Smart Lab

The Smart Lab is a vision for the computational fabric of future hackerspaces and media labs. The idea is to leverage a distributed computing architecture to develop interconnected services that support the activities of the lab.

The early inspiration for this work was Vannevar Bush's classic "As We May Think" paper, and more recently, Brett Victor's "Seeing Spaces" talk:

Seeing Spaces from Bret Victor on Vimeo.

We can envision several usage scenarios for the Smart Lab system, for instance:

A member enters the lab using his smartphone as a key to open the door (e.g using nfc, wifi or bluetooth). The lab signs them as online in the lab's group chat system. When the member sits on a workbench the lab pulls the session data for the member's latest project and presents it to them on the workbench screen. Through a series of touch or voice commands, the member instructs the system to display info on another project the user is currently working on. On command, the lab starts recording all available data channels about the current work session (these are user configurable, but could be depth images, photos, video, audio, rf probes, oscilloscope/logic analiser channels, serial data, etc.) Whenever the member needs a specific tool, they can ask the lab to locate it for them. When they start using the tool, they can instruct the lab to pull information of tool usage, related instructables and how-to documents, papers, wikipedia articles, etc. When the lab session is finished, the member asks the lab for a summary of the data recorded during the session, selects the relevant data (discarding or just compressing the rest into cold storage) and writes up a few notes before publishing his session into the labs collective documentation platform

It is humbling to think both how far we have evolved in terms of technology from Vannevar Bush's early proposals and how far we still are from even coming close to his original vision. Before we even start tackling the interaction design challenges posed by the Smart Lab system, there are several sub-projects that we need to sort out first: