Skylar Tibbits

Principle and founder, SJET
Boston, MA, United States

About Skylar

Bio

SKYLAR TIBBITS is a trained Architect, Designer and Computer Scientist whose research currently focuses on developing self-assembly technologies for large-scale structures in our physical environment. Skylar graduated from Philadelphia University with a 5 yr. Bachelor of Architecture degree and minor in experimental computation. Continuing his education at MIT, he received a Masters of Science in Design + Computation and a Masters of Science in Computer Science.

Skylar is currently a lecturer in MIT's Department of Architecture, teaching graduate and undergraduate design studios and co-teaching How to Make (Almost) Anything, a seminar at MIT's Media Lab. Skylar was recently awarded a TED2012 Senior Fellowship, a TED2011 Fellowship and has been named a Revolutionary Mind in SEED Magazine's 2008 Design Issue. His previous work experience includes: Zaha Hadid Architects, Asymptote Architecture, SKIII Space Variations and Point b Design. Skylar has exhibited work at a number of venues around the world including: the Guggenheim Museum NY and the Beijing Biennale, lectured at MoMA and SEED Media Group's MIND08 Conference, Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Institute for Computational Design in Stuttgart and The Center for Architecture NY. He has been published in numerous articles and built large-scale installations around the world from Paris, Calgary, NY to Frankfurt and MIT. As a guest critic, Skylar has visited a range of schools from the University of Pennsylvania, Pratt Institute and Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

Skylar Tibbits is the founder and principal of SJET LLC. Started in 2007 as platform for experimental computation + design, SJET has grown into a multidisciplinary research based practice crossing disciplines from architecture + design, fabrication, computer science to robotics.

Skylar has collaborated with a number of influential people over the years including: Neil Gershenfeld and The Center for Bits and Atoms, Erik and Marty Demaine at MIT, Adam Bly at SEED Media Group and Marc Fornes of THEVERYMANY. In 2007, Skylar Tibbits and Marc Fornes co-curated Scriptedbypurpose, the first exhibition focused exclusively on scripted processes within design.

SJET is a direct result of an endless search for more...

Languages

English

TED Conferences

TED Fellows Retreat 2013, TED2013, TEDGlobal 2012, TED2012, TED2011

An idea worth spreading

The goal of my research is to design and deploy systems of self-assembly through materially encoded assembly instructions on large-scales (large number of parts or large scale-lengths). These systems are to be deployed on complex structures in our built environment – machines, buildings and infrastructure – offering a new paradigm of "computing through construction" – demonstrating self-assembly and reconfiguration through passive mechanisms.

I build prototypic structures that explore systems from 12’ long robotic folding chains, 20’ human-powered folding chains, NAND gate digital logic building components and 75’ encoded tent pole strand structures. Each system explores self-assembly through encoded folding sequences, much like our Ribosome’s decoding of RNA into fold sequences of complex proteins. This work imagines a world of encoded material parts that contain assembly instructions, actively aiding the user in quickly and accurately constructing complex structures.

I'm passionate about

Developing self-assembly technologies for large-scale structures by embedding assembly instructions directly into our material parts.

Comments & conversations

111213
Skylar Tibbits
Posted almost 3 years ago
Skylar Tibbits: Can we make things that make themselves?
James, thanks for your comment - wonderful idea! There is a lot of research going on about self-assembly design at the micro scale, specially relating to DNA origami - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_origami You should also look at Rachel Amstrong's TED talk on Architecture that Repairs Itself - http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/rachel_armstrong_architecture_that_repairs_itself.html I usually work with macro-scale structures (mostly b/c of my background in architecture) - this usually poses a problem with relation to the force needed to get a system from one point to another or the information needed to instruct the system when/how to get there. It is very interesting to think about these systems growing from the ground up - I'm beginning to team up with scientists working on very similar self-assembly systems for micro-scale scenarios. Will be exciting to see the results! Very interesting idea - I'm sure there will be more from this direction!
111213
Skylar Tibbits
Posted almost 3 years ago
Skylar Tibbits: Can we make things that make themselves?
This is a wonderful idea! I've thought about a structural harness/connection that can adapt between rigid and flexible states based on significant shaking of the ground. This could be connected between beams/columns or exterior cladding etc and allow for multiple states based on the ground condition. Embedding these types of systems directly into construction materials is also a great idea! We would need to resolve the flexibility of the actual material that surrounds the dynamic "fiber" (i.e. concrete would crack etc) but you could imaging some type of discrete elements of concrete that have a smart hinge between them and the dynamic fiber running throughout. Wonderful - Thanks!
111213
Skylar Tibbits
Posted almost 3 years ago
Skylar Tibbits: Can we make things that make themselves?
Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments! The work is really focused on self-assembly, a better title (one that I used for my TEDxBoston talk) might be “When things build themselves” rather than implying that they “make” themselves it should be emphasized that they can assemble or BUILD themselves. These three projects attempted to embed enough information within the materials such that the chain of units could be automatically constructed. The biased chains project used stochastic energy from the user’s shaking; this energy then set all of the units into their programmed state and self-assembled the desired global configuration. The Logic Matter units compute next moves and instruct the user where to place future objects in order to build desired shapes, store information, become a counter etc etc. The reconfigurable robots are the most obviously self-reconfiguring and maybe one of the best examples. The question then is about scalability, errors/failure in the system, and the energy needed to get a system from point A to point B. These prototypes hopefully showed the potentials/possibilities for creating systems that design around energy and programmable states to create automated assembly. This is extremely similar to many biological processes and can hopefully take cues to scale up and challenge the way we make thing at larger scales. We are certainly far from realizing the full potential of these systems or imagining the true implications – but we are hopefully moving in the right direction. I’m very much looking to team up with industries and find larger applications to test these systems! Thanks again! Let the automation being!
111213
Skylar Tibbits
Posted almost 3 years ago
Skylar Tibbits: Can we make things that make themselves?
Thanks for your comments! Yes - the reprap is a great project, however it focuses on a different approach to the idea of self-replication – i.e. the printer can make many of the parts needed to build a copy. I described an approach where information is embedded in the materials and actually informs a person/machine of how to build anther one. This does not produce the parts or even move the materials (although it potentially could), rather, it instructs someone HOW to build another copy, something I am calling “self-guided-replication.” Again, this is a topic that I hope to further develop.
111213
Skylar Tibbits
Posted almost 3 years ago
Skylar Tibbits: Can we make things that make themselves?
Thank you for the comments! Yes - unfortunately the presentation was extremely short and difficult to pack in many of the details or further examples, wish I had more time and more to show! With that being said, this is certainly something that I am working towards and it’s at very early stages. Hopefully, I've given a small glimpse at the bigger vision of self-assembly (self-replication is something I hope to approach in the near future but not something I have focused on as of yet - only one of the prototypes even comes close to the idea). Penrose's work on self-reproducing machines is a great example of truly self-replicating systems (one of the only synthetic examples I have seen). - http://vimeo.com/10298933