Isotyping: The Key to Unlocking a Long Tail of Hardware Devices

Abstract: As digital technologies continue to expand and evolve, we rely on a greater number and variety of devices at home and in the workplace. Fortunately, the process of developing new hardware devices to the point of a working prototype has become democratized; a wide variety of platforms, development tools and online resources support hobbyists and professionals alike. This has unlocked a ‘long tail’ of prototype devices from wearable and environmental sensors to novel smart displays, home appliances and beyond. But moving beyond a prototype is currently a long and convoluted hardware development journey, and people who don’t have significant experience and resources frequently lose their way.

In this talk I will present some of the challenges of scaling beyond a prototype, discuss the benefits of doing so, and describe a process I call ‘isotyping’—making equivalent copies of a prototype. I believe that a new class of tools and platforms that support isotyping will ultimately empower a diverse community of hardware creators to evolve their device concepts into products, thereby unlocking a long tail of digital devices.

Bio: Steve Hodges is a senior principal researcher at Microsoft Research. He combines hardware research and engineering skills with creative design to conceive novel solutions that make computers more useful, engaging and inclusive. He builds tools and experiences that span domains such as the internet of things, mobile & ubiquitous computing, assistive technologies and education. He works at all scales from prototype to production, and his work has contributed to millions of devices with tens of millions of users.