Category Archives: Innovations

Innovations, Inventions & Emerging Technology

Awesome Stuff: Open Source For Your Brain

Last year, a pair of creators crowdfunded OpenBCI — an open source software suite and interface board that made biosensing — taking readings of electricity in the human body, especially the brain — far more affordable and accessible. Now, the same people are back with the pushes this even further with new, even more affordable gear.

The Good

Electroencephalography has been evolving for nearly 150 years, but up until very recently it was exclusively the domain of researchers and doctors with access to the expensive, high-tech equipment and software required. Lately there have been fledgling steps to bring direct brain sensing into consumer technology for various applications, but in today’s world of makers and tinkerers, there’s exciting potential if the basic technology is made available to all. OpenBCI is all about making that happen: the first iteration focused on open-source software and a more affordable interface, but still required lots of equipment and know-how to set up and make use of a full biosensing rig. Now, they’re busting through those remaining barriers.

The new OpenBCI offerings are an even more affordable interface board — “The Ganglion” — and a kit for building customizable 3D-printed headsets. The goal is to make the technology feasible for anyone who’s interested — high schools, makers, independent researchers, and anyone operating with a shoestring budget. The Ganglion interface clocks in at a mere $100, and the parts for the headset (including new dry electrodes, eliminating the need for a lengthy and messy application of gel to a subject’s head) only $350. The software, as well as the plans for 3D printing a headset, are all fully open source and available for free on Github. All told, for less than five-hundred bucks, anyone can start experimenting with technology that not long ago was almost completely inaccessible.

The Bad

What could be bad about giving people easier access to important tools for cutting edge science and engineering? Not much, really. As with most such things, there’s a question as to what people will actually do with it, and how many really have a need for it — but that’s thinking backwards. Apart from the obvious learning value if this is brought into schools, there’s the fact that much of the untapped or unseen potential of brain-sensing technology stands to be unlocked by getting it into the hands of more people. Direct brain interfaces for computing have been possible for some time now, and many experiments in that area continue to happen, but these cheaper OpenBCI tools could be a major step towards making this exciting technology mainstream and finding new and useful applications for it.

The Open

High-tech Kickstarter projects can be divided into two camps: those focused on establishing a consumer brand, with closed technology and pages riddled with trademark signs and proprietary language, and those that are committed to expanding the world of open source, open hardware, hackable technology and interoperability. It’s extremely gratifying that OpenBCI is so firmly in the latter camp. For the time being, a brain-computer interface isn’t something average consumers are going to go pick up in a sleek box like a new iPhone — but it is something that developers and engineers are going to want to experiment and play with. If the technology were made affordable in the form of a locked-down consumer product, we’d still see lots of experimentation, but it would rely on a lot of hacking and reverse-engineering. Thanks to OpenBCI’s commitment to open source and hardware, people with exciting ideas don’t have to jump those hurdles. Thanks, OpenBCI!

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Awesome Stuff: The Final Piece Of The VR Puzzle?

We’ve talked before about how the booming field of virtual reality may start with better VR headsets and displays, but requires additional pieces of tech to truly meet its full potential. This week, we’re looking at one such piece of tech that tackles the most critical VR challenge of all: the VRGO chair for controlling movement in a virtual world.

The Good

There’s one fundamental challenge that has plagued the world of VR from its inception: how do you move about the virtual world? Of course, you can just do so with a joystick or directional pad like any other game, but that’s extremely immersion-breaking in most cases, reminding you at every turn of the one thing VR is supposed to make you forget — that you’re playing a game. At the other end of the spectrum, some have built multi-directional treadmill rigs that allow you to walk and run in place, but these have their own list of problems, such as the fact that they are very big and very expensive. Plus, it’s not always appealing to exert the same amount of physical energy to play a game as you would if you were actually the superhuman action hero you control.

The VRGO offers a new solution. It’s a sleek, compact chair that is carefully calibrated to detect your leaning and turning, and translate these movements into game controls. It offers the sort of direct, intuitive control that VR needs without requiring a dedicated room for all your gear or a budget of thousands (it clocks in at around $300 USD, which is hardly eyewatering) and while keeping your hands free. It’s wireless and portable, and works not only with PC/Mac but with mobile devices (where a lot of VR experimentation is now happening). Plus, you get to sit down. All told, it may be the single best solution to the problem of movement in VR, especially if price is a factor in that determination.

The Bad

Videos of the VRGO in action tell us it looks good, appears to be responsive and makes users smile — but as with any such device, the ultimate test will be using it yourself to find out how it feels. Does your brain embrace the immersion and forget about the chair, or are you permanently aware that you’re rocking back and forth on a plastic egg? And how quickly does this transition happen? Questions like these are why it might be tough to shell out money for the first model, unseen and untried, rather than waiting for some testimonials and hopefully a shot at trying it out somewhere. Still, if the VRGO lives up to its apparent potential, it (and the inevitable imitators, some of which may even improve the design) could become the go-to standard for VR gaming rigs.

The Combinable

While it might actually be fun to try the VRGO out all by itself for certain kinds of normal, non-VR games, obviously the real point of this device is to combine it with, at minimum, a VR display like the Oculus Rift or a smartphone in a Google Cardboard headset. Then there’s a rapidly growing world of additional components: Wii-style handheld motion controllers, Kinect-style cameras, tactile feedback gloves, 3D audio systems… And this raises what might be the key challenge for VR as the technological kinks are ironed out, the price comes down, and it becomes mainstream: getting everything to work properly in concert and deliver an overall satisfying experience. In time there will surely be some companies selling comprehensive VR rigs with everything included, but for most gamers (PC gamers especially) their rig will be assembled from multiple different devices. Even assuming there are no strict hardware compatibility issues, there’s an interesting question of calibration and optimization — will all these devices feel good together? Will the sensitivity and responsiveness of your VRGO harmonize with that of your motion control camera, or will it create a looming sense of physical dissonance? This isn’t just a hardware challenge, but a software one too, and we’ll see lots of action on this front as more developers build games with VR in mind as a (or the) primary use case. As the technology for VR comes into its own and the games proliferate, we’ll have to move beyond answering each individual question of how to interact with the virtual world, and start focusing on marrying all these aspects into a harmonious, fully-immersive experience.

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Awesome Stuff: The Internet… Who Needs It?

As a growing number of web users have become more security-conscious, there’s been an explosion of VPNs and encryption tools and other security services for the internet. But what about a device that lets you bypass the internet entirely? That’s the goal of RATS, the Radio Transceiver System, an open source communication tool for the security-obsessed and/or the internet-bereft.

The Good

The RATS is simple: it’s a small antenna that connects to computers by USB and lets them send encrypted messages and file transfers directly, via radio transmission. There are two obvious advantages to this: firstly, it doesn’t rely on any network being up or even the power staying on — as long as your laptop has some batteries, you can send and receive — and secondly, it’s a level of security and privacy that trumps most of what you can do online. Apart from being entirely separated from the internet, it employs AES-256 encryption with a randomized salt so even the same message sent repeatedly will produce completely different encrypted data every time.

The range of the RATS antenna is about a kilometer in a city, but it can also be connected to superior antennas and, in areas with no obstacles, achieve ranges above 5km. Obviously this means it isn’t suited to everything, but alongside the internet it could be extremely powerful for certain local applications in urban neighborhoods, workplaces, and other situations where we normally use the robust global internet just to send short messages to people within walking distance. But perhaps more than anything it could be a boon for people living under governments that censor and monitor online communications, allowing local groups to coordinate without so much as touching the compromised networks.

The Bad

As noted, the RATS obviously isn’t for everyone or every situation, and the Kickstarter project page certainly lines up with the fact that this isn’t a regular consumer product. If anything, it feels a little more like a hobby project, with the pitch video seemingly incomplete and the fundraising target extremely low. This could raise a few red flags for cautious Kickstarter backers, though in truth it feels more like a labor of love by the Swedish creator, and is somewhat refreshing in a sea of crowdfunded technology with overproduced pitch videos and product pages full of PR speak.

One other concern with the RATS is the legality of the radio transmissions themselves. The software includes a system for downloading XML-based lists of available frequencies and selecting the appropriate transmitter power, but since this allocation differs from country to country, it will be up to the end user to make sure they aren’t breaking any broadcast laws.

The Open

One of the first things early backers asked about RATS was why its software wasn’t open source. The creator responded, saying that if that’s what people want then it’s what they’ll get, and has now pledged to open-source the software as soon as its complete and the device is shipped. It would have been even cooler to see it go through a full open source development process and be accessible from the start, but it’s great to see a creator rapidly and positively respond to these requests (especially since open source software makes especially good sense for a device like this, as it’s certainly not the kind of thing that should rely on security-by-obscurity).

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Awesome Stuff: The Light Non-Switch

This week, we’re taking a look at a gloriously simple piece of technology: the Lightbox, a wireless light switch with no switch at all.

The Good

One of the definitions of “elegance” in interactive design is the ratio of depth to complexity. This is easily understood in the world of video game design, where there’s a constant goal of providing a huge amount of gameplay depth to be explored without bogging the player down in endless complicated controls and options — but the same notion can be applied to something as simple as a light switch. You’ve normally got a ratio of one simple function to one moving part, but the Lightbox has uncovered a new level of elegance by having no moving parts at all. It appears as nothing more than a decorative piece of wood that would fit nicely in most homes, but it’s quietly paired with receivers attached to your outlets, so you can control your lights by merely turning the block on its end. Even just watching it in the video feels satisfying. In a world full of robust but complicated devices for controlling your home, often revolving around touch-screens and LED indicators and smartphone apps, there’s something appealing about the simple, elegant solution that the Lightbox provides.

The Bad

The Lightbox isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but that would be asking a little much. Ultimately, it’s a decor item more than anything else, which justifies (but doesn’t entirely take the edge off of) the somewhat high price of $60 and up. But, were the Lightbox a block of cheap plastic or even a less-pretty hunk of wood, then it wouldn’t be very appealing at all, so it’s not like there needs to be a cheap alternative — and indeed, retaining the quality of material and design as they move into the manufacturing phase is one of the key challenges these creators face and discuss on the Kickstarter page.

The Elegant

The Lightbox isn’t a “smart home” fixture, but it fits into an overlapping category and provides some real inspiration for the ongoing evolution of home automation and interactivity. As we start adding wireless communication to more and more items in the home, and as that becomes a more competitive space, it’s good to look out for ways of flipping the emerging design standards on their head, and the Lightbox is an example of just that. In the fully-networked smart-home that many people envision but few completely achieve, do we really want a touchscreen on the toaster and every flower pot glowing with blue indicator LEDs? That’s not elegant design — it adds depth, but only at the cost of increased complexity. Instead, let’s take some inspiration from the Lightbox, and think about ways to hide a home’s interactivity and automation within simple objects and actions that are pleasing on aesthetic and tactile levels — like the basic, satisfying action of turning a wooden block on its end.

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Awesome Stuff: 3D Printing And Way, Way More

3D printers are wonderful tools for modern makers and tinkerers, but all by themselves they can make little more than plastic trinkets and pieces of larger projects. Today, we’re looking at one of the most interesting evolutions in the world of 3D printing: the Makerarm, a veritable factory-in-a-box that boasts 3D printing as just one of its many capabilities.

The Good

The range of the Makerarm’s capabilities is almost unbelievable, and calling it a “3D printer” simply doesn’t do it justice. Yes, it can 3D print — with both the filament and resin methods — but swap out the tool head attached to its programmable arm and it becomes a light-duty miller and carver, or a laser-engraver. Swap it out again and it can print custom circuit boards. Once more, and it can assemble the components on those boards. Use the variety of suction cups, grippers and magnets and it can assemble whole projects, then throw on the screwdriver head and it can fasten them all together. Pair it with another Makerarm, and they can work in concert to do all those things but bigger.

Yup, the Makerarm does just about everything, to the point that you can build an entire custom laptop computer without needing any other tools — and it does all that for only $2200 (the price with a complete set of tool heads). As if that weren’t enough, the arm itself is maker-friendly, and includes a hardware development kit for building custom tool heads. It’s not a 3D printer but a general-purpose robotic arm, and the savings in both money and space for an avid hobbyist is staggering. Someone with a limited budget and a small workshop no longer has to make that tough choice between 3D printing, milling, laser engraving and PCB printing — all of which are available as reasonably affordable desktop devices, but no more than two of which have been combined before. The ability to actually assemble projects piece by piece is just icing on the metaphorical cake — and the ability to swap in a food-friendly head and print with confections is icing on the literal cake.

The Bad

The Makerarm is only in the working prototype phase, and that means there’s still the question of just how well it really does all these things. That’s something serious makers will have to determine after they get their hands on the device, so not everyone is going to want to jump on the Kickstarter right away. It’s probably fair to guess that it won’t match the quality of standalone devices for every function, but it appears poised to exceed at least some of them, and as long as it’s capable the price tag will make it an appealing alternative to an array of individual tools.

The Controllable

In the past I’ve bemoaned other tools that can only be controlled by proprietary software and, worse still, only on iOS or Android — a limitation that I think puts such devices somewhere on the border between “hobby” and “toy” in the minds of serious makers. The Makerarm’s approach is different and much better all-around, though not without drawbacks: its custom control software is web based, which means it’s completely platform-agnostic (good) but also tied to the cloud and the Makerarm website (less good). However, it’s also mercifully not reliant on its own software, and works with other CAD/CAM/CAE tools — it even comes with a one year subscription to AutoDesk Fusion 360. Given this, and the fact that the arm itself is trainable and scriptable, and the fact that people can build new tool heads for it, I think the Makerarm’s already-impressive list of functions is in fact just the beginning.

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Techdirt Reading List: Learning By Doing

We’re back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also help support Techdirt.

If you pay attention, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the pace of innovation today, the incentives for innovation and (perhaps most importantly), who benefits from innovation today (and correspondingly, who loses out). Some of this is driven by fear and worry — concerns about the impact of innovation not being nearly as strong as people expected, or that innovation will reduce jobs, or maybe just benefit the ultra-rich. It’s reasonable to be concerned about this, because, if true, that would be a real problem. James Bessen’s most recent book, Learning by Doing: The Real Connection between Innovation, Wages, and Wealth, is an important entrant into that debate, presenting a ton of useful evidence and history to think about.

We’ve mentioned Bessen many times in the past here on Techdirt, as he’s been one of the leading economists studying patents, innovation and the impact of patent trolls. This book just touches on patent stuff, and, rather, focuses on the nature of innovation, how people learn to adapt and properly use new technologies over time, so that the benefit to them often lags their initial introduction, and that leads people to overreact about the supposed “negative” impacts of technology. For years I used to talk about how in the late 90s people always whined that even though corporate America had finally embraced putting computers on everyone’s desks, there was no clear productivity growth associated with it. A similar thing was seen in education. In both cases, however, the problem was that people didn’t really know how to use those tools properly — and it took a “generation” to figure it out. These days, it would be crazy to suggest that computers in the workplace haven’t resulted in greater productivity.

Bessen’s book is a great read and it takes this idea further — suggesting that we shouldn’t be so worried about new technologies destroying jobs, but rather how it’s creating a skills gap that needs to be dealt with, so that more people can make better use of the technology that we have and the technology that is on the way. Check it out.

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The Stagnation Of eBooks Due To Closed Platforms And DRM

Craig Mod has a fascinating article for Aeon, talking about the unfortunate stagnation in digital books. He spent years reading books almost exclusively in ebook form, but has gradually moved back to physical books, and the article is a long and detailed exploration into the limits of ebooks today — nearly all of which are not due to actual limitations of the medium, but deliberate choices by the platform providers (mainly Amazon, obviously) to create closed, limited, DRM-laden platforms for ebooks.

When new platform innovations come along, the standard progression is that they take the old thing — whatever it is they’re “replacing” — and create a new version of it in the new media. Early TV was just radio plays where you could see the people, for example. The true innovation starts to show up when people realize that you can do something new with the new media that simply wasn’t possible before. But, with ebooks, it seems like we’ve never really reached that stage. It’s just replicated books… and that’s it. The innovations on top of that are fairly small. Yes, you can suddenly get any book you want, from just about anywhere and start reading it almost immediately. And, yes, you can take notes that are backed up. Those are nice. But it still just feels like a book moved from paper to digital. It takes almost no advantage of both the ability to expand and change the canvas, or the fact that you’re now a part of a world-connected network where information can be shared.

While I don’t think (as some have argued) that Amazon has some sort of dangerous “monopoly” on ebooks, Mod is correct that there’s been very little pressure on Amazon to continue to innovate and improve the platform. And, he argues (quite reasonably), if Amazon were to open up its platform and let others innovate on top of it, the whole thing could become much more valuable:


It seems as though Amazon has been disincentivised to stake out bold explorations by effectively winning a monopoly (deservedly, in many ways) on the market. And worse still, the digital book ‘stack’ – the collection of technology upon which our digital book ecosystems are built – is mostly closed, keeping external innovators away.

To understand how the closed nature of digital book ecosystems hurts designers and readers, it’s useful to look at how the open nature of print ecosystems stimulates us. ‘Open’ means that publishers and designers are bound to no single option at most steps of the production process. Nobody owns any single piece of a ‘book’. For example, a basic physical book stack might include TextEdit for writing; InDesign for layout; OpenType for fonts; the printers; the paper‑makers; the distribution centres; and, finally, the bookstores that stock and sell the hardcopy books.

And, on top of this, people creating “ebooks” are limited to the options given to them by Amazon and Apple and Google. And then it all gets locked down:


Designers working within this closed ecosystem are, most critically, limited in typographic and layout options. Amazon and Apple are the paper‑makers, the typographers, the printers, the binders and the distributors: if they don’t make a style of paper you like, too bad. The boundaries of digital book design are beholden to their whim.

The fact that all of these platforms rely on DRM — often at the demands of short-sighted publishers — only makes the problem worse:


The potential power of digital is that it can take the ponderous and isolated nature of physical things and make them light and movable. Physical things are difficult to copy at scale, while digital things in open environments can replicate effortlessly. Physical is largely immutable, digital can be malleable. Physical is isolated, digital is networked. This is where digital rights management (DRM) – a closed, proprietary layer of many digital reading stacks – hurts books most and undermines almost all that latent value proposition in digital. It artificially imposes the heaviness and isolation of physical books on their digital counterparts, which should be loose, networked objects. DRM constraints over our rights as readers make it feel like we’re renting our digital books, not owning them.

If ebook platforms and technology were more open, it’s quite conceivable that we’d be experiencing a different kind of ebook revolution right now. People could be much more creative in taking the best of what books provide and leveraging the best of what a giant, connected digital network provides — creating wonderful new works of powerful art that go beyond the standard paper book. But we don’t have that. We have a few different walled gardens, locked tight, and a weak recreation of the paper book in digital form.

It’s difficult to mourn for lost culture that we never actually had, but it’s not difficult to recognize that we’ve probably lost a tremendous amount of culture and creativity by not allowing such things to thrive.

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Awesome Stuff: A Modular Phone For Makers

We’ve talked before about the buzz around the possibly-coming modular phones of the future, but this week we’re looking at an entirely different animal: RePhone, an open-source modular phone kit for makers and tinkerers.

The Good

The basic idea of RePhone is that you can build your own mobile phone. At its heart is a core GSM module, to which you can attach a mini touchscreen, basic sensors, an NFC antenna, and other combinations of the various tiny attachment modules. They can be connected easily with FPC cables, attached to a breadboard, or soldered. Then you can take the assembled guts and build them into any kind of case you like, from a fold-up kraft paper shell made using special templates to something fancier like a custom 3D-printed casing.

Once it’s built, the RePhone can integrate with IFTTT (as many things do these days) and also has software libraries that hook into Arduino IDE, Lua and Javascript, and a high-level SDK for developing apps for the RePhone itself — all designed with a focus on learning, so novice coders can try their hand as readily as expert developers.

The Bad

While RePhone seems like an absolute treat for makers and hackers, I’m more dubious about the attempts to make it look appealing to average users who want a unique phone. Apart from the ability to print custom designs on the kraft paper casing template, which is neat but hardly a game-changer, I don’t think there’s much to attract regular people to the RePhone, and it won’t be replacing anyone’s iPhones or Galaxies anytime soon, nor should that be the expectation. But for those who want to get inside the guts of a smartphone and tinker around, it’s perfect.

The Things

But perhaps the most exciting aspect of RePhone is that it by no means has to be all about phones. The tiny, modular kit makes it really easy to give anything else cellular capabilities, and start building your own additions to the internet of things. That’s exciting, because as we see the internet of things grow, it’s vital that we keep enabling people to build things for it — otherwise it will evolve into nothing more than a network of locked-down, proprietary products from various gadget-makers. The interoperability with Arduino (and also Pebble watches) makes RePhone right at home in the new world of mobile makers, who will help define what the internet looks like as it continues to break free from traditional devices.

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Awesome Stuff: Everything On One Display

It’s an age-old symbol of tech dismay: a dozen interconnected devices, a dozen remote controls, all failing to work smoothly with each other. This week, we’re looking at a device that aims to sort out some of the mess when it comes to video: Skreens, a robust HDMI input mixer aimed at streamers and heavy media users.

The Good

Juggling multiple video devices is no picnic. Even having multiple windows open on a desktop or laptop is less than ideal, and once you bring in external devices other than general purpose computers, things get even tougher, leaving you with little option but to split your attention between multiple displays. Skreems offers another option: it takes two or four HDMI inputs (depending on the model), and lets you arrange them as you see fit and send them all to a single output. Sports on the left, Twitter feed on the right? No problem. Want to watch a movie, play Xbox, and use Skype all at once? Just drag and drop the three separate screens into your desired configuration and fire it up. It all runs through one compact box and is controlled by a separate app, which can also serve as a universal remote control. Skreens has the potential to be a complete solution to most multiple-media-device woes.

The Bad

Skreens comes in four models: the two-input and the four-input version, each with both a regular and pro model. That makes perfect sense until you take a closer look at the specs, and notice that they’ve made one very unfriendly choice: the pro models, which come with an extra $100 on the price tag, don’t actually include any superior hardware — they just have some extra unlocked capabilities. In other words, it appears the non-pro models are capable of letting you do absolutely everything the pros are, but some of those features are artificially restricted, such as advanced video quality settings and the aforementioned universal remote capabilities. This sort of artificial limitation benefits nobody, and it’s just begging to be circumvented — though we’ll have to wait and see if the people behind Skreens make an effort to stop people from doing so. It’s a shame that half of the models of this otherwise-impressive device have been intentionally hamstrung in order to push people into spending more.

The Performance-Friendly

Of course, part of the reasoning behind this is clearly that the creators see their biggest potential market among online streamers, and are hoping those increasingly-professional ranks will be willing to spend the extra bucks. And it’s true that Skreens looks like a pretty exciting tool for people who stream their gaming sessions online, since they are usually either stuck with the limited options provided by a gaming console or various PC apps that add an extra software burden to their gaming rig. Skreens opens up lots of new possibilities for streaming gamers, and I suspect we’ll see it being used to widen the possibilities for just what you can stream to Twitch or the new YouTube Gaming, beyond the now-standard “webcam feed in the top corner” configuration. Livestreaming is a rapidly growing entertainment sector with an already-massive audience, and Skreens has a shot at becoming a standard piece of every streaming gamer’s setup — even with the unfortunate premium price tag on the pro models.

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Awesome Stuff: Everything Is Still A Remix

Over the past few years, we’ve made many references to Kirby Ferguson’s excellent online documentary Everything Is A Remix, which makes a clear case for the fact that the acts of copying and remixing are at the very heart of human creativity, and no creative work exists in a vacuum. This month, Everything Is A Remix is using Kickstarter to celebrate its fifth anniversary.

The Good

If you’re a fan of Techdirt, there’s a good chance you’re a fan of Everything Is A Remix. It was originally released in four parts, but for the anniversary is now available as a combined video remastered in HD. If you haven’t seen the documentary, now’s the time to watch it — and if you have, now’s the time to watch it again (it’s embedded above, in place of a pitch video.)

Then, whether you’re a new or an old fan, you can celebrate that fandom by backing the Kickstarter and picking up one of the new t-shirts, posters or both. In addition to a bold, simple “Everything Is A Remix” design, there’s the option of a shirt or a poster sporting a very nice new design showing off the elements of creativity:

There are some high-roller options for megafans with cash to spare, too, including bringing Kirby’s live presentation version of the documentary to your event.

The Bad

When I first saw this Kickstarter, I got excited about what I thought was going to be a sequel to EIAR, following up on all the developments of the past five years and all the new, incredible examples of remix art (and the conflicts over it). Alas, that is not the case, and the primary purpose of this Kickstarter is to celebrate the anniversary and promote the new HD edition. But all is not lost, as the creator has something else interesting for us to see…

The New

Kirby Ferguson’s new project is another documentary series on a whole new topic, and everyone who backs this Kickstarter also gets a full subscription to that. This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory, the first episode of which is free on YouTube, is shaping up to be a fascinating and unique approach to the topic of conspiracy theories. Starting with an exploration of their history since the assassination of JFK, the series makes the case that conspiracy theories are a reaction to (and a distraction from) the more nebulous forces that really control us: systems and technologies that we built, which have no motives and are neither benevolent or malevolent, but which can push us in different directions by the very nature of their design. The first episode is dedicated to laying out this premise and is definitely worth a watch, and the second and third are available DRM-free with a one-time subscription fee or by backing the EIAR anniversary Kickstarter. There’s no fixed schedule for the remaining episodes, but the series will clock in at 80 minutes once it’s complete.

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