Thanks to TED talks I recently became aware of a movement called Open Hardware.
In it Marcin Jakubowski describes his struggle to live the rural idyll. He would have gone under if it wasn’t for his attempt to build his own farm machinery and publicise the attempt on the web.
Pretty soon he had dozens of helpers creating new machines. The plans and descriptions for creating these mechanical marvels were then put online for anyone to use. It was Open Hardware.
It takes the same approach to developing physical objects, as programmers have been using for years in the development of software. Another brilliantly simple idea. Have a problem, use a collaborative network of like-minded people to help solve it.
Another great example was described on the BBC World Service radio programme Click.
Using open source robot drones to help clear up oil spills and other water pollutants.
The Portei project is developing a fleet of remote-controlled sailing vessels. Each will be able to deploy an oil collecting boom to help control spills.
Eventually the group hope to be able to make the bots autonomous and they could also be used for oceanographic study.
For more details on the project check out its website