Democratizing Hardware Initiative

Established: July 1, 2019


Microsoft Research Blog

Microsoft Research Blog

Microsoft Research Blog


Currently, developing new electronic devices requires significant expertise and resource, and such hardware products are often only practical at scale. We want designing and manufacturing new electronic devices to be a quicker, cheaper, easier and more accessible process. We feel that software development and delivery has been democratized over the past twenty years, and now we want to democratize hardware!

There are two main stages in electronic device creation:

  1. designing a prototype, and
  2. transitioning to a product.

The hardware research and development communities have invested heavily in tools and materials that facilitate stage 1, making it easier for experts and non-experts alike. However, there are still many barriers that we believe can be overcome. And there has been little exploration of the challenges associated with stage 2, moving beyond a prototype and creating hundreds or thousands of exact replicas.

Our current stage 1 focus – democratizing the development of new hardware prototypes – is JACDAC, a project that builds on our work in physical computing. We are also researching the democratization of hardware production necessary for stage 2. This is reported in our publications on Long-tail Hardware, moving Beyond the Prototype, and Democratizing the Production of Interactive Hardware.

If you would like to collaborate on this ambitious initiative please get in contact!