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FlowIO Platform is Creative Commons Hardware...

...and is loaned freely to approved users


Creative Commons Hardware


Not only are all the designs open and freely available, but the actual physical hardware itself is provided free of charge, and is treated as a good belonging to the commons.  By providing FlowIO as a common good, we neither sell nor allow others to sell the device itself. We only allow free distribution of the hardware. We licensed FlowIO under the NonCommercial Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), We may allow certain kinds of commercial uses of FlowIO, as long as they don't involve sale of the FlowIO device itself. 


How to obtain the FlowIO Platform?


When we have available FlowIO devices (or parts) we can loan them free of charge to individuals with great project ideas who are also willing to contribute something that would help the FlowIO Platform and the community around it grow and evolve. Example contributions may include technical development, content creation, video preparation, fundraising help, graphic design, assembly, blog post, etc. Individuals interested in obtaining FlowIO Platform (or parts for it) should submit a request application along with a 200- to 500-word use-case proposal. Proposals are evaluated on a rolling basis and judged based on their potential for impact on the world, the value the proposed project may bring to the growth of FlowIO and our community, the novelty of the proposed idea, and the extent to which the project is open for collaboration with us at MIT Media Lab. Other factors may also be considered during evaluation.

We receive many great proposals, but unfortunately, we can't reply to all requesters. Our time is very limited and we can only spend a few hours per month reading proposals and sending replies. And FlowIO devices are even more limited, so even if we have an amazing proposal but no FlowIO device available at the time, we may not be able to answer.

If we are intrigued by your proposal and are able to help you, then we will contact you to schedule an introductory zoom call with you. If you are then approved to receive a FlowIO kit, you will be allowed to use it freely for the duration of your project and be expected to return it after you are done. In some cases, we may give you permission to keep the device if there is a strong reason for keeping it. 

FlowIO devices are supported entirely by donations, and all 50+ of them provided to date have been funded through the generosity of contributors like you. Thus, If you are affiliated with an institution that is able to contribute to this project financially, please indicate it in your proposal as well. Note, however, that this will not necessarily increase your chances of being approved. Proposals that simply request to buy FlowIO are typically always rejected. A strong use-case proposal is a required condition for acceptance; monetary contribution is not.


FlowIO is only provided as a loan, with the expectation that it be returned after it's no longer needed. 


Are there restrictions to using FlowIO?

We wanted to give you the right and freedom to use, modify, augment, make your own, and also be able to share freely FlowIO or any derivative works. That's why we have licensed this work under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

  •  If you use FlowIO or resources from this website, you must give appropriate attribution credit*.

  •  If you make modifications to FlowIO, you must share them freely under the same license.

  •  If you want to use any part of this work commercially, you must seek and obtain permission in writing.

Use it or Share it. If you have a device you are not using, you must share it with someone on the waitlist of requesters. We want to maximize resource utilization and creative opportunities for people. For more details, please read our philosophy of Creative Commons Hardware.

*If you are using FlowIO in a project, you must provide appropriate attribution credit, by citing this paper in academic publications, or by citing the FlowIO creator's name with a link to this website in the case of other articles or videos. Example: FlowIO Platform by Ali Shtarbanov,


What would it cost me to make FlowIO by myself?


There are several modules that comprise the FlowIO hardware. Your application may require one subset of modules, while someone else's application may require a different subset of modules. And new modules are now being developed as well to cover even broader range of sensing and actuation needs. So the cost can vary significantly depending on what modules one needs. Additionally, the price of each part that goes inside FlowIO modules varies depending on the order quantity. Shipping costs are also a major expense, because the parts come from several different companies. Finally, the cost of labor can be very significant, as the labor can take several days for part preparation, 3D printing, assembly, and testing.

If you are making just a single FlowIO device, then the cost of parts for all the modules will be in the high hundreds of US dollars.

if making 10 or more FlowIO devices, the per-device-cost of parts would be in the low hundreds of US dollars due to economies of scale. These estimates do not include labor costs, which will be 30-40 hours per kit, but presumably, you will do that yourself. The complete bill of materials for all components can be found in the Make FlowIO tutorial series.


How would this distribution model work in practice?

We will be making and freely distributing only as many devices as we have resources for. And by also sharing the hardware and software designs freely, and providing detailed instructions on how to replicate this platform, we want to enable others to be able to make and share the physical artifact as well. With time, we will gradually transition our role from makers and distributors of this platform into facilitators of its exchange between other makers and users.

Whether this model would actually work or not is part of what we wish to learn by trying it out in the real world. And if successful, we want to encourage other individuals and institutions to follow our lead and do the same, not only for the case of FlowIO, but also for other hardware platforms and creative tools they may develop. This is ultimately how we hope to achieve, even with few resources, our mission of making creative opportunities for technological innovation and creative exploration more accessible for all. 

If you are interested in supporting this effort and the broader mission, consider becoming a contributor. We are always looking for volunteers who can help with hardware & software development, feedback, prototyping new application scenarios and projects examples, writing documentation and tutorials, engaging with other users, and more.  Use the buttons below to get involved, post on the forums, or request a FlowIO device. 

Do this first before sending a request

Listed below are all the locations where FlowIO devices (or parts) have already been sent. If any of those is in close proximity to you, we can connect you with the user close to you who has the FlowIO device. Then, you may be able to borrow it from them directly, or at least do an on-site test to determine whether it will be suitable for your needs. See the locations on a map.

FlowIO devices provided to date:
  • MIT Media Lab,  USA 
  • MIT Edgerton Center,  USA 
  • Cornell University, Hybrid Body Lab  USA
  • Harvard University, GSD, USA
  • De Vinci Innovation Center, France
  • Imperial College, UK
  • ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
  • Humanitas University, Italy
  • University of Delaware, USA
  • University of Minnesota, USA
  • Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands
  • MIT, School of Architecture + Planning , USA
  • Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • Software Developer from Arlington MA, USA
  • Cornell University, HRC^2 Lab  USA
  • Atlas Institute at UC Boulder, USA
  • Harvard University, SEAS, USA
(1) built on-site, 2021
(5) built on-site, 2021
(1) Aug.2021 - Feb.2022
(2) Fall 2021 -  ...

(1) Sep.2021 - ...
(1) Sept.2021 - ...
(1) Nov.2021 - ...

(18) built on-site, 2021
(1) Dec.2021 - ...
(1) Jul.2021 - ...
(1) Nov.2021 - ...
(2) built on-site, 2021
(1) Aug.2021 - ...
(1) Apr.2022 - ...
(1) May.2022 - ...
(1) May.2022 - ...
(1) May.2022 - ...
(1) May.2022 - Sep. 2022
(1) Sep. 2022 - ...
FlowIO parts provided to date for DIY assembly:
  • RWTH Aachen University, Germany
  • Lehigh University, USA
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA
  • Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto, Portugal
  • Western Michigan University, USA
  • Stanford University, USA
  • University College London, UK
  • University of Manchester, UK
  • Toyota Research Institute, USA
  • Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute, China
  • University of Southern California, USA
  • University of Chicago, USA
  • Berkeley University, USA
  • MIT, Mechanical Engineering,  USA
  • Monash University, Australia
  • ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Harvard GSD Alum, SF, USA
  • Chiba University, Japan
  • University College London, UK
(1) Kit, Jun.2021
(1) Kit, Jul.2021
(1) PCBs, Aug.2021
(1) Kit, Sep.2021
(1) Gerbers, Nov.2021
(1) PCBs, Nov.2021
(1) PCBs, Dec.2021
(1) PCBs, Dec.2021
(3) Kit, May.2022
(1) Gerbers, Jun.2022
(2) PCBs, Jun.2022
(1) PCBs, Jun.2022
(1) Kit, Jun 2022
(1) Kit, Jun 2022
(4) PCBs, Jun.2022
(12) PCBs, Jun.2022
(1) Kit, Jul.2022
(1) PCBs, Oct.2022
(1) PCBs, Nov.2022
Last updated: Nov.2, 2022

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