Democratizing Hardware Initiative

Established: July 1, 2019

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

We think of electronic device creation in two main stages:

  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. This body of work includes projects in the areas of Physical Computing and Circuit Prototyping from Microsoft Research.

Despite the previous work in this area, there are still many barriers that we believe need to be overcome. In particular there has been little exploration of the challenges associated with stage 2, moving beyond a prototype and creating hundreds or thousands of exact replicas – a process we call “isotyping”.

Our current stage 1 focus – democratizing the development of new hardware prototypes – is Jacdac, a plug-and-play standard for interconnecting microcontrollers and peripherals. 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!