For a while now, web developers have been mixing and matching web services such as Google Earth and Yahoo Weather to create mash-ups that perform useful new functions. Likewise, programmers have grown adept at tweaking the code used by open-source software programs. The result in both instances has been unique applications the developers of the original technology likely never dreamed of. US start-up Bug Labs wants to harness some of that same creativity by enabling tech-savvy do-it-yourselfers to create their own mobile devices. The company has designed several basic hardware modules that snap together like building blocks to perform whatever mobile function their owners can think of. “There are so many great gadget ideas that haven’t been thought of yet,” the founders note. “We want to unlock and inspire the discovery and creation of as many of these devices as possible.” Besides letting them add whatever they want, the snap-together components also let consumers leave out what they don’t want, which is a far cry from many pre-packaged mobile phones and PDAs that come crammed with features their buyers have no use for. How it works? Would-be product designers start with Bug Labs’ basic module—in essence, a Linux-based mobile computer. Then, they add other modules to give the basic device fresh capabilities. Want a camera that tags photos with a GPS-derived location and then uploads them to the web? All it takes is fitting the necessary components together. The software to run the device is also modular, though customizing it may require some minor coding. Bug Labs aims to start selling both the basic module and the first four add-ons (GPS, digital camera/videocam, colour LCD touchscreen and an accelerometer/motion sensor) by the end of 2007. Gadgets built with Bug Lab’s block-like components may not satisfy those who lust after branded mobile devices poured into seamlessly sleek designs. It will, however, appeal to people who enjoy making things,* and like having control over elements of a product’s design. Whether or not the component approach succeeds with mobile devices, plenty of other manufactured products would do well to study the concept and see if they can make their own products modular and stackable. Let them build it, and they will come! 😉 Spotted by: Trine Plambech * More on MIY | Make it Yourself in trendwatching.com’s latest briefing, which highlights 8 important consumer trends for 2008.