Universal Construction Kit
The Universal Construction Kit offers a series of adapters for interoperability between ten popular children’s construction toys. Developed by Golan Levin and Shawn Sims, it has been recognized by Prix Ars Electronica with an Award of Distinction in 2012 as well as receiving a Core77 Design Award.
The free Universal Construction Kit offers a series of adapters for interoperability between ten popular children’s construction toys. Developed by Golan Levin and Shawn Sims, it has been recognized by Prix Ars Electronica with an Award of Distinction in 2012 as well as receiving a Core77 Design Award.
“The Kit encourages totally new forms of intercourse between otherwise closed systems—enabling radically hybrid constructive play, the creation of previously impossible designs, and ultimately, more creative opportunities for kids. As with other grassroots interoperability remedies, the Free Universal Construction Kit implements proprietary protocols in order to provide a public service unmet—or unmeetable—by corporate interests.”
The open-source connectors are made freely available on sites like Thingiverse.com, allowing anyone to download, 3D print, reproduce or extend the kit.
Connecting systems that weren’t designed to interact with one another can be incredibly useful. A great example of this is the travel adapter, which let’s you charge your mobile device using a electrical outlet in another country. With other technologies, getting them to interact can be much more complex. There are plenty of examples were it’s incredibly difficult to bridge two sources of data or to connect two systems together; despite what utility it might offer. This is because there can be many forms of conflict between data access and systems interaction, including rights, effort, availability and ease of access. Gateway technologies find creative ways to overcome incompatibilities and allow for connections between technologies that weren’t intended to communicate.
These gateway technologies bring to the fore a plethora of issues relating to interoperability, standards and compatibility. It speaks to the complexities of how we cooperate and coordinate as individuals and organizations, and it touches on issues of usability, access, and empowerment. Because of their importance, we’re seeing increasing interest in gateway technologies as people increasingly seek to adapt large-scale infrastructures like the Internet, energy grid, and transportation networks to fit their own needs. More and more companies are opening up their systems through APIs (application programming interfaces) and making their data available for anyone to access, use and extend. It allows new third party solutions to be built, enabling new solutions beyond what the companies has time, money or interest to flourish. Gateway technologies allow anyone to connect systems together in new and untold ways, empowering them to create their own personalized solutions. The Universal Construction Kit speaks to this in a very elegant way.
Legos and Tinker Toys each have unique logic; the ways the pieces can be connected, connected and formed into structures. Now, the kit allows you to make something that uses both Legos and Tinker Toys. It allows for a new logic and new possible forms. By exploring this logic of connection, these discrete objects are interdisciplinary in a different way.
The components of the Universal Construction Kit are analogous the role of the ‘network entrepreneur’. Sociologists describes them as people who bridge different social networks within organizations or across organizations and groups. They’re connectors. This is often what happens in interdisciplinary collaboration too. There is an individual or small group of individuals who see connections between knowledge, opportunities, practices, materials and ideas, and they actively work to recombine them at the edges of disciplines and domain spaces. This work of connecting different disciplines is something the construction kit is also very analogous to. In many respects, it successfully encapsulates what it means to construct meaningful approaches to art and science.
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Prepared By Gabriel Harp
Acknowledgements & Credits
Universal Construction Kit by Golan Levin, Shawn Sims, see http://fffff.at/free-universal-construction-kit/