Factory for Handmade Technologies
When mass-production fails us, when we desire something more personal and unique, who can we to go with our wishes? For a custom suit or gown we can look up a local tailor. Carpenters will furnish doors and tables to our liking. But where de we go when the objects of our desire involve electronics? Wish Lab specialises in the production of custom electronics that are handmade by a skilled team of artists, engineers and designers.
How does Wish Lab work?
WishLab aims to promote a new attitude towards electronics production; away from one-size-fits all devices, to tailor made solutions. For this scenario to work we need both tailors and people to tailor for. WishLab creates a space for these two parties to come together.
WishLab workers come from a variety of disciples, with an interdisciplinary approach to making and a keen interest in hacking and re-imagining electronics. Wishes can come from anyone and an important part of the WishLab process is to identify, collect and interpret wishes from people.
One might expect the hardest part of the wish-making process to be learning electronics in order to build functioning devices. But this is not the case. The trickiest part of realizing wishes is to identify them in the first place and then interpret them in a meaningful way. While we would hesitate to say that there is a correct way to interpret a wish, there are definitely strategies to identifying their underlying desires. Once a desire has been identified, one can go about satisfying it. An electronic desire is an expression of individuality. The electronics industry has steered electronics production towards a one-size-fits-all, standardized production. And we have grown accustomed to this portrayal of electronics. We have come to think that personalizing our electronics is about buying skins for our smart phones, putting stickers on our laptops and choosing an operating system. No! Truly personalized electronics come from deep urges and inner cravings that we have learned to suppress. It is very important that we make efforts to unleash our electronic desires and learn to communicate, identify and address them. Only then can we bring about an electronic diversity in a world currently full of uniform solutions.
Unleashing electronic desires is no easy task. Whether our own, our friends or a complete stranger’s. We are not accustomed to thinking of electronics as customisable goods. Our perception of electronics is formed by what already exists and we tend to base our desires on what we have seen before. Just like any other desire, some electronic desires make themselves very clear, like the craving for a bloody steak or a fresh green salad. Other times the desire surfaces but can only be vaguely expressed; like the urge to eat something sour or mushy. Even at other times we simply feel uncomfortable and cannot pinpoint a concrete complaint and don’t know what to do to make ourselves feel better. Some people keep mood diaries to detect patterns in their lives to help them determine what might be causing them suffering. Similar exercises can be used to help us identify opportunities for electronic desires. Desires often arise in conversation. Desires sometimes manifest themselves as problems. By observing somebody you may become attentive to an obvious problem or difficulty they experience which they could not have identified themselves.
As a WishLab maker, you must be sensitive to identifying electronic desires. You employ strategies such as charting activities, observation and conversation as tools; and of course, your own creativity in recognizing opportunities for intervention comes in handy at all times.
Once a desire has been identified and formulated into a wish, whether through a specific request, such as “I want an umbrella that sings in the rain”, or through an observation, such as “my mother always looses the TV remote”, the full picture must be taken into account. An expressed wish is not always the true wish. Sometimes you crave chocolate when really you desire a hug or a hot fire. Somebody might wish for a propellor hat when really they need to be tickled awake in the morning. Underlying desires should always be taken into account,as well as details about the person who expressed the wish. It is not always possible to gather all information but as many details as possible should be taken into account when making a wish come true. We call the process of of interpreting wishes Wishstorming. Wishstorming is a highly creative process and must be taken seriously. Time must be taken to allow ideas to form and be evaluated. Often when interpreting a wish, a solution immediately jumps into mind. These immediate ideas are normally either very good or very bad. The trick is to write them down (always write everything down!) and continue Wishstorming.
Think of electronics as a medium, not a science. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need to understand everything about electronics before you are able to make electronics. A good and talented painter does not need to know the science behind the pigments in his paint, he will learn a lot about the paint’s properties and possibilities through experimentation and being creative with it.
WishLab electronics often build upon surprisingly simple circuits and electrical principles. Besides being skilled craftsman in their own disciplines, WishLab makers have a sound grasp of a few basic electronics principles. They are familiar with a variety of conductive materials ranging from metal wires to conductive fabrics and paints, and are capable of using these materials to build functioning electronics in extremely creative ways. While the electronics used to make many WishLab wishes come true may be very basic, a great deal of ingenuity comes from conceptual design and creativity. Aesthetics and materiality are important when it comes to making electronic wishes come true. Lets not forget that while we have the ability to desire the undesirable, electronics do have limitations. Electronic desires might not all be electrically feasible (yet) but in almost all cases there is a creative way to tackle the wish and create something that will address the desire. While most WishLab makers are not electrical engineers, they are good at working between disciplines and at improvising and collaborating in order to do so.
Wishes Come True
At the end of the wish-making process a wish has come true. Can you remember the last time you made something? That moment when you were finished and what you had been making was no longer a project but had become a finished piece. The feeling you get from a job well done feels pretty amazing. Showing what you have made to friends or colleagues helps you see your creation through their eyes and further appreciate what you have achieved. When a wish maker has finished making a wish come true, part of the completion process is to hand over the result in person. Handing over wishes is an important step in the making process. It insures that the maker can let go of their creation and see that all the hard work that went into making something is appreciated by the person they made it for.
During a 3-day WishLab in Anyang/South Korea, the following wishes were realized by a wonderful team of local artists, designers and engineers. Documentation of the project can be found on the making-of page.
Following is a list of wishes that were realized:
Teddy Bear Speaker (Uncle Melody)
Wish: A teddy bear that is also a speaker.
Lab members: Yonghee Park
When you connect your MP3 player to uncle melody’s tail and snap his paws behind his back, his nose lights up blue to indicate he is ready to “play”. Rest your head on teddy’s tummy to hear your favorite tracks played through a fabric speaker.
Singing in the Rain
Wish: An umbrella that makes sound when it rains.
Lab members: Unice Lee, Hannah Perner-Wilson
When it rains the embroidered circuitry on the umbrella detects the moisture and plays notes from speakers mounted on the umbrella’s surface. Colorful lights on the edge of the umbrella light up in tune with the notes to add a visual experience. With this umbrella even the most rainy days can be enjoyable.
Propeller that gets you to school on time
Wish: A wish for a propeller hat that transports children who are late for school to class on time.
Lab members: Achim Koh, Jinseong Kim, Mika Satomi
Because it might be dangerous to lift a human by a whizzing propeller mounted on their head, the design implemented by the lab shifted the propeller onto a pair of shoes (or inlays that can be worn inside any pair of shoes) and the faster you walk the quicker the propeller spins. So the act of walking fast gets you to class on time because you want to see the propeller spin!
RC Pencil Case
Wish: A remote control pencil case.
Lab members: Hannah Perner-Wilson
Hacking a remote control bus to make a pencil case that can be opened and closed remotely. Instead of turning right and left the pencil case has blue LED lights on the inside that can be lit up to illuminate the contents, and red LED lights on the outside to signal alarm or draw attention.
My Amazing Long Hair
Wish: Dress that lights up to make long hair even more appealing.
Lab members: Woojuin, Hannah Perner-Wilson, Mika Satomi
To enhance the swinging motion of the long hair, fading lights appear on the back of the dress as the hair swings across the wearer’s back. The slower the hair swings, the slower the lights fade on and off displaying the graceful momentum of luscious long hair. The dress includes a long hair piece, so even if you don’t have long hair you still can enjoy the effects of this dress.
Wish: An accessory that swears for you when you can’t.
Lab members: Jin Kwon, Hamin, Mika Satomi, Bongu Bark (voice)
In Korea (and in the rest of the world) there are many angry elderly men who start to shout at you for no good reason. You would like to shout back, but sometimes it is difficult. The Swearing Brooch will shout back for you, the most unimaginable swearwords, you’d never dare say out loud. The swearing is triggered by a hidden switch on the ribbon shaped as tear drop, so the angry uncle will never know who is responsible for the horrible words.
“I want a boyfriend too”
Wish: A cupid bracelet that indicates who you like.
Lab members: Hannah Perner-Wilson
A carved wooden cupid’s arrow on a simple wristband spins at random intervals to catch your attention. When the arrow comes to a standstill it is pointing in the direction of the person you like. Cupid is trying to tell you something, but it is up to you to interpret his message and take fate into your own hands.
Stone, Scissors, Shock!
Wish: A pair of gloves for playing the game of stone, scissors, paper with shocking outcome for the looser.
Lab members: Euiyup Jung, Hyukbin Kwon, Hannah Perner-Wilson
A new way of playing the old game of stone, scissors, paper. Each player selects their move by pressing the corresponding button on their glove. The system determines who wins and who looses. The unlucky looser gets shocked by a busting water balloon that is mounted above their head.
Wish: A second dog.
Lab members: Je Lee
Wish: A pet that can live in my pocket.
Lab members: Chungjin Kim
Cicada Heat Hat
Wish: A hat that makes cicada sound when it is hot.
Lab members: Youngmin Jang, Yoonjoo Jang
Leave Me Alone
Wish: A “polite” way of keeping your distance from others when you want to be alone.
Lab members: Kihoon Jung
Lab members: Eunyoung Park