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FlowIO Platform is Creative Commons Hardware...

...and is loaned freely to approved users

We licensed FlowIO under the NonCommercial Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), and in some cases - with permission - we do allow commercial use of the FlowIO device or the content on this webpage. FlowIO is provided under a distribution model that encourages sharing and collaboration. Moreover, FlowIO devices are to be treated as public good belonging to the public commons rather than to individual users. This means that if you have a FlowIO device (either one that you loaned or built yourself) you are expected to make that device available for others to also have access to it whenever possible. And if you don't use the device, you are expected to pass it on someone from the waiting list who needs it, rather than hoarding it yourself. The gist of the distribution model is to make a high-value and expensive resource available and easily accessible to the public, and to people from all backgrounds, as well as to encourage sharing, promote collaboration, and discourage hoarding and waste - while still allowing the project to survive and grow. The mechanics and the incentive structures to support this goal may change with time as we learn new things, but the big picture of democratizing resources and lowering barriers is always what's driving things. 


Obtaining a FlowIO kit


When we have available FlowIO devices (or parts) we can loan them to individuals with great project ideas or to institutions with compelling use-case proposals. People are expected to make some contribution to FlowIO or this website that would help this project survive, grow, and evolve. Example contributions include hardware and software development, content creation, video preparation, donation, graphic design, hardware assembly, writing blog posts, etc. In some cases, we may approve individuals to obtain FlowIO freely, while institutions are always expected to reimburse our expenses for parts and shipping. Individuals and institutions interested in obtaining FlowIO (or parts for it) must submit a request application containing a 200- to 500-word proposal for a project or use-case. Proposals are evaluated on a rolling basis and judged based on potential for impact, value the project may bring to FlowIO's future, novelty of the proposed idea, and extent to which the project is open for collaboration with us at MIT Media Lab. Other factors may also be considered during evaluation.  If we are intrigued by your proposal and are able to help you, then we will contact you to schedule an introductory video 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. 

We receive many great proposals, though we can't reply to everyone because our time is limited to just a few hours per month on this entire project. FlowIO devices are also very limited and in high demand, so even if we see an amazing proposal but no FlowIO device is available at the time, we may not be able to answer.

In your proposal, you are encouraged to specify how you will contribute back to this project, whether financially or in a skill-based way. However, proposals that simply request to buy a FlowIO device are typically not accepted because FlowIO is not for sale. FlowIO is only provided as a loan with the expectation that it be returned or passed on after it's no longer needed by the borrower. A strong use-case scenario or project idea is a required condition for acceptance into this pilot program.


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
  • MIT Architecture, USA
  • Harvard University, SEAS, USA
  • University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin, Germany
  • MIT ACT Department, USA
  • TU-Dresden, Germany
  • Akademie der Künste, Germany
  • Johns Hopkins University, USA
  • (1) built on-site, 2021 (self)
  • (5) built on-site, 2021 (Ed)
  • (1) Aug.2021 - Feb.2022 (Heather)
  • (2) Fall 2021 -  ... (Hyejun)
  • (1) Sep.2021 - ... (Clement)
  • (1) Sept.2021 - ... (Thrish)
  • (1) Nov.2021 - ... (Robert)
  • (18) built on-site, 2021 (Ozgun)
  • (1) Dec.2021 - ... (Francesco)
  • (1) Jul.2021 - May.2023 (Bai)
  • (1) Nov.2021 - ... (Brad)
  • (2) built on-site, 2021 (Jing)
  • (1) Aug.2021 - ... (Ali L.)
  • (1) Apr.2022 - ...  (Maryam)
  • (1) May.2022 - ... (Adriana)
  • (1) May.2022 - ... (Oguz)
  • (1) May.2022 - Dec.2022 (Yuhan)
  • (1) May.2022 - Sep. 2022 (Chris)
  • (1) Aug. 2022 - Nov. 2023 (Ganit)
  • (1) Sep. 2022 - ... (Andrew)
  • (1) Jan.2023 - ... (Yuhan --> Isabel)
  • (1) Mar. 2023 - Jul.2023 (built by Jiawen)
  • (2) May.2023 - ... (Bai & Kuan --> Judith)
  • (1) Jun.2023 to own. (Andreas)
  • (1) Aug.2023 - ... (Jiawen --> Lena)
  • (1) Oct.2023 - ... (Ozgun --> Shonit)
  • (1) Nov.2023 - ... (Ganit --> Anway)
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
  • NTU, Singapore
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Tianjin university, China
  • Emilio Campuzano Vocational School, Spain
  • University of Southampton, UK
  • (1) Kit, Jun.2021 (Anke)
  • (1) Kit, Jul.2021 (David)
  • (1) PCBs, Aug.2021 (Markus)
  • (1) Kit, Sep.2021 (Bruno)
  • (1) Gerbers, Nov.2021(Brooke)
  • (1) PCBs, Nov.2021 (Ian, Kyle)
  • (1) PCBs, Dec.2021 (Helge)
  • (1) PCBs, Dec.2021 (Andrew)
  • (3) Kit, May.2022 (Richard)
  • (1) Gerbers, Jun.2022 (Zihan)
  • (2) PCBs, Jun.2022 (Xin Zhu)
  • (1) PCBs, Jun.2022 (Ken)
  • (1) Kit, Jun 2022 - Jun 2023 (Kuan-Ju)
  • (1) Kit, Jun 2022 (Kentaro)
  • (4) PCBs, Jun.2022 (Aryan)
  • (12) PCBs, Jun.2022 (Robert)
  • (1) Kit, Jul.2022 - Jan.2024 (Rosalie)
  • (1) PCBs, Oct.2022 (Zhongchao)
  • (1) PCBs, Nov.2022 (Magda)
  • (1) PCBs+, Feb.2023 (Xingbei)
  • (5) PCBs, Apr.2023 (Kai)
  • (1) PCBs, May.2023 (Tianyu)
  • (1) Kit, May.2023 (Jon)
  • (1) Kit, May.2023 (Leo)
  • (1) Kit, Jan.2024 (Rosalie --> Eddie)
Last updated: Aug.6, 2023

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