It is easy to get swept away by the underlying trends in the startup world – the real-time web, social gaming and semantic technologies come to mind. But interesting things are going on outside of these areas as well, including in hardware.
Zoybar, which launched in early 2009, is an open modular hardware platform that supports a model of decentralized innovation for stringed instruments. Enthusiasts can purchase stringed instrument kits – both 6 string and bass guitar kits are available on Zoybar’s website – for $670, and then proceed to build and fully customize the instruments according to their needs.
The components included in the kit are all responsible for a specific function and can be customized by the users. For example, users can change the sounds of the instrument by altering the position of bolts and screws which hold the instrument together, and then share their projects on the Zoybar website (social network functionality powered by Ning). The hardware is manufactured on demand, which enables Zoybar to stay true to its commitment of minimal waste production processes.
The concept was borne out of founder Ziv Bar Ilan’s conviction that a first priority in the corporate world is almost never society’s well-being. (No time for a debate here.) While the concept of decentralized (open source) hardware R&D is not new – see Chumby for a very different example – Zoybar looks set to capture the long-tail of stringed instrument enthusiasts which are not satisfied by standard, mass-produced instruments available on the market.
See the video below for an example of a home-made mashup created using Zoybar’s kit.