Gabriella Levine

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Simone Cicero:

" Gabriella Levine: she’s an artist and open source hardware designer doing a great job in exploring the connection between technology and ecology. Among other things, she creates incredible sculptural and robotic works that mimic environmental phenomena and animal behavior. Her current work includes Protei Inc (creating open source sailing drones), and (a biomimetic swimming snake robots to sense environmental data).

Gabriella recently returned from a radical experiment: circumnavigating the world by boat, as a Fellow of the Unreasonable At Sea accelerator, exposing Protei to 14 different ports worldwide, while innovating through human-engagement using a design-based approach of the Stanford d. School. Amazing stuff.

Since 2010, Levine has exhibited work in countless internationally meetups and conferences worldwide, has been featured on Wired, NYTimes, CNN, Scientific American and many more.

Gabriella also teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, and can be found working at her studio, Floating Point Collective in Brooklyn.

Last but not least, Gabriella is the President of OSHWA (Open Source Hardware Association)." (


From an interview with Simone Cicero:

  • Can you tell us more about your feeling of what forces compose the open source hardware community these days? Is this becoming more a business oriented world, now that the companies are increasing in number or is still a world where hackers and startups meet, where there’s still room to create community driven innovation?

[Gabriella Levine] Open Source Hardware is a trend that is spanning across a growing number of disciplines and sectors, as it creates networks of innovations that converge in citizen / community / maker landscapes, as well as into academia and corporate sectors.

Big corporations like Google, Texas Instruments, and Intel are latching onto the trend of customizable products as well as open, modular tools. And small startups are utilizing open source hardware tools for more commercial platforms such as robots, fabrication tools, and environmental cleanup solutions. Additionally, open source hardware is on the forefront of its evolution in the world of artists and hobbyists who are making use of tools available for play, education, and engineering and design solutions. I really attribute open source hardware’s proliferation to artists, inventors, craftsmen and designers who embrace hands on collaborative work, as tools and communication became more accessible through the internet, and from this has sprouted commercial successes that are seen more and more ubiquitous in the start-up world

OpenReliefThis type of collaboration in a global network which is leading to production of modular tools that people can customize to specific needs is sprouting solutions for real – world problems in academic, corporate and non profit sectors. For example, DIY drones brought technology that was once only available for the military or advanced academia to a landscape that allowed civilians to have access to such flying robot technology. After about ten years of community R&D through hobbyists embracing such tools, we are seeing more and more the commercialization of drones for aerial photography, home surveillance, and even amazing solutions for humanitarian or environmental purposes (ie Matternet, a network of unmanned flying vehicles to transport goods across rough terrain, and Open Relief, an open source platform flying drones for disaster relief and aerial mapping).

I believe that the forces driving the open source hardware landscape originated from growing accessibility of tools, which has been caused by faster communication (via the web) and cheaper faster shipping of physical goods, which has in turn led to a willingness of companies to do faster cheaper run supplies.

The internet has played a huge role in an growth of open source hardware technologies & communities. The internet has allowed for quick & easy sourcing and distribution of tools like the laser cutter, 3d printers, prototyping boards. Online Wikis and Forums have been hugely influential to allow for conversation amongst people in remote locations. These have allowed easy distribution of how-to manuals as well as a place to get questions answered fast.

Internet trends have increased the ability for attribution and branding: as limitations have been broken in a post modern world, tools and information have been distributed more quickly than ever before. This allows for the personalization and customization of items as people can get access to parts and accessories. This has also led to Crowdsourcing of labor: DIY Drones as an archetypical example of the community on the web feeding into the r&d of the company itself.

A lot of my own inspiration for engaging with open source hardware and community-driven innovation comes from seeing first hand how sharing tools and technology have impacted my own work and life. Personally, I got involved with creative technology from a background not from that of electrical engineering or computer science but instead, from that of biology (I am a former cancer researcher) and music (I nearly pursued classical piano as a profession). I made use of available toolkits and code libraries, and collaborated with people online and in person, using open source hardware tools and prototyping equipment for my own work towards building robotic platforms for environmental sensing ( &" (


The State of (Commercial) Open Source Hardware in 2013

Gabriela Levine, interviewed by Simone Cicero:

  • [SC] New fields for open source hardware are growing day by day: many new projects bring Open Source Hardware to new markets (automotive, furniture,etc…). Some important, cross-sector, projects were born in 2013 (see the link): what are the new fields you expect Open Source Hardware to thrive with?

[GL] There are a number of types of companies that I see thriving within the Open Hardware community.

Distributors: For example, Seeed Studio, Sparkfun and Adafruit are distributing inexpensive, small run supplies of open source hardware tools, sensors, components, and goods. They are all dedicated to providing their users with documentation, tutorials and Beginner kits, as well as providing a platform for forums and wikis where people can collaborate together online. These three companies are innovating in a unique way that really shows this reciprocation between the community and the company: as the users and community members implement sensors and components, the companies see what is popular. Then, they in turn curate their inventory and make their own sensor platforms based on community needs as well as community designs. This type of sales and distribution of electronics has proven quite successful.

Platform technologies: Companies that are proliferating tools for others to use seems to be trending. These types of platforms include:

Robotic platforms, think to OpenROV (open source hardware underwater unmanned submarines for purposes such as underwater photography, plastic trash sensing, fisheries monitoring, and educational tools) or DiyDrones (the largest community for modular flying robots, the biggest distributor being from the company of the founder, Chris Anderson @ 3D robotics)

Prototyping platforms are going to continue to expand, including microcontroller platforms like from Arduino and more complex linux based systems like BeagleBone. The derivatives of both microcontrollers and linux based boards have increased so much and branched so many derivative companies and products.

Open Hardware toolkits for things like 3D fabrication and laser cutting (such as the Lasersaur) are also super impactful for the education platforms as well as for open and local manufacturing.

Open Source Hardware for educational platforms (such as Little Bits), more non traditional educational facilities are sprouting up that are using hands-on engagement, learning through play, peer-based learning." (