We have $10,000 - what should we buy?

Hey Designers,

I’m in a B.S Industrial Design program in Southern California and our department chair has come to me for suggestions on cutting-edge tech to buy with a budget of approx. $10,000.

The requirements:

-To be shared by a class of 35 students
-No need for any shop, computer, or prototyping equipment.
-Interested in VR, AR, and AI - Specifically AI.
-Ideally a one-time cost without consumables and future-proof.

My first thought is a VR system with 3D Drawing capabilities. What are your thoughts? Any supplemental research or links would be helpful!


edit: some formatting changes.

I would be interested in what you would buy in regards to A.I. - Any ideas so far?

I’m a huge proponent of VR, but I wouldn’t make an investment in VR equipment for a school at this point. It certainly is not future proof and the current systems are already nearing the end of their lifecycle. More importantly, they aren’t designed well for collaborative use which is more important for a group setting. For 10K you could probably get 2-3 Vives and PC’s to power them, but they’d each require a room to be set up in, and they’d be obsolete by 2019.

You mentioned no prototyping equipment (which is where I’d want to invest the most for students) but I would redefine what you consider prototyping equipment. Do students have access to things like soldering workstations, CNC mills, development boards? I wish things like Raspberry Pi and Arduino and boxes of wires and resistors and components were more readily available when I was in school. Students can buy a lot of that stuff themselves, but nothing is worse than having to shut down a project and wait 2 days because you realize you ran out of the right resistor.

Not sure what you could buy for “AI” - unless it was for things like generative 3D software. Most work in AI is dependent on knowing how to program & having access to large scale cloud computing power, which is cheaper to buy then build.

VR-headsets are cool. But after everybody tried them on and played a game or two they will gather dust. I PROMISE you. There isn’t too much you can do with that stuff. Sure, you can do a 3D sketch of something but that is something you need a lot of practice for and the benefit is dubious. IF there is a use for VR at this point it is really niche and probably nothing a class of 35 as a whole could profit from.
AI is the most annoying buzzword of 2017 (in combination with “deep learning”) and has little to do with industrial design.

I second what Cyberdemon said and also say: buy less “flashy” stuff but things the students would actually profit from. Buy a whole bunch of 3D-printers and give the students free filament. Then require them to do a TON of physical prototyping at every stage of every project. The amount of portfolios out there with a ton of sketches and renders and no understanding of actual 3dimensional shapes is something universities should worry more about.

[ Deleted ]

Buy a couple of Juiceros. :laughing:

I like this idea. Should ID students be preoccupied with polishing the metallic texture on a virtual knob, or developing an elemental knowledge of technology components and associated behavior?

As a potential hiring manager, I’d be 10x more interested in someone who knew the latter.

Photobooth equipment would be awesome. Lights, Cameras, Sweeps, Turntable, Microphones, etc . Mini content creation space.

Photogrammetry set up if it has to be “cutting edge” tech.

Foldio 360 is nice too.

Ignoring the tongue in cheek nature of the post, getting a few professionals to come in and do some all day workshops is probably a great way to spend the money.

Thank you all for your contributions to this thread. One of the ideas floating around is a 3-axis CNC machine. Someone I know suggested a Tormach 440 with some add-ons, however, we are trying to find something cutting edge .

As valuable as a professional workshop would be, I think one of the constraints is that the money is spent on something tangible that can be passed on to the future classes.

Could you give an example of “technology components and associated behavior?”

Thanks everyone!

A great coffee bar without seats, a wonderful ceiling lamp as centerpiece, a beamer and presentation screen to do daily lunchbreak presentations/pecha kuchas. You won’t believe the increase in quality and enthusiasm from employees.

Talking about cutting-edge, for $4,000 you can buy a Kuka robot on ebay. That leaves 6,000 for software, a professional workshop, and resources to convert it to a 3D printer/CNC machine. And all the opportunities for AI are there, you can program it to do complex motoric tasks, even dancing.

Awesome suggestions! This is the sort of direction we’re looking for. Thanks!

Although I think this is a really cool suggestion, I would also tread lightly. I used to work for a company that was heavy on the engineering side and we had a few of these robots that we used for testing products, some light production work, and various other tasks. 99.9% of the time everything was great, but there was an occasion where someone who was not properly trained was injured pretty badly. This is also a company full of engineers who are masters at these types of machines. When putting this technology into a group of people with possibly zero knowledge of its capabilities, be careful.

Agreed on the risk for robots, we deployed a robot to execute rapid scanning tasks and building safety required it be in a giant metal cage where no one could be within range of it striking or throwing something at someone. Once you get building facilities involved that cost suddenly goes up because you’ll have to bring in a contractor for all of the additional wiring and construction work.

RE slippyfish’s comment - students who understand how electronics work at a very basic level can often make more educated decisions about how something should function or work. Think of some of those electronics kits for kids - once you understand how a servo or LED or PWM controller responds you can start to understand how to build complex experiences and behaviors. That becomes ultra useful for ID students because now you can actually prototype your robotic soda machine, test the experience, and learn from that prototyping cycle. Compared to the kid who makes an awesome surface model of a robot soda machine and then says let the engineers figure out if it will work.

(FYI I can’t tell how many times I was able to out-pivot engineers who refused to do something as part of my design by having that basic knowledge and them admitting it wasn’t that complicated, but they really didn’t want to do it).

I think you can get a $50 arduino kit on Sparkfun.

Focus on getting tools that help students understand concepts in a hands-on way. Easy access to prototyping equipment and low-cost/free consumable materials is nice. I don’t know what exactly you’re looking for when you say cutting-edge that’s not too risky or frivolous, perhaps take a look at what MIT Media Lab is doing? But definitely consider what Cyberdemon said - being able to prototype with small electronics is no joke and the experience goes a long way.

Also, my school had some 3d printers, but it was a big pain to get easy access to. We had all these resources that many students didn’t really use due to inconvenience (or bad learning/low interest?)… Not really a factor you can control, but something to keep in mind.

These robots are cheap and relatively safe. I know they are in use at my alma mater, and student teach themselves how to use them, so it certainly is doable.
As with most of the more complicated tools the biggest challenge is to pass on knowledge once the people who set it up and get it running graduate, especially true for “cutting edge equipment” :wink:

I agree with all the previous sentiments of warning against “cutting edge” technology that will not actually be utilized or out of date in 2 years. (robotic arm, VR, etc)
The design school I went to went through the process of getting 2 kuka robotic arms and they were definitely underutilized show pieces just there for tour groups.

Basic electronics lab is definitely a great way to go! Soldering station, power supply, oscilloscope, assorted components, ect.
Hell, even a set of “littlebits” electronics would be a great reusable set of electronics.
Knowledge in this area can create some amazing creative output. Prototypes that can move, speakers designs that actually make music, and the ability to talk intelligently about the hardware we are designing around.
Its one of the biggest areas I had gotten more education in through school. (recent graduate)


seriously check out little bits. They have a lot of power, great hardware, and compatiblity with Arduino etc.
Don’t be fooled by the “toy” aspect. You can easily configure a minimally viable prototype that works! throw them in your 3D printed parts.
Pull them out and they are reusable!
Some of their hardware is really cool - like a smart home tech kit

What’s your situation regarding 3D printing? Do you have a 3D printer at school?
Talk to Dave Gaylord at www.matterhackers.com in Orange County. Maybe get 2-4 extrusion 3D printers so the whole class can share and not depend on one during portfolio review. Maybe he can offer student pricing if it’s for the school…
Yes it requires consumables, but cheap compared to more advanced 3D printers. I’m sure students can afford filament. They SHOULD learn how to use them and experience the cost of running bad parts and troubleshooting when machines crash.
We’ve ran parts for CSULB students in the past and it’s amazing some of the parts we get. Parts at different scales, faceted, paper thin walls, flat parts, etc. Not to mention the sticker shock when we tell them how much parts would have cost if they weren’t students.
Just a thought.