90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Third Digital Revolution: Making Things

Neil Gershenfeld runs MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and teaches the class “How to Make Almost Anything.” His students’ past projects include a dress that defends the wearer’s personal space; an alarm clock you have to wrestle with in order to convince it you’re awake; and a web browser for parrots.

“This is like the birth of the Internet, but it’s literally an internet of things.”
– Neil Gershenfeld

From that class came a new idea: a kit he calls a fab lab — a collection of about 10 tools, including a 3D printer, computer-controlled lasers and milling machines. Individuals can use the fab lab to make “almost anything.”

There are a few hundred of these fab labs now, including above the arctic circle in Norway, in rural India and in African villages. In the lab in Norway, locals created their own antennas and radios so farmers — who are no longer allowed to be nomadic herders due to land ownership issues — could locate their sheep and reindeer in the mountains.

Gershenfeld calls it the “third digital revolution.” The first was communication, the second was computation and the third is fabrication — making things. It will seriously disrupt, but not destroy traditional manufacturing, Gershenfeld said.

“Mass manufacturing will still stay, but it will by definition make the boring stuff because everyone gets the same thing,” he said. “This is like the birth of the Internet, but it’s literally an internet of things. It’s an internet where data becomes things and things become data. And we’re seeing the births of entirely new businesses where you go to market by shipping data and you produce on-demand where you consume.”

Neil Gershenfeld talks about fab labs:

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

October 20 Comment

Alternate Routes: Lasting Impressions From The Road

Our digital and social media producer Rachel Rohr is back from a month-long trip cross-country, talking with young Americans.

October 20 Comment

Mario Batali Goes Farm To Table

The chef and restaurateur discusses the "farm to table" trend and shares recipes with a hearty and rustic twist.

October 17 3 Comments

Toll Lanes: Coming Soon To Almost Every Major City In Florida

Reporting by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found the toll lanes are developed without much public input, and without reliable knowledge of the cost.

October 17 Comment

USAID: Challenges And Small Victories In Liberia

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 4,500 people in the region with an estimated 8,900 more people currently infected.