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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Using (a) Beesket as a Template for a Buildware Based Ubiquitous/ Mass Customization Retail Experience...

The triple-cavity capsule into which the chosen 'flavor-bolts' can be inserted...

During a recent trip to Seoul I had a chance to visit a juice/ slushy/ yogurt bar named Beesket, which used a quite ingenuous means for allowing its customers to chose and determine their choice of yogurt, smoothy, or juice flavors. As one enters the bar, the first thing one is confronted with is a desk full of triple-cavity, honeycomb shaped, containers in yellow and red. Yellow ones were for yogurt and the red ones for smoothies (they also seemed to have a set of green containers, intended for juices, but these weren't available during my visit)... To make a selection one picked up either a yellow or red honeycomb container, depending on what type of a viscous beverage one wanted, and proceeded to insert, what here are referred to as 'flavor-bolts' form the wide selection of available flavors (which ranged from strawberry to broccoli) into the container's three available cavities. Above each flavor bolt station there were a number of flavor combination suggestions. Some of the flavors available were, at least for me, quite exotic. During my fist visit I had a sweet-potato, melon and grape flavored yogurt, during my second visit I tried a broccoli, red-pepper and apple flavored one - both were delicious. Once the capsules are full one takes it to the cash-register where the whole capsule (including its content) is scanned in one go, and one receives a small receipt summarizing ones flavor choices and on which the beverage's calorie count is displayed. After payment the drink is completed fresh within ten minutes... 

The profile view of a striped 'flavor-bolt' is held in the hand, above the 'Grape' and 'Melon' flavored stations...

As a conceptual approach, the Beesket model could provide an interesting template for how the, recently much debated, notion of mass/ ubiquitous customization in the context of buildware (CAM) could be applied, particularly in relation to retail (an interesting example of how such notions in a web based context can be seen here). Key here seems to be the constraint of choice, or perhaps it should be formulated, as a process of choreographing choice. What Beesket does well is limit the options of types of beverages, and the number of ingredients in them, it provides. It does so 'simply' by formatting the medium through which such choices are made - the triptych pods that determine the type of beverage, and the flavor 'bolts' that appoint the flavors of a beverage. That's it... But the system doesn't feel restrictive, as the variables and flavor combinations still remain plentiful.

This principle could be adapted to how a buildware made artifacts could be formulated. As suggested above, occasionally excessive choice can be overrated. Too many options - colors, details, sounds, flavors - can result in cacophony. A more limited palette, where each option provided contains a inherent quality, provides a more appropriate method for settling on a decision - making a choice.     

Grape - purple, Melon - Green, Pear - yellow, and Apple - red flavored stations...

Thus, in conceiving something to be fabricated through means where the constraints are more open, unlimited, when compared to most more traditional methods of making, a updated, new, paradigm of conception needs to be developed and accepted. Here this might entail something as straightforward as a menu of artifacts, accompanying by a limited list of features, properties and qualities that can be added or amended. In this instance these might include... 

In the case of the chosen technology... 

  • Size limit: Determined by the build chamber volume, determines the maximum and minimum build sizes... 
  • Material: What buildware materials are available/ usable..? 
  • Buildware settings: What settings - print resolution, tessellation settings, etc. are used..? 
  • Time limit: Is there, or should there be a viable, maximum time limit for printing something (for something produced in a retail context)..? 
In this context the artifacts fabricated through buildware could be determined or limited by... 

  • The type of artifact fabricated, based on their intended use (one could print personalized mobile covers, not knives or gun components), complexity and form (based on the constraints of the Fab technology used and available materials)
  • The color 
  • Add ons - customized handles, spouts, lids, textures, perforations, fasteners, etc. 
Although somewhat trivial in scope such elements could potentially provide a surprisingly rich range of design variations, enough to accommodate the most ascetic as well as ostentatious tastes... 
  

The self-service flavor bar...
Key here again would be the choreography of the act of determining and choosing how the artifacts of the objects can be manipulated. This can be achieved by providing suggestions, examples, for what can be done, as well as include variations for what types of adaptations, manipulations, the technology can make. It might also be useful to show set the parameters of a build, i.e. show, for example, the maximum and minimum size of a build, how fine or crude the resolution of a build can be (and how this correlates to the time it takes to realize a build), etc. By patterning the setting in which these choices are made provides an additional set of control factors that allow one to manage, read and understand, better what this type of an endeavor might entail... 

The receipt summarizing ones flavor choices and the beverage's calorie count...
These types of somewhat, call them, default activities intended for laypersons would need to be accompanied by those that demonstrate a slightly more inherent and experimental understanding and use of related technologies - i.e. the above actions should be realized in collusion with professional (Buildware-savvy) designers, as these could provide examples of future directions of both artifacts, but also of how the digital fabrications means themselves could be developed. The relationship between all the parties involved should be (multi) reciprocal...