Rapid Prototyping

One of the things we’re really proud of here is our collective excitement about rapid prototyping. We all love making things, and we especially love making things out of stuff laying around. It’s a challenge, to see how much functionality you can get out of a junk drawer.

When we started talking about forming Shift, we began with trying to find a good problem to solve. None of us are especially excited about technology in search of a problem. So we talked to doctors. Lots of them. With lots of experience working in austere settings. (That’s what medical people call ‘low resource environments’.) From all those interviews we identified a couple problems that clinicians face. And from there we did some sketching, and we dug through some drawers, and we roughed up a functional spec, and we built something.

Now we’re iterating that original design, and we’re about to begin working on a housing, and in a few weeks we’re going to try some field tests. But we’re making sure that we still have our hands in the junk drawers, and we’re still building stuff to try out new ideas.

Speed, speed, speed, one of our mentors recently counseled. Fail fast!

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The Hacker Heart of Shift

Last week I gave a talk at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University on “Hackademia: Leveraging the Conflict Between Expertise and Innovation to Create Disruptive Technologies”. The talk was about the ideas behind Shift, and the journey to starting this venture. It was about innovation, hackers, makers, and why some kinds of disruptive technology need to come out of places other than universities or industry labs. You can watch the talk here, though if you’re short on time (like everyone is), Ethan Zuckerman did his usual awesome liveblogging job here (thanks, Ethan!)

This was a first pass at this talk, and there will be others in coming months. I loved the questions I got, and I also loved the emails that came my way afterwards — including from some docs who were excited about our work and want to join us!

Thanks to my hosts at Berkman and the fantastic audience.

New beginnings

January 2012 a group of hardware hackers and makers and academic researchers decided to start a company to make low-cost medical devices. We realized there was a rapidly expanding private medical provider market throughout the developing world that was eager for new devices that could help them provide more efficient and more effective care for their patients.

We also thought medical providers in the US and other mature markets might be interested in some lower cost solutions as well.

We set out to build beautifully-designed, human-centered devices that solve problems. We’ve been at it for a while, and while we had our heads down in the product side of things, somehow our blog disappeared.

So we’re rebooting, thanks in part to the Wayback Machine (I just gave you money, Internet Archive!), but only a small section of our blog was captured, so part of our shared history is lost. But who doesn’t love to re-invent their past?