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Fueling Innovation and Collaborative Storytelling

· 4 min read
Bekah Hawrot Weigel
Developer Experience Lead

A couple of years ago, I got to see Neil Gaiman--the English author, creator, and creative genius--live. To say the experience was inspirational would be an understatement. There's something moving about hearing a person share their stories, listening to them read though. There's deeper meaning when you can see their expressions, the ways they move on the stage. You come out of the experience inspired to pursue the things you're passionate about. And it reminded me about an interview he gave a couple of years ago about his experience speaking about science fiction at the first-ever, state-sponsored science fiction convention.

Gaiman asked some of the organizers: "Why are you now in 2007 endorsing a science-fiction convention?" According to Gaiman, the Chinese organizer said, "that the Party had been concerned that while China historically has been a culture of magical and radical invention, right now, they weren’t inventing things." To try to find that inspiration, they'd gone to the United States and "interviewed the people at Google and Apple and Microsoft, and talked to the inventors." What they found out was that all of these inventors had read science fiction when they were young. Science fiction and open source mutually influence and shape each other, creating connections and inspiring innovation. Below you'll find some of those ways.

Open Source Hardware: Bringing Sci-Fi Gadgets to Life

With the advent of open source hardware platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, enthusiasts and inventors can bring these fictional devices to life. From home automation systems to wearable devices, open source hardware provides a platform for collaboration and innovation, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. For example, one group used Arduino to create a real-life version of the lightsaber from Star Wars. The lightsaber is fully functional and can be used to deflect blaster bolts and cut through objects.

Open Source Gaming: Blurring the Lines Between Fiction and Interactive Experiences

Science Fiction has introduced us to worlds we could only imagine, but open source has helped to create a space for us to explore them. Open source gaming platforms like Unity and Unreal Engine have harnessed the imagination and creativity of developers, enabling them to build captivating gaming universes. Through open source collaboration, developers can create games that transport players to extraordinary realms, blurring the boundaries between fiction and interaction. For example, Star Citizen is a space combat simulator currently in development as an OSS project. The game is being created using the Unreal Engine, and one of the most ambitious open source gaming projects ever undertaken, promising to be a truly immersive experience, with players able to explore a vast universe, pilot their own ships, and engage in combat with other players.

Open Source Data Analysis: Unleashing the Power of Big Data

This might not be at the top of your list, but science fiction often presents advanced data analysis and visualization technologies. Open source data analysis tools such as Python's Pandas and R's ggplot2 have revolutionized the field, making complex data manipulation and visualization accessible to all. In the science fiction novel The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney uses a variety of data analysis and visualization tools to survive on Mars. He uses Python's Pandas to clean and organize data, and he uses R's ggplot2 to create visualizations of his data. These tools allow him to make sense of the vast amounts of data and help him to make critical decisions about his survival.

Open Source Soundscapes: Transforming Imaginary Soundtracks into Reality

Music and sound provide depth and development to science fiction worlds. Open source music production software like Ardour and LMMS provide aspiring composers and sound designers with professional-grade tools to create atmospheric and futuristic soundscapes. The TV show The Expanse uses open source soundscaping tools to create realistic soundscapes of space travel. The soundscape helps to immerse the viewer in the world of the show, and it helps to make the space battles feel more real.

The closer science fiction comes to open source, the more opportunities we have to contribute to the new realities that are created. I don't know about you, but that sounds exciting to me. If you want to be inspired by open source projects, check out OpenSauced's insights and check back next week for the last post in the series.