MESH, with mix-and-match buttons, lights and sensors, operates with an Apple iPad and allows do-it-yourselfers to create devices able, for instance, to trigger a camera, monitor a mailbox or silence an alarm.
Takehiro Hagiwara knows big ideas often start with small problems. For the morning-hating Sony engineer, the solution to his problem was a do-it-yourself alarm smart enough to ring until he got out of bed and shut the bathroom door.
His big idea was MESH, a series of mix-and-match buttons, lights and sensors that make inventing as easy as pairing an Apple iPad with some wireless headphones. By linking the little, color-coded blocks with a mobile application, tinkerers can create devices that trigger cameras, send rain alerts or silence an alarm when a door swings.
“Anyone should be able to become an inventor,” Hagiwara, 36, said in an interview at Sony’s Tokyo headquarters. “We want to enable people to do in two minutes what used to take two weeks, or wasn’t possible at all.”
MESH uses the same sensors as the average smartphone to monitor changes in the real world, and puts them into modules — each the size of a pack of chewing gum — that people can repurpose for do-it-yourself projects.
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Want your snail mail to generate notifications the same way your email does? Stick a blue accelerometer on the mailbox door and ask the application to let you know when it’s opened. Add a camera and a light-emitting diode to check whether the delivery’s worth a trip to the box.
Hagiwara’s bid to unleash your inner inventor was born out of Sony’s own push to revive its culture of innovation. MESH — for “make, experience and share” — is one of several in-house projects overseen by Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai to get ideas flowing at the company that gave the world the Walkman.
A three-block starter kit is available for $119 and includes a button, an LED and accelerometer, which knows when it’s been shaken, flipped or tapped. For more-advanced tinkerers there’s a general-purpose block, into which users can plug a variety of sensors, motors and connectors. The iPad app is free.