The Big Shift Is Coming *Update*


I couldn’t have timed this bit of news any better, coming as it does on the heels of the Nissan virtual vehicle dispenser in Second Life: the Mass Customization blog brings word (Link) of what is possibly the first working prototype for a shoe created using one of the technologies most often associated with rapid manufacturing. From the post:

Today, I had the opportunity to have the world’s first working prototype of a totally new shoe concept in my hands: a 100% laser-sintered shoe.

The TNO shoe concept, named ‘Head over Heels’, is the first application of rapid (digital) manufacturing technologies (more about RM) to an entire product in the footwear industry. Such a concept would allow the rapid customization of shoes to a radical extreme – without any of the constraints of conventional custom manufacturing mechanisms like the need for custom lasts, custom cutting of materials, and a new organization of the work process in manufacturing.

Yesterday I listened to NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” radio show which did a rather lengthy piece (Link) on Second Life. What stuck with me after listening to it was the righteous indignation of one caller in particular who wondered how people could waste their time in SL when there were people starving in Africa. Apparently she watches no television and only listens to NPR… and only that show. Apparently she doesn’t go to the movies and has never seen one and has never visited an amusement part (or even gone on vacation). Nor does she seem to comprehend the intricate technological dance between everything from entertainment to warfare that moves things forward. The technology that may someday save her life could be the result of a combination of telepresence made ubiquitous – and thus affordable to the masses – by videogames, and advances in battlefield surgery resulting from streetsmart weapons employed by an insurgency. It’s not pleasant to admit that this is how humankind seems to progress, but that’s how it often works.

What most people don’t seem to appreciate – even if you explain it to them – is that the convergence of virtual worlds and rapid manufacturing technology is going to impact everything. Not just product, but people. And yes, even Africa. Not today or tomorrow, or next week or next month; but within the next one or two decades. These are literally worldchanging technologies that, when brought together, will have an impact that goes well beyond the technology. It will extend into our lives and influence societies at extraordinarily fundamental levels. This, effectively, is the closing chapter on the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of the Replication Revolution. Forget the illegal music and movie downloads, the future is downloadable 3D data used to create products. And that is why I’ve been carrying on debates with people like Cory Doctorow (reLink) and am now posting comments in a discussion with Joi Ito (Link). This is bigger than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime, and the faster everyone wraps their mind around what these two together mean, the easier the Big Shift will be.

Related posts:

The Accomplice

Smiley Face Savvy

Prims Gone Solid

Shorting the Factory Future

RepRap Fabs A RepRap Part

The Obvious Kirkyan Inversion

{Update: For comparison, check out a series of images from a Nike factory showing how shoes are currently manufactured – Link}

{Update 2: Just a note to add that this is getting plenty of traffic, but neither this post nor the Mass Custom post are getting any comments/thoughts – save the one I received from epredator. Makes me wonder.}

{Image source: Mass Customization}

4 thoughts on “The Big Shift Is Coming *Update*

  1. It is certainly the direction this has to take. It is like the two things were waiting for one another isn’t it.
    I nearly bought a 3d printer to put in the garage, but ended up buying Second Life islands instead to be going on with.

  2. Yes. Two sides of three-dimensionality – which have always shared the same common denominators – finally coming together.

    You’re probably better off without the printer. The stuff we have now is more like what dot matrix used to be. I’m content to play with the different variants and their materials.

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