Hybrid Art

The Free Universal Construction Kit

Price: Auszeichnung - Award of Distinction

Golan Levin (US), Shawn Sims (US)

http://fffff.at/free-universal-construction-kit, http://vimeo.com/37778890, http://vimeo.com/37778172

Cyberarts 2012 - International Compendium Prix Ars Electronica 2012

The Free Universal Construction Kit is a matrix of adapter bricks that enable complete interoperability between ten popular children’s construction toys. By allowing any piece to join to any other, the kit encourages totally new forms of intercourse between otherwise closed systems. As with other grassroots interoperability remedies, the The Free Universal Construction Kit uses proprietary protocols in order to provide a public service unmet, or unmeetable, by corporate interests. The Free Universal Construction Kit is not a product, but a provocation. It offers working adapters between Lego, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles (Bristle Blocks), Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome and Zoob—adapters that can be downloaded free from various sharing sites as a set of 3D models suitable for reproduction by personal manufacturing devices such as the Makerbot (an inexpensive, open-source 3D printer). In so doing, The Free Universal Construction Kit prompts consideration about intellectual property, open-source culture and reverse engineering as a mode of cultural practice.

Opening doors to new creative worlds is one major reason we created The Free Universal Construction Kit. Another is that we believe expertise should not be disposable—and that children’s hard-won creative fluency with their toys should not become obsolete each Christmas. By allowing different toy systems to work together, The Free Universal Construction Kit makes new forms of “forward compatibility” possible, extending the value of these systems across the life of a child.

In producing_The Free Universal Construction Kit_, we hope to demonstrate a model of reverse engineering as a civic activity: a creative process in which anyone can develop the necessary pieces to bridge the limitations presented by mass-produced commercial artifacts. We hope that the kit will not only prompt people to create new designs but, more importantly, to reflect on our relationship with material mass-culture—and the rapidly evolving ways in which we can better adapt it to our imaginations.

The Free Universal Construction Kit comprises nearly 80 two-way adapters. These allow each of the different construction toys (Lego, Tinkertoy, Fischertechnik etc.) to interface with any of the other supported systems. Prior to modeling, the dimensions of the various toy connectors were reverse-engineered with an optical comparator fitted with a digital read-out accurate to less than one ten-thousandth of an inch (0.0001in., or 2.54 microns). The resulting precision ensures that The Free Universal Construction Kit “actually works”, enabling tight snap-fits between custom and commercial components.

The Kit was conceived and developed by Golan Levin and Shawn Sims, and released through the Free Art and Technology (F.A.T.) Lab and Synaptic Lab collectives. The Kit was developed with support from the Frank-Ratchye STudio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, and is represented, for legal purposes, by Adapterz, LLC.