Something new at Somerset Square

By Jared Davidson – 

There’s something unusual parked in Somerset Square in Hintonburg this month. At first glance it might be a trailer or a food truck, but its sleek design and solar-panelled exterior suggest something more. There is no signage except one by the door that beckons passersby inside. For many, the mystery is enough to get them in the door.

“‘What is this?’ That’s the question we get most often,” says Komi Olaf, Artistic Director of prototypeD, the design and development studio behind the new arrival to Somerset. “We’ve answered it many times.”

Digital Director Justin Holness and Artistic Director Komi Olaf of prototypeD. Photo by Jared Davidson

The answer is that this is what the prototypeD team call its Innovation Pod. It’s best described as a way to introduce new technologies and creative tools to people who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to use them. Throughout March, the Pod parked in Somerset Square (at the intersection of Somerset and Wellington) will operate as a satellite to prototypeD’s main project, its makerspace known as MadeMill, located in the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards. The Pod will be host to workshops on VR, 3D printing, audio design, video editing, sustainable energy and living, and more.

The full list of workshops is available on MadeMill.com, but the Innovation Pod team invites those interested to drop by during office hours to try things out. The pod is equipped with a Virtual Reality (VR) headset called an HTC Vive, a Microsoft Hololens, a 3D printer, and a number of computers upon which to experiment. Everyone is welcome, including children, who Komi says have been very interested in the VR.

“Explaining VR to adults can take a long time, but kids are so fast,” says Komi. “Soon after putting it on they’re trying different things in it.”

The demos they give at the Innovation Pod are as simplistic and efficient as the Pod itself. They tell you only what you need to know, then allow you to experiment and discover. The idea is to encourage creativity, while at the same time giving people an outlet through which to express it. Part of the reason prototypeD is putting these tools in public hands is to help find new ways to use them.

“A lot of ideas have come out of Ottawa over the years,” says Komi. “But a lot of ideas have also died because they got stuck.”

PrototypeD sees the Innovation Pod as a way to connect with community members who might need resources for their innovative projects. It’s fitting that the Pod itself is one such project, which without the resources that the makerspace scene is bringing to Ottawa, may have never seen fruition. The Pod was conceived as a low-impact, sustainable home. And while it shares some of its concepts with more typical container homes, there is one thing it does better than its competition: look good.

“One of the things we identified about [container homes] was the boring shape, the flat roof,” says Komi. “Things like that are not very aesthetically pleasing.”

In designing the Innovation Pod, Janak Alford, CEO and Founder of prototypeD, tried to implement pleasing design features, hence the curved roof, decorative led lights, and large windows. They’re currently calling this style of pod a Generation House, and hoping that people will use them as addendums to their houses, to give their children or parents a comfortable living space.

At the end of March, the Innovation Pod will be making its way to another neighbourhood in the city, but Kitchissippi residents can always visit MadeMill at the Innovation Centre to get involved in the more high-tech end of maker culture.

 

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