BLOG: Smiling Robots, Bitcoin powered Radiators and a Jersey Cow

8 December 2014

In Edinburgh we’ve been exploring the radical implications of new forms of currency for business and design. To help us out we’ve managed to enlist the help of Scotland’s leading Bitcoin expert Dug Campbell, and last week we held our first crypto-flavoured #include2 event in Design Informatics.

#include2, Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh. #include2, Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh.

We were joined not only by Dug, who gave an illuminating introduction to some of the intricacies of Bitcoin, but also Dave Barnes from Royal Bank of Scotland, who with a show and tell approach brought along a physical Bitcoin token and a mining chip.

A physical Bitcoin

A physical Bitcoin

What really interests us about Bitcoin and currencies in general however, is not their technical implementation, but rather the types of exchange mechanisms and how this impacts the perceived and actual value of ‘tokens’ (e.g. conventional paper and coin based currency, to time bank schemes, and virtual currency). For instance, Design Informatics MSc student, Sha Li, has created a SmileBot, a robot that ‘captures’ smiles from nearby people, until it has a set number, say 10, whereby the robot rewards its audience with a little dance. Designed to be used in patient waiting rooms, the SmileBot offers and works within its own ’smile’ economy.

SmileBot, Sha Li.

SmileBot, Sha Li.

At the #include event, Joseph Lindley, a PhD candidate from Lancaster University’s Highwire, brought along his own heating in the form of a Bitcoin mining powered radiator. He explained that, faced with his original noisy mining set up (a daisy-chained rack of USB mining chips), due to the amount of computer fans, that inefficiently heated up a room, he would take a different approach. By coupling the chips to copper heatsinks, passing water-filled pipes over them and connecting to a radiator, the Bitcoin radiator was born.

Bitcoin Radiator, Joseph Lindley.

Bitcoin Radiator, Joseph Lindley.

So, where does this leave us, and what’s with the Jersey Cow? Dug introduced us to ChangeTip, ‘a Love Button for the Internet’, and gifted me a ‘coffee’ via a Bitcoin Tip. After a bit of trial and error, I finally managed to get my own (fraction of a) Bitcoin and return the tip. And the cow? Well, that was a just an unexpected tip!

This week (Tuesday 9th) we’ll be meeting folk in Glasgow for #include3 to explore other aspects of currency, featuring plenty of discussion and a talk by Duncan McCann from the New Economics Foundation (NEF). There’s a few tickets left, so if you’re free on Tuesday event, sign up here.

And if you’d like join us on our currency journey, we’ve got a Design in Action ‘Creative Currencies’ chiasma in February with applications open now: Creative Currencies Chiasma.

RBS Technology Solutions Centre

RBS Technology Solutions Centre

If you’d like to get in touch you can contact us at:
Debbie Maxwell d.maxwell@ed.ac.uk @deb_max
Chris Speed c.speed@ed.ac.uk @chrisspeed

All images: Binbin Yang.