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SANTA CLARA Calif. -- In terms of the potential for the newest wave of electronics innovation, “we are just a minute into this day.”
That's the assessment of author, entrepreneur, and former Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson (pictured, right), who keynoted the last day of ARM TechCon (Oct. 3) here at the convention center.
“The barriers to entry in innovation in the hardware space, the barriers to entry to going from micro to mass, the barriers to entry to exploring products with low cost have fallen to a level ... they've never been before," Anderson told the audience.
At a conference very much about the future of nimble electronic system design innovation, Anderson walked the audience through a vision of a world in which invention accelerates rapidly and comes from more unexpected places than ever before. In an expansive, often amusing presentation, he touched on a little bit of history, a little bit of personal background, and his own endeavors in building a robotics company with a teenager he’d never met in person.
The creativity that is being unlocked today, he said, is very much driven by open-source software and hardware as well as what he calls “crowd manufacturing.”
In the past, to get something manufactured on a large scale:
"You had to fly to Hong Kong, get an introduction, tour the factory… you had to drink tea and then there's this karaoke scene and then there's this fish eyeball or something you're going to have to eat, hazing rituals. After all of that, they might accept your letter of credit. Six months later you might get a product."
But today, "you can get robots in China to work for you, and they take PayPal. That is a transformative moment," he said.
Machines to Microprocessors
Anderson, a physicist who wrote the books “The Long Tail," “FREE,” and “Makers," got the bug years ago as a child. His grandfather was Fred Hauser, who owned a machine company and invented the first automatic sprinkler system.
Back then, to turn an idea into something, you had to be skilled with machinery and you really couldn't do it all by yourself. As technology advanced, Anderson's generation drifted from the world of heavy machinery and the trades guilds and found “the enticing glow of pixels on screen that drew us to the digital world.”
That was true until about 2007, when Anderson said the physical world started to look more like digital world with the beginnings of 3D printing, Arduino, and devices such as Raspberry Pi.
Around that time, Anderson started to notice the work of a young man on Anderson’s newly created DIY Drones community site, Jordi Munoz,a 19-year-old high school grad from Tijuana. Anderson liked his work within the community so much they ended up partnering to start a company, 3D Robotics.
“Starting a company with a teenager you met on the Internet doesn’t sound right, but, in fact, it turns out to be exactly right,” Anderson quipped. They raised $40 million in venture funding after getting serious in 2012.
"It was two years worth of actual company-building based on an open-source community that's creating the PC to the aerospace industry's mainframe. We and a number of companies like us are reinventing how we think about putting things in the air by not inheriting aerospace industry conventions but, rather, by coming up from the bottom with consumer electronics, open innovation.”
Anderson’s insightful public presentations often have the feel of a religious revival meeting, but why not? Through his eyes, we can see ourselves at the doorstep of another breathtaking era of electronics design innovation.
“The combination of the desktop manufacturing revolution that allows you to go from idea to prototype and the crowd manufacturing movement that allows you to go from prototype to mass (production) is extraordinary. We are just a minute into this day. You want to know why we call this a new industrial revolution, that’s why.”
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