They just completed  234 dives, were quite tired, and after sharing a quick breakfast they went back to unpack their boat.

Joe Heywood of North Sails

Our last encounter in South Africa was with Joe Heywood of North Sails. It was great sitting down with his family, sharing food and geeking about sail / rig designs. Thanks a lot for your precious advices Joe!

20130320 Fish Pi & Wave Glider

Today my good old friend Ollie Palmer sent me this BBC article about Fish Pi : A few minutes apart, my other friend Cynthia Yeung sent me this about the wave glider :

Fish Pi in BBC 20130320

Fish Pi by Greg Holloway. 

“The Fish Pi that will be venturing across the Atlantic will be much bigger than the concept vehicle. Early plans suggest it will be about 5ft 6in (1.7m) long, a foot (90cm) wide and its hull will be made of carbon fibre. Development costs will be about £15,000, estimates Mr Holloway.”


Wave Glider by Liquid Robotics.

“The Wave Glider’s capacity to operate autonomously at sea for months on end gathering data from uncharted reaches of the ocean has attracted $40 million in funding, including $22 million from VantagePoint Capital Partners, a leading Silicon Valley green tech investor, and oil industry services behemoth Schlumberger. VantagePoint’s chief executive, Alan Salzman, sees a huge potential market among companies and scientific organizations that now must spend anywhere between $30,000 and $150,000 a day to staff and outfit a carbon-spewing deep-ocean vessel. “Resupplying a ship in the middle of the ocean is staggeringly expensive,” he says. “The Wave Glider has enormous implications in terms of the ability to provide monitoring and information on things in the ocean we otherwise have no access to.”

Such different animals. I’m so in love with the space Protei is operating in. Autonomous sailing robots. An ocean of possibilites. The next frontier. We are a few players now, we may be thousands soon. It feels like it is the beginning of a great epoch. I think we all feel that. It probably has a lot in common with the the exaltation of the first manned flights years. Seeing your baby sailing on it’s own is a magical feeling. Imagining that one day it will become this little dot on the map collecting information, among many other points, such an adventure.

And the numbers are so impressive. The money. The size. The materials. So different. We have large corporations with multi-million investments on major media outlets  facing devices made of parts that costs a few hundred dollars. And we’re all progressing fast with so much conviction, underdogs, overlords, all humbled by the power of the elements, all willing to be brocken and try, try again. I am happy I read these 2 articles side by side today because it informs me with the situation of Protei. I feel we’re somewhere between these 2 extremes. A rather sweet spot. A good place and we must pursue that “middle” slice. Not only for hackers, not only for big corporation, for everyone. I’m excited. Let’s go.

20130129 Unreasonable at Sea: Vignette – Protei Visits the FURO Robics Research Center in Tokyo

Unreasonable at Sea: Vignette – Protei Visits the FURO Robics Research Center in Tokyo from Unreasonable Media on Vimeo.

The Protei team took the opportunity to explore the strange and incredible creations at the FURO robotics technology center, and to see how the FURO team could collaborate on the processors built into their Protei sailing drones.

20130128 Protei in Japan! Meeting FuRo Chiba, Skytree Exhibition

Please play the little video above, it’s a slow start, but well worth it! Protei is in Japan!!! The Beatles in London, Protei in Tokyo!

Nae, Patrick, Gabriella, Cesar
So good meeting with Protei network member Nae Morita! Photo : Nae, Patrick, Gabriella, Cesar. We met Nae in the Netherland years go when she was working at the V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam where we built Protei_006. Nae helped us so much and has now moved back to Tokyo and works at the Miraikan (the museum of the future – science, art and technology) – another place we love! Nae also runs her own smaller company called Maart that you can hire to produce cutting edge media art in Japan :)

Protei at FuRo
We had the most amazing meeting with FuRo researchers Dr Yu Okumura, Dr Kengo Toda and Midori Nomura, facilitated by Nae Morita. Academic papers by these brilliant individuals here.

F-Palette, FuRo, Chiba, Near Tokyo, Japan
They presented and gave us many parts of the F-Palette micro-controller and boards to put inside Protei. A few days ago we have bought a Lenovo PC in Shenzhen, China (post coming soon!) to start coding and building using F-Palette. We hope to document our trials and errors in English with F-Palette from Vietnam :)

F-Palette, FuRo, Chiba, Near Tokyo, Japan

We had the immense privilege to play with this “one-of-a-kind toy : F-Palette-Janssens Beast !” [that’s the name I call it – I don’t know it’s official name].

F-Palette meets Theo Janssens. Absolutely amazing. The most spectacular terrestrial robot I have ever seen. Theo Janssens would be so pleased to see this. So far I have only seen “Beasts” that are moving only in a straight line with all synchronised legs ; FuRo’s one has left and right channels that can be controlled separately, and it is so surprisingly agile and fast. We congratulate the genius of FuRo members for this!

The way how each leg works is very well explained here by Molybden.

Skytree at night, Tokyo, Japan
We than commuted to Tokyo Skytree (634m / 2080ft), near which FuRo has a permanent exhibition. Thanks to Midori Nomura who was instrumental in the making of this exhibition, we arrived after closing hours but still were allowed to have a guided tour of the marvels that FuRo makes.

Robot by FuRo, Skytree, Tokyo, JapanRobot by FuRo, Skytree, Tokyo, Japan

As you would expect, FuRo also makes the most agile small anthropomorphic robots. Here 2 versions of the same robot. Improving!

Quince, FuRo, by Skytree, Tokyo, Japan
But the robot that captured our attention in particular is Quince. Quince is a FuRo robot that has been deployed by TEPCO INSIDE the damaged Fukushima Daichi Power plant. It will soon be deployed again inside the power plant. We dream of deploying Protei outside of the Fukushima power plant, in the nearing water.

We are extremely excited to work with FuRo since they are already so active in contributing to Fukushima Power Plant diasater relief.
Just  a few days ago, TEPCO has released the pictures of the inside of the Fukushima power plant. Frightening. Shivers. Official TEPCO page here.

FuRo Exhibition, by Skytree, Design Exhibition Midori Nomura
Thanks to the amazing Midori Nomura, we could even test “Mars-rover-like” simulator. Such immersive piloting system is also very inspiring for how people could use Protei at sea. We fell in love with FuRo and now we have many F-Palette parts we will play and document our experiments in English. Thanks again to Nae Morita and all the FuRo staff for their hospitality. We’ll come back!

Urban Vascularisation

Paths through New York City
Eric Fischer, New York, “Paths through cities”

The Geotaggers' World Atlas #55: Taipei
Eric Fischer, Taipei, “Geotaggers World Atlas”

I recently came across these images of “living cities”, and it struck me how much they are similar looking to plastinated vascular (blood) systems.


Francois Lenoir/Reuters

And the word that came to my mind was “urban vascularisation” or how the city is a living organism that conduct flows, evolves and can be modified.

Luigi Colani Biocity

At this stage it would be hard to avoid mentioning Luigi Colani “Biocity”, a city that is supposed to be built and function like a human body (thanks to Matthew Plummer-Fernandez for the ref).

I connect this to a current research I am excited to see develop : a robotic traffic light system for Nairobi Kenya, spear-headed by the *IHub_ and Jessica Colaco. it is really interesting to see how the radical modification of a “simple” traffic controller could re-orient “life” within the city “vessels”. This interest came from research notes of “network growth” I have been making recently.

A traffic jam in Nairobi. iHUb is developing a system that will use lights to control traffic flow. Photo/File

As I posted this in social media, more interesting references came from Matthew Plummer-FernandezOriginal article (not accessible to non-subscribers), re-post by Wired, my pdf archive.


“A team of Japanese and British researchers observed that the slime mold connected itself to scattered food sources in a design that was nearly identical to Tokyo’s rail system. Atsushi Tero from Hokkaido University in Japan, along with colleagues elsewhere in Japan and the United Kingdom, placed oat flakes on a wet surface in locations that corresponded to the cities surrounding Tokyo, and allowed the Physarum polycephalum mold to grow outwards from the center. They watched the slime mold self-organize, spread out, and form a network that was comparable in efficiency, reliability, and cost to the real-world infrastructure of Tokyo’s train network.”

In the comment of this article  “JMillsPaysBills” suggests this article loosed in relevancy because the actual rail system and the slime mold are not placed side by side to be compared. So I made this graphic underneath. On the left it is the experiment with slime mold, on the right it is my maps overlays.

Original maps :  Japan Rail Pass map and Tokyo Rail Network.

“Charley” also commented :
“This article’s assumption is that that city populations are static and oat flakes can be a stand­ing for those static cities in this model. Then slime mold can be used to predict mass transportation links between these cities.
In practice, the situation often is reversed. Mass transportation is built, and then cities expand at the nodes of that transportation system.”

I think it works both ways : cities expand from transportation AND train stations are decided upon the location of existing settlements.

My friend Nick Kaufmann, recommended me this interesting reading “Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization” by Richard Sennett.
“Flesh and Stone is a new history of the city in Western civilization, one that tells the story of urban life through bodily experience. It is a story of the deepest parts of life – how women and men moved in public and private spaces, what they saw and heard, the smells that assailed their noses, where they are, how they dressed, the mores of bathing and of making love – all in the spaces of the city from ancient Athens to modern New York.