Software is eating the world, but the world is hardware.
I once read the above text in an article I can not find now, but it has stuck with me since; it captured what I have always thought in a new way. Nigeria calls for innovation in technology and we respond in different ways. Software has blazed the trail and keeps doing so, but hardware is significantly different.
In the last year and half, Hardware Lagos has organized six meetups centered on different topics all around hardware and in that time we have seen people who make PCBs, turn metal, produce electronics and other things.
But we have also seen younger people who want to build hardware and are unable to. Unlike software where one can get a laptop and begin to code, hardware demands a more significant investment. Where do you get a 3D printer or laser cutter to make enclosures? Where do you get assemble a PCB? But worst, where do you buy chips? And if you find, can you afford them?
So we thought to our ourselves:
How could we get people interested in hardware to develop these skills working on real projects?
And we came up with an idea: pairing young graduates and students with companies who are developing products and a significant portion of the work will be available and open source.
Open source is important here, not just because it is a fad or a cool thing to do but because it is a way for other people who can not participate to also learn.
i3D Hardware Challenge
Imisi 3D is a virtual reality creation lab in Lagos, Nigeria. Led by Judith Okonkwo, they are driven by the belief that it is imperative we change the narrative here, and across the continent, becoming creators and not just consumers of technology. By driving skills acquisition and developing a content creation community for virtual reality, they are doing this.
In line with the belief that these technologies are tools for creating solutions, and a passion about applying them to education, they want to increase access to VR headsets. But this does not mean buying headsets and distributing, it means developing headsets designed for the community.
And this is why the challenge is to:
Create an all-in-one solar powered VR headset!
Currently, VR experiences are made possible via mobile device driven low end headsets like the Google Cardboard, mid-range mobile device driven devices like the Gear VR and Google Daydream and high end wired VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Despite the growing adoption of this technology, none of these headsets are manufactured locally.
When we consider the future of this technology, we know that all-in-one VR headsets present the opportunity for creating even more positive impact as it functions without the use of a mobile phone. To take it further, solar power is important for the adoption of VR technology in Nigeria as it would allow for long time use and easy charging without access to the grid.
This Challenge will not be about people coming up with unrealistic design specs and renders, this time the applicants will work in a team and build the device over a period in three stages as follows:
Interested participants will register online using a simple form to gather their contact details and other information. The information will be used to build a design team with people of different skills (electronics, design, software).
With the team(s) decided, the participants will receive a technical brief with preliminary specifications and begin research into the different aspects. With guidance, they will revise the brief and generate different ideas for the product with guidance from the mentors. The deliverable of this phase is a Bill of Materials (BOM) and technical documentation.
After the components are purchased, the team will test, debug and assemble the parts together and fabricate the housings for the product. In this phase, the team will work together physically with the deliverable being a final prototype ready for testing by the general public.
Another important feature of this challenge are the mentors. These experts are available for a minimum of an hour a week to help the participants through each stage of the competition until they deliver the build.
After the activities, the participants will each receive a $50 Amazon voucher, transportation stipend (to cover their spending for Stage 3), a certificate of participation and memorabilia. The participants will also receive IP credit for their contribution to the work in the documentation.
I am excited about this Challenge (as you can tell), not only because the participants will get to work on exciting, new technology but also because of the talent development that will be the direct result of this.