I met Dominic Muren at the OSHW Summit in NYC. To say he's a pretty smart guy is a dramatic understatement - he's ridiculously creative, plus he has a contagious energy! So I spent some time digging around, and a few emails later, I dug up his TED talk - which to me pretty much hits the nail on the head.
"Modular, Hackable, and Open components that could be reconfigured into a variety of components."
YES YES YES!!! (I think I just had a When Harry Met Sally moment for OSHW modularity...)
Dominic has this idea that skin-skeleton-guts can server as a powerful metaphor for connecting all of the pieces together of modular devices. I've been thinking about this for a while, but Dominic's ideas really push it further than I had thought. The "last mile" of modular gadgets so to speak is the enclosure, the case, and the "wrapping" around modular gadgets.
The problem is that while modularity is clearly the future of gadgetry, no one up until now has really found a satisfying solution to the problem of high-cost enclosure design. Enclosures are hard to build, and require long iterations of designs. Until 3D printing is really on everyone's desktop, the idea of fabricating an enclosure for Open Source Hardware and Electronics is an expensive idea. But moreso than that, even if 3D printing on the desktop were a reality, you'd likely want to minimize the amount of material you use in a custom enclosure.
To the idea of "Skin Skeleton Guts" or SSG by Dominic, is that we should build the skeletal components that hug the sides of modular electronics, and then build wrappers out of flexible fabric, e.g. "skin" to wrap around the skeleton. The modules - for instance, the Arduino modules in this case, serve as the "guts". The fragmented structural hugging pieces serve as the "skeleton", and the flexible, perhaps transparent, fabric material becomes the skin.
The result is... drum roll...
That's Dominic applying the principles of SSG to the MegaPalm Gadget Kit... stepwise heading in the direction of making it into a full blown device. That just made my entire week, seeing the concept of modularity and reconfigurable gadget components, getting pushed to the next level. It's one of those concepts that seems so straight-forward and natural, it makes me think, "why didn't I think of that?"
I'll have what he's having!