Here's a great example of what can happen when experimental research is documented and posted on the web with plenty of explanation and resources. RISD student Sarah Pease, a junior in Furniture Design, took part in an independent study with the High-Low Tech Group at MIT's Media Lab this past Fall. spotted a project on MIT Media Lab's High-Low Tech page.
The original design of "Fab Speaker," an open-source project for creating portable speakers compatible with a standard audio jack, was by project leader David A. Mellis and was made from veneer wrapped and hot-glued around laser-cut wooden struts encircling the electronics, then topped with fabric.
But he provided downloadable files so that anyone could whack up their own design. Mellis asked Pease to take the kit and design some alternative housings for it. Pease's beautiful take, "Audio Jar," consists of glass jars and bases whittled out of cork.
"Using readily available household items and basic construction methods allow for even further customization and flexibility of the Fab Speakers," Pease writes. "Varying jar shapes/sizes can be mixed with alternate feet for different looks."
By the way, many of you may recognize Mellis' name. Yep, that's none other than David A. Mellis, one of the co-creators of Arduino. "I'm a first year PhD student in Leah Buechley's group, High-Low Tech, at the MIT Media Lab," Mellis writes. "My research interest is the relationship between digital information and physical objects, applied to manufacturing, electronics, and programming. I want to create tools and examples that help people to design, build, and program electronic devices." Looks like that's working.