25 Ways Open Source is Catching On Beyond Software : Page 3

The open source movement is spreading far beyond software to space travel, cars, spying, textbooks, art -- even cupcakes.
Posted November 28, 2011

Cynthia Harvey

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Open Source Robot

11. HyQ

HyQ is a "hydraulically actuated quadruped robot." In other words, it's a robot dog.

Moving around on legs is one of the more challenging tasks in robotics, but HyQ can walk, run, kick, trot, jukmp, and even makes a sort of swimming motion. You can see it in action in this video clip.

It stands about 1 meter tall and weighs 70-90 kg, depending on whether it's using internal or external power. It's designed to be able to move over rough terrain, and it achieves speeds up to 4 meters per second.

What makes it open source? While many others working in the field of robotics choose to keep their research to themselves (including those on the better known BigDog project), the HyQ team at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) has made CAD drawings and design specifications available on the HyQ Website. Project member Claudio Semini notes, "We want to make our design as open as possible."

Open Science

12. CoLab

Robotics researchers aren't the only scientists interested in open source as a philosophy. Colab offers scientists from a wide variety of disciplines a framework for doing open source science.

Traditionally, most scientists have worked in secret, only sharing their results with colleagues and the larger scientific community during the publication stage. CoLab hopes to change that by making it easier for researchers to work together in "microcollaborations" all the time, not just during sporadic brainstorming sessions.

The CoLab site proclaims, "In the spirit of open source software, open science takes the stance that a large community of intelligent users is better able to spot flaws and come up with new ideas than is a small, private group. We believe in rapid, complete, and free publication of data, lab notebooks, and brainstorming."

What makes it open source? The CoLab website makes scientific research open and available to the larger scientific community so that they can contribute and advance the projects. Although users can choose to limit access to some posts to a smaller group of collaborators, they are encouraged to open their research to the public at large. In addition, the software that runs the CoLab site can be downloaded from GitHub.

Open Source Research: Cancer Drugs

13. Open Source Cancer Research

Dr. Jay Bradner is passionate about finding a cure for cancer—in part because his own father had incurable pancreatic cancer. In this Ted Talks video, Bradner explains how his lab at Harvard University went to work finding a molecule that could cure a rare form of cancer called midline carcinoma.

The team eventually developed a molecule that they call JQ1 that seemed to be effective. At that point, Bradner said that they asked themselves, "What would a drug company do with this information?" And then they did exactly the opposite of what they thought a drug company would do: "We just started mailing it to our friends."

Now several labs and drug companies are working on turning the molecule into a medication that can be used to treat cancer patients. And Dr. Bradner has become an advocate for this open model of drug research.

What makes it open source? Dr. Bradner and his team published all of their findings, including a model of the molecule, which drug companies and other labs usually keep secret. They even published their e-mail addresses and offered to send a free molecule to anyone who was interested. Seventy different labs then began researching the molecule on their own and reported back to Dr. Bradner's team with a lot more information about other ways the chemical could be used.

Open Source Biological Art

14. Hackteria

While Dr. Bradner's team is sharing research with their professional colleagues, the folks at Hackteria are opening up science for everyday people. The site offers how to articles and workshops on "open source biological art, DIY biology and generic lab equipment."

For example, Hacteria can help you turn your basic webcam into a microscope. They've helped kids make jewelry out of petri dishes filled with bacteria and fungi, and the site offers examples of a bioLED.

More importantly, the group hopes to help scientists in less developed countries see how they can create their own lab equipment without spending astronomical sums of money.

What makes it open source? Hackteria freely publishes all of its open source biological art and other projects on the website so that anyone can learn from, replicate and contribute to the work. Users are also invited to log in to comment or contribute to the site.

Open Source Prosthetics

15. Open Prosthetics Project

This pun-loving group believes "prosthetics shouldn't cost an arm and leg." In order to bring down the cost of artificial limbs, they freely publish designs and ideas about prosthetics. They're particularly interested in helping the estimated 650,000 upper limb extremity amputees in the world, especially those who live in developing countries and don't have access to or funds for advanced artificial limbs.

The site lists several projects the group is working on: a body-powered hook, a mechatronic arm, body-powered bands, suspension system, the Trautman hook, a pediatric trainer, and adaptive grasp technology. They invite interested people to get involved with the project as users, donors, grant writers, legal assistants, service providers or researchers.

They also have a Google Groups forum for those who would like to be involved in ongoing discussions about open source prosthetics. It includes a "pimp my arm" area for prosthetics users with suggestions for how to improve artificial limbs.

What makes it open source? The Open Prosthetics Project places a notice on its project pages that reads: "All content and designs on this site are in the public domain, and we place no restrictions on their use. We encourage any derivative works, but all designs are registered periodically so that our work cannot be kept from the public by patents." The site offers drawings, text, video, papers and other documentation that interested parties can download, and it invites others to become involved in the project.

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Tags: open source tools, open source software, open source apps

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