Tucked away in Sheung Wan is Dim Sum Labs, a “hackerspace” that was formed from what originally was a meet up group started by William Liang, who later went on to become one of the cofounders. The group aimed to gather people who like to know more about I.T. related things, hardware, and “hacking.” Hacking, in this sense, doesn’t mean planting viruses in people’s computers or stealing consumer information. It involves experimenting with different technological ideas and putting together hardware parts to see what would happen. Hackerspaces, which have essentially become a global movement, are community-operated spaces that are rented by the hackers themselves.
Dim Sum Labs, which is a member of Hacker Worldwide Society, is run in a very “family-style” manner. Hackers who work there pay a membership fee of 500 Hong Kong dollars a month to use the space, build what they want using the resources and supplies around them- and get free beers from the community fridge. The membership money is used for rent, purchasing the equipment, and holding workshops. Dim Sum Labs also has a 100 square meter rooftop area where members hang out and chat. Dim Sum Labs also opens its doors to hackers that come from out of country who only have to pay for the time they spent in the lab. So far the 5-year-old space has around 25 members but continue to expand each year.
“Dim Sum Labs is more than a coworking space, it’s like a maker-space where people store equipment and can find a specific set of instruments where they cannot find on the market,” says Michelangelo Guglielmetti, volunteer and spokesperson at Dim Sum Labs. ” Although the approach is more on the maker side rather than the startup side, some startups do come out of Dim Sum Labs. Basically people come to build things here for fun and try things that they cannot try when they are in the office. It’s also a great place to prototype any type of hardware idea.”
“What’s so special about Dim Sum Labs is not the place but the collection of people. They have such deep knowledge in their own respective areas,” says William. “It’s a place you can go to look for people who can help you in a specific area.”
A common misconception is that Dim Sum Labs is a “super hacker space” where you have to be very experienced in hacking or be an expert in building hardware, says Michelangelo. But that’s the opposite of what the space is trying to achieve. “We welcome anyone who has ideas and a general interest in hacking and learning more.”
Iron-Man-like Oscillators & Haptic Compass Belts
When he’s not researching for his Ph.D. in Technoethics at City University, Wilhelm Klein is working on projects like ring oscillator pendants and haptic compass belts. With NOT-Gate simulating transistors, capacitors and resistors, as well as UV LEDs, and a uranium enriched glass marble, Wilhelm has made a sort of Iron-Man style Arc reactor that can shine blue, violet, and green lights. Without the need for any microchips, the completely analog concoction oscillates around the clock and creates the illusion of a spinning radioactive element in the middle. What’s the point of this project? “It fundamentally doesn’t do anything. It just looks cool,” says Wilhelm. “In general, most of the things we do as a community are not going into the commercial direction.” His other project, the haptic compass belt, test the neuro-plasticity of the human brain by trying to add a sixth sense using an array of vibration motors. The belt, mostly built of pieces salvaged from old cellphones and networking equipment, and using the popular Arduino microcontroller platform, tests if one can use technology to add intuitive cardinal orientation to the human range of senses.
Who Ate the Cake Children’s Book
After staying with her sisters and nieces a couple of years back, Jacinta Plucinski created a picture book called Who Ate the Cake as a gift of thanks for allowing to relive her childhood memories. It’s a “choose your own adventure” type format that leaves no right or wrong choices as each pathway is a genuine story itself. Jacinta, who has worked in the Tokyo hackerspace before coming to Hong Kong six months ago, wants to create electronics into the storyline for the next edition of the book and uses Dim Sum Labs as a space for prototyping the book. Because of the many resources available at Dim Sum Labs, Jacinta came up with putting a circuit board in the side of the book as well as using conductive ink so that when the child runs his or her hands over the stars, the pictures physically light up.
Hong Kong’s First 3D Printing Academy
3D printing has definitely made a huge splash in the tech world during the past few years. Now Marc Rogivue wants to teach the skill of creating a 3D printer to everyone. He has created the 3D Printing Academy Hong Kong, the city’s first school dedicated to teaching the construction of your very own 3D printer. The course meets over 3-4 Sundays, consisting of approximately 12-15 hours, and teaches you the operation of the various hardware and software components of building your very own 3D printer. Who signs up to take the course? So far Marc has everyone from students, to designers to professionals. Those who are interested in 3D printing only have to pay 4200 Hong Kong dollars for the course, and that includes all the parts needed to make the printer. Basic assembly skills are required, however, such as previous experience in putting together a car. “Dim Sum Labs was a really great place for me to start this,” said Marc, “There’s such a diverse group of people there with different talents and different interests. Some people are good at hardware, some at software, and some at 3D related projects. We all come together and share our certain ideas and talents with each other. That’s what’s so great about the place.”
Global Space Balloon Challenge
Since Hong Kong has no plans to fund any space program, a group of passionate local residents decided to form a team of their own and participate in the
Global Space Balloon Challenge (GSBC), which plans to have 400 cities around the world send balloons during the Easter holiday. The event, which takes place globally, aims to gather people from around the world and have them simultaneously fly high altitude balloons. The Hong Kong team, founded by Dim Sum Labs members, Andy Kong, consists of hardware and software engineers, commercial airline pilots, an architect, a RC plane designer, and even a tank commander. “Since there’s no money involved in creating this kind of project, I needed to find people who were passionate about what I was doing since they would be purely volunteers. It was so difficult to find that in Hong Kong,” said Andy, “I searched everywhere, even some aviation clubs, such as the remote control plane club in Hong Kong. I couldn’t find people with the open mind and the passion. When I came to Dim Sum Labs, I finally found people who were motivated to do this and was then able to finally form my team.” Although Andy is not sure whether the challenge will continue this year due to the increasing number of drones in the sky, he certainly will be staying in Dim Sum Labs to work on other projects of similar interests. “When we were kids, we all wanted to make something. Dim Sum Labs is a place where people who want to make something can come over, get advice, and find others who can help make it happen.”
Skin Mount Technology
Even fashion has found its way into Dim Sum Labs. Feedface, a project started by Folkert Saathoff, makes “machinery fashion” that uses technology to create its aesthetics. For now, it’s just earring studs that look technologically chic but two to three years down the line, when the battery gets small enough, Folkert plans to make them blink and emit light. “I thought of the idea when I personally found it difficult to buy earrings for guys in Hong Kong. The market is geared more towards females and even when I did find something for men, it was never something I wanted to buy,” says Folkert. At the moment, Folkert only works on ear studs but doesn’t dismiss the idea of branching into other forms of jewelry. He currently sources all his components from Sham Shui Po and builds these fashion pieces in Dim Sum Labs. “Yes, there’s no functionality to it but there doesn’t have to be. That’s why I’m working on it at Dim Sum Labs. People here understand what I am doing and are purely inspirational, always encouraging me. It’s about the social aspect: A bunch of geeks into technology.”
3D Printing Academy: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Haptic Compass Belt: email@example.com
Dim Sum Labs on Facebook
By Michelle Yuan. Michelle is a CMO of Luxify, a local, online marketplace for buyers and sellers of pre-owned, new, and vintage luxury items. Michelle is currently a contributor for Forbes and has a Master’s in Media & Journalism from the University of Hong Kong as well as a Bachelor’s of Economics from Columbia University.