Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Draw a Circuit: It's Raining Ideas!


So yesterday I was browsing through youtube, randomly searching for something 'techie-techie' interesting, and I stumbled upon this TEDxGateway video that truly left me amazed and yes, inspired. (And then I found out I could write about it under The Idea Carvan for Indiblogger. Yay!). The simplicity of this material and the way the idea of an apparently simple, conducting paint, spread its roots and connected with so many people across the globe, providing a platform that became the basis for so many other innovative ideas, is just amazing.
Everyone’s mind works differently. You give five people a piece of tissue paper each, and you never know what they’ll use it for. Some might use it to wipe their behind. Some (like me) might write a piece of poem or draw a sketch on it. Some will go the crafty way and make a tissue paper flower with it. Some will fold it, keep it in their bag and forget about it. With us humans, you never know.  The basic right to an idea, to have an idea, to perceive differently, any which way, an idea, to see, believe, get inspired from an idea and then generate from that, another idea, is a gift that only we humans have. And knowing this very fact, knowing what, as a human, I am capable of, is inspiring in itself! Too much of inspiration, right? And to think that my easily bored mind was dying of inspiration-thirst till just a few days ago…
In Matt’s talk, what I found more interesting than the innovation itself was how this simple nudge of an idea, a non-toxic paint that conducts electricity, went viral and ignited so many ideas in the minds of people all over the world. It’s like the world is a packed bottle of ideas, ready to pour out the moment it’s poked with a needle!
In Matt Johnson’s words, “Even as students we were confident that the value of what we were creating was not just in the material itself, but also in the platform for innovation that this material created.”
It began as an idea for a student project, and developed into a product: a non-toxic electrically conductive paint, that can be thought of as a paintable wire. Apply it to a surface, let it dry and it becomes conductive. This type of ink or paint isn’t exactly new in the world of electronics, but what’s new about this is that it was initially designed keeping in mind the concept of making an electrically conductive paint that can be used to print circuits directly onto the surface of the skin. So naturally, it had to be non-toxic.
And here, by being non-toxic, it provides scope for so much more than making just plain ordinary circuits or just as a part of engineering. Drawing musical circuits on paper and cards, kids learning electronics by using this conductive paint in crafts and drawings, illuminated paper models, science projects and what not! This innovation combines art and electronics in a way that even as I’m sitting here writing about it, I can almost hear the gears turning in my head.
Just think about it. You can learn or teach the basics of electronics just by drawing a circuit on a  paper, paint a light switch directly on your wall, draw temporary tattoos and glowing body art with LEDs attached like gems… the possibilities are endless.
What if we develop this paint to work like a big module of solar cells? Paint a coat or two onto the surface of a building’s roof and generate cheaper electricity than what is possible with the use of the photo voltaic cells available today. Or how about maybe develop a nice color for this paint other than just black and use it for decorative colorful illuminated circuits for festivals and parties.
In the video itself, the concept of ‘Interactive Posters’ is probably what I loved the most. Imagine a world where, as we walk along the sidewalk, we see posters made of paper stuck on the walls, that respond to touch. Posters of a band concert actually playing music as soon as they detect human proximity. And of course how could newspapers and posters with live pictures like in the Harry Potter franchise be left behind? The technologically advanced future that our beloved sci-fi movies like Iron Man and i-Robot dazzle us with, doesn't seem all that far anymore. This post is in response to 'The Idea Caravan' on Indiblogger. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

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