Inside Barcelona's Museum of Ideas and Inventions (photos)
An eight-year-old MIBA regular, after high-fiving the clerk, plays with the "Useless Machine," calling it "La cosa mas estupida del mundo" ("The stupidest thing in the world"), while explaining to anyone who'll listen how it works and expertly taking it apart to reveal the mechanism and battery that makes the box open and close at the flick of a switch.
This MIBA best-seller was invented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's artificial intelligence laboratory co-founder Marvin Minsky in 1952 in response to being asked to create the "ultimate machine." According to Torres, when sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke saw the machine, he was fascinated by it. "There is something unspeakably sinister about a machine that does nothing -- absolutely nothing -- except switch itself off," wrote Clark.
Photo: Jennifer K. RigginsThis post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
MIBA is the first museum in the world in which you can pay by how much time you've spent there. In afternoons, when they leave, visitors can pay 20 cents a minute up to the 8 euros normal entrance fee. Torres says the University of Zurich is doing a study on the business model. "There's a lot of people who enter the Louvre just to see the Mona Lisa," he said, convinced his is the logical business model for most museums to try.
Another way in which MIBA stands out is that it is 100 percent privately funded -- an essentially unheard-of idea in Spain. "The country is so poor," Torres says, that he felt he couldn't take money from the government, but only give back to the community. Three years ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, Torres had found the museum's future spot, but didn't have a penny to invest in it. He presented the creativity of the project to 24 banks, and four loaned him hundreds of thousands of euros based solely on his word. Later, when the loan ran out halfway through the project's completion, two of his friends became investors, too.
Based on the idea of movie theaters making more profit off of popcorn than the movie ticket, Torres had this two-euro-a-use hurricane simulator flown from the U.S. -- to provide another unique experience while striving for the museum to finally break even.This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
The entrance of the museum is lined with locally and internationally designed inventions for sale, each paired with the story of the inventor and inventions. "I wanted a place where independent inventors can show and sell their pieces. You go to El Corte Ingles and they won't even look at you," said Torres, speaking of Spain's largest and omnipresent department store. "You go to a little shop and they won't even hear you."
Some inventors even drop in from the neighborhood trying to sell their wares. "Un Drap" is an apron made out of a tea towel, invented by an elderly women who lives around the corner.
"We think things and we just try them," says Torres, who, a la Google's headquarters, had a spiral slide installed between the museum's two floors.This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
Everything in MIBA is out of the ordinary, and that includes the restrooms. Torres eagerly showed off what he calls the only fully soundproof bathroom, which avoids moments of awkwardness, while reminding people not to be embarrassed about anything. "Don't be afraid of showing people your ideas" is written on the mirrors. In addition, as soon as you sit on the toilet or stand near the urinal, a video comes on featuring three Catalan comedians making fun of you as you "take a leak."
"It's not just about displaying inventions but encouraging them," Torres said, which is why he founded Mini MIBA, which has each visitor aged six to 12 draw and give a description of an idea for an invention. Each month, the MIBA board members, along with the Spanish patent office and a team of designers choose one design out of about 400, "and we make your invention come true!" as the flier reads.
Torres quoted the adage, "A creative person is a kid that has been saved." A large section of the basement is dedicated to displaying the 30 winners of Mini MIBA. The museum visitors are free to test out the "Swiss Army knife" for colored pencils with sharpener; the hairbrush sewn into a glove imagined by two six-year-olds; and "Blue not Red" an anti-accident knife that always lands on its rubber end.This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
Marc and Ferran Cardelus, aged ten and 12, respectively, designed IronTxut after never being able to properly play in the dress shoes they wore to school. These silicon protectors slide over the tip of the shoes, so they can play football at recess without incurring the wrath of their parents at another pair of ruined penny loafers. Torres is confident the brothers could easily sell their patent to Nike.This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
Torres went ahead and entered the first generation of Mini MIBA winners into the British Invention Show, judged as if they were adults.
The museum is just the tip of the invention and idea iceberg for Torres. The self-proclaimed renaissance man is planning to hold an Invention Camp in Summer 2014, inside a castle, to not only teach invention ideas, but to create well-rounded individuals, immersed in all creative fields like art, music and sports.
The mantra of MIBA is "Se puede, se puede" ("You can, you can").
Torres is an inventor himself. One of his most interesting inventions, the Human-Powered Vending Machine, was featured as one of Time magazine's top 50 inventions in 2009. Instead of dropping in coins for your favorite junk food, you must pedal off the necessary calories before receiving the snack. Torres has sent the plans for it to Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York who is well-known for his push for a health-conscious city.This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
<p>To stress the museum's theme of making inventing fun, Torres has also put on display what he thinks are some of the sillier of his inventions, including this Plant-o-Matic, which is a plant that wheels itself around looking for sunlight, and, in honor of Spain's more famous invention -- the mop -- he's created one with a microphone built into the handle.</p>