_Update: http://www.gullicksonlaboratories.com/test-the-market-for-your- tech-with-tindie-fundraisers/: Tindie is doing something very cool to encourage just this type of behavior, I’ve written a little about it here: Test the market for your tech with Tindie Fundraisers _
IR-Blue is a spot-on example of how products of the future will be created. It goes a little something like this:
I need a product that is unobtainable (doesn’t exist, too expensive, etc.)
I build one for myself
Other people want one
I crowdfund a production run (if the crowd supports it)
Rob needed a thermal imaging camera to use around the house but commercial units (designed for commercial applications) were too expensive, so Rob figured out how to build one himself using more-or-less off-the-shelf components.
As word got out about Rob’s project, it turned out Rob isn’t the only person in the world that needs a non-commercial-grade thermal imaging camera.
A project like this is impractical to implement in mass amounts using off-the- shelf parts, so Rob figures out what it would take to mass-produce them and starts a Kickstarter project .
If enough people need the product, the project gets funded and units get mass produced. If not, Rob still has the camera he needed, and can hand-make some more for people who need one enough that the extra expense of a hand-made unit is acceptable.
(in a perfect world Rob will have open-sourced the design, so if he isn’t interested in continuing work on the project it can be picked up by others who have different resources at their disposal; I’m not aware if Rob went this way or not)
There are numerous advantages to this approach but I think the best is that it applies Darwinism to the survival of products at their earliest stages, and the cost of “failure” is almost eliminated (or at least can be). Since Rob needed the camera, and built one to meet his needs, if the product development were to stop right at that point, nothing is lost. If it continues, then others benefit from Rob’s initial work, Rob benefits as well and the world is a better place.
This also reduces the role of Advertising as a means of convincing the world they need a product because a company has sunk millions into creating it and now needs to generate revenue or suffer a loss.
The natural argument to this approach is to say that there is a ceiling on the scale of product that this process can handle, and I agree that there are things that simply are not reasonable for an individual to construct in their garage, in their free time using their own financial and other resources. I have two counter-arguments to this:
The first is no argument at all, and to accept the fact that products “too big” for this approach are perhaps bigger than what the world needs. Certainly you can cite exceptions to this argument, however consider that the scale of product that can be executed this way is a function of time, and products that seem too big today will not be too big tomorrow (if you need evidence of this consider 3D printing, digital computer or refrigeration).
The second argument is that it is our current mode of operation that limits our ability to scale big products using small resources. In reality, almost every epic product comes from a small team, and it is only the antique orientation toward mass production and other industrial revolution prejudices that convince us that big things cannot come from small teams independently backed and collaborating openly with others solving the same problems around the world.
A second reservation some will have is “what if I don’t know how to build my own?“. This is a trickier bit and something I’ve working on providing solutions for. This is an important role I see hacker/makerspaces filling, and I’m also working on another project which is a sort of inverted-Kickstarter designed to facilitate people with ideas but not necessarily the means to connect with other individuals and help realize their products.