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Scribit's history: a peek behind the curtain

Today we draw the curtain and look inside Scribit’s history

Scribit, a young and promising start-up, we are based in the very heart of Turin, Italy. The team has just recently celebrated the first birthday of the write&erase robot. For a year’s time we have managed to raise over USD 2.4 million, become one of Kickstarter’s 150 most successful campaigns of all times, score a Red Dot award, stole the hearts of visitors and media at CES, Las Vegas and the main point: bring Scribit from crowdfunding to production.

Scribit’s story and how we came up with the idea

Scribit comes with some pretty impressive credentials. It was originally designed as a concept by the influential Carlo Ratti - an architect and engineer by training, Carlo teaches at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he directs the Senseable City Lab. He has been included in Blueprint Magazine’s “25 People who will Change the World of Design” and in Wired Magazine’s “Smart List: 50 people who will change the world.” Ratti showcased the idea back in 2015 for an installation he designed in Milan.

The dream of a portable robot that anyone could install in their home or office had appeal that extended way beyond a single art exhibition. That’s what was proven when Scribit landed on Kikstarter in June 2018, and racked up a sum exceeding way and again the stated goal. Scribit, comes from a long investigation of writing machines developed at Carlo Ratti Associati’s (CRA) practice. This includes the installation OSARCH at the 2011 Istanbul Design Biennale, the façade of the Future Food District at Milan’s World Expo 2015 (selected by Guinness World Records as the largest image ever plotted) – and, more recently, UFO-Urban Flying Opera, a project in which a fleet of painting drones is employed to draw a collectively-sourced image.

Admittedly, the idea is not new, but before us nobody developed the concept into a finished product. With the indispensable help from our umbrella company, Makr Shakr Srl, leaded by Emanuele Rossetti who has a strong track record in developing, structuring and executing big projects in public organizations (head of Overlay department for the Torino Organizing Committee for the XX Winter Olympic Games, CEO of Nussli Italia, etc.), a team was appointed to bring the project to life. At that point, Andrea Bulgarelli and Andrea Baldereschi, currently Scribit’s CTO and CMO, were having their own start-up experience as foundling partners at Remidi.

Having based their future strategy for Scribit on the previously acquired knowledge in product design, engineering and marketing, Baldereschi and Bulgarelli took the decision to initiate the project as a crowdfunding campaign - as they viewed it, the best suited way to understand the market.

Designing, prototyping and manufacturing

Scribit’s CTO, Andrea Bulgarelli, started working on the project in September 2017. His main preoccupation initially was to explore the idea of incorporation of all the features normal vertical plotters have, but combined in one product. Primarily, the innovation was in moving the motors from external hardware to central one - the main body of Scribit. But in fact what is Scribit? It is a robot which draws on wall, glass or white board and is capable to erase its drawings afterwards. Simple as it might seem, the effort to make the prototype was enormous, for various reasons. Most significantly, upgrading on the mono color option, the idea of multiple colors was introduced. There are 4 markers that must automatically start working according to the colors of the drawing. A solution was found - a sort of a gun drum (desmodromic mechanism) in which the markers rotate and then a patent was filed. 

Another pivotal moment was to decide on a solution for Scribit to “fight gravity”, hanging on the wall on “invisible wires”. We found an ultra-strong technical fiber thread inspired by Dyneema, used in sports - from kitesurfing to deep-sea fishing, perfect for the purpose. The team was determined to use outstandingly high-quality components and materials so we distinguish ourselves from potential competitors. An example for that is Scribit’s magnesium chassis, material that allow us to obtain the best compromise between weight and resistance, compared to plastic and aluminum. The spiral cable is another example. As our customers are to put Scribit on the walls of theirs houses, offices, etc., we wanted that the robot be aesthetically pleasing, apart from functional. 

Scribit Erasable Markers

A big part of the overall product experience, the Scribit Erasable Markers turned out to be quite a challenge. Continuously searching for pens with reliable enough performance and not satisfied with the possible options, we decided to actually create our own markers. That’s how the Scribit Erasable Markers were brought to life. The challenging part was that the robot must be able to delete what it drew. To that end we found a special type of ink that disappears  with heat by transforming the pigment from colored to transparent as soon as the temperature reaches 55 ° C. But how to raise the temperature of the drawing surface to 55 degrees? The solution that Andrea Bulgarelli and his team found was the use of a ceramic disk with a low-consumption electric heater mounted directly on the chassis.

The launching of Scribit

Initially Scribit was financed by our partners CRA (Carlo Ratti Associati), and our umbrella company Makr Shakr Srl - both, established companies with track record in design, architecture and robotic fields. Their help aided the successful initial take-off of Scribit. Our ambitious goal however was to create a community of people sharing our passion for innovation and embracing the idea of Scribit and what it stands for, to keep them informed and involved, so on the day of the launch of the robot on Kickstarter, they are ready and willing to support us.

Scribit has debuted with flying colours indeed - in the first 60 mins the campaign it raised USD 50.000, in 24 hours - USD 180.000. In the end of our Kickstarter campaign the sum total raised was exceeding USD 1.6 million, ranking Scribit’s campaign among Kickstarter’s 150 most successful campaigns ever. Upon finalizing it, we saw Indiegogo with their InDemand platform as a natural continuation to popularizing Scribit and cultivating a community of very involved backers.

The Scribit App

Citing Scribit’s inventor – the robot functions as a Spotify for artworks. Scribit offers the users access to a broad range of digital content, structured around mini Apps. In this global marketplace, people, businesses or institutions – from artists, to museums, to media organizations - can develop and upload any type of content. Especially important is the role of the collaborating artists. They are empowered to use our App as an online mini gallery for their works, which provides them with exposure throughout the whole Scribit community.

How does the future look like?

The path ahead of Scribit looks at times challenging, but without the shadow of a doubt very xciting. Our short term goal is to deliver over 7.000 robots to their owners and understand their experience with it. To improve the performance via firmwares where needed is the long term one, and while doing so, to expand our markets, stepping on new ones and being a recognized presence there.

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