The big idea

The industrial revolution is over. What exactly does this mean? Well, for starters it means that a new kind of industrial revolution is under way.
It used to be that in order to produce any ‘technological’ product you needed to own a machine. You needed a factory. A machine that could mass produce identical products as inexpensively as possible. Because the economics of scale was everything.


Now, the rules are changing. The economics of scale has changed and production itself is being commoditized. Mass production processes have become more sophisticated and low volume production is economically feasible. You can see obvious signs of this in the flood of dirt cheap, really low quality photo gear that floods the market. Production is cheap; let’s pump out cheap copies of any product we can find, and dump them on ebay.

That doesn’t sound so good, but there is a flip side to this. For someone who actually cares about their tools, who wants to create something of quality, the same production machinery is available.

Transformative change happens when industries democratize, when they’re ripped from the sole domain of companies, governments, and other institutions and handed over to regular folks. The Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was a massive increase in the range of both participation and participants in everything digital — the long tail of bits.
Now the same is happening to manufacturing — the long tail of things.

— Chris Anderson in Wired article Atoms Are the New Bits


Advanced design and engineering tools are available to pretty much everyone; 3D modeling software, electronic simulation, software development, etc. If you have knowledge, or are willing to acquire knowledge, and willing to put your knowledge to work there is almost not limits to what you can create these days.


This is maybe the most exciting part of this. It used to be that a company created a product and then ran out trying to find customers for the product. This process should be turned around. Products for customers instead of customers for products. The Internet enables a model where photographers can discuss what they want in a product and then the product gets made. You don’t need any technical knowledge to discuss products and features, you need to have an opinion on what you want from a product.

This is a multi-disiplinary undertaking. Like making a film. A multitude of skills are needed. If you do have technical knowledge you are welcome to join in the actual creation of the products.

Open source hardware and software

We don’t believe technology lock-in is a good thing. The open source model tend to result in higher quality and more easily integrated hardware and software.
When specifications and designs are accessible to anyone, it is easier to make products that communicate and play well together. Users are not tied in to a company’s proprietary architecture.
Open source means shared knowledge. Shared knowledge drives innovation and progress.

Future products

We are working on a product codenamed Floyd and we’re building prototypes. When it is done, we’ll produce it and you will be able to buy it (or make it yourself, if you’re into that). What will the next product be? That is up to you. You can upload your concept, discuss it with others photogs, refine it and the community will vote on what concepts should go into production. There will a well defined process to this. We’ll launch this when the current product gets closer to production.


2 Responses to “The big idea”

  1. Hi dafrank.

    The main reason for opensourcing is to make it easy to interface with our lights.

    Thanks for a thoughtful comment! I don’t necessarily agree with you. If you look closer you will find that Open Source is at the center of some of the most powerful economic engines today, especially the tech revolution you mention yourself. The browser you are looking at right now is most likely open source. As is parts of your computer, your phone, and the software that powers the internet itself.
    The main enabler of “progress” is knowledge and Open Source is knowledge sharing taken to the extreme.

    Open Source is free as in speech, but not necessarily free as in beer. If I make something useful, I can make money from it. If I share it, you can build upon it and make money too. You don’t need to think of this as a null sum game, where one part has to lose in order for the other part to win. Yes, there is a risk that someone will try to steal your idea and your work, but the rewards of knowledge sharing is greater than the penalties.

    The main reason for opensourcing this development is to enable others to make equipment that can work well with the gear we are creating here. Instead of secrets and proprietary solutions, we think openness and standards yields better results over time.

  2. What’s missing from your theories of the future of product development and production? Simple human motivation. Yes, there are some earnest, usually young, people who are willing to work hard at open source projects, many times with either no or little hope of significant remuneration, especially if it is essentially a hobby and not the source of their material support. But, in this cruel world where the realities of human nature and the creation and division of wealth reside, most people eventually realize that if you have a good idea or one you have spent much effort and time developing, you must be rewarded for it with real wealth, spending power in the universal system of wealth/goods exchange. Whether you are a Socialist or a so-called Darwinian Capitalist, it matters not to the proposition that no one will work for nothing. Therefore, unless this is really about Rift Labs hoping to create a significant advantage in the marketplace by dint of whole or partial free development of their own products from which they themselves hope to profit, then it makes no sense at all. In the real economy, people are demonstrably motivated by receiving a return on their investments of time, effort, intellectual achievement and capital; if you do not offer them that return, you will get between very liitle and no useful amounts of their work or money invested. The Open Source business model is akin to the y2K theory; almost everyone who is impressionable and tech-savy believes in it, but, just as surely, it will fizzle and become akin to fads such as the Hula Hoop, and certainly will not transform the economy as did the original 19th century industrial revolution and its successor tech oriented offshoot of the late 20th century. As for the Next Big Thing, keep looking.

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