Project SPACE: The Search for the ultimate workspace experience
On April 1st, 2016 our CEO, Brandon Smith, along with the original 8 members of M33 Labs announced their intention to form a company in front of a small gathering of friends and family at Arizona State University in the Cooley Ballrooms.
At the same time, it was announced that they would be starting consumer development on a project named SPACE. This project would become the cornerstone of M33 Labs, and would lead us to develop 5 prototypes of a smart desk before our announcement of our first consumer ready device, LunaDesk, in late 2017.
Each SPACE version was signed by the members who contributed to it, and each hangs in our workshop to remind us of the hard work it takes to refine a product to be the best that it can be. It also is a nod of the artists of past and present, as it is our firm belief that only when a work has achieved its apex, that an artist should sign their name.
Summer 2014: an idea is born
Our CEO, Brandon Smith, has always been fascinated with technology. Starting in the IT field at just 15 years old, he has also developed an affinity for coming up with technology solutions for problems that exist in the world. It was during a trip from Michigan to Arizona, where he had recently moved, that Brandon began to sketch, as he often does on long plane rides. This particular sketch was based off an idea that he had asked himself many times before, what would a desktop computer look like if it was re-invented for a digital designer. This sketch would become the cornerstone of the entire SPACE project, as it featured an all in one computer desk design with a touchscreen interface.
Fall 2014: The MAKE Club
Soon after arriving back home, Brandon decided to enroll himself at Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus. Upon arriving, he struggled to meet friends and soon starting seeking out clubs and networking events to attend.
One such club was the MAKE Club, a failing maker-based organization that was based in the ASU Startup Labs. The current president of the club at the time was graduating, and wanted little to do with it. After two meetings he asked Brandon if he wanted to take the reins, seeing his passion for the ideals of making and tinkering. Brandon accepted, and soon began transforming the MAKE club into one of ASU Polytechnic's fastest growing and most important organizations. It was during this time that Brandon would mentor students on their ideas, and challenge them to MAKE them happen.
The time spent in the MAKE Club become invaluable later on, as it was where Brandon learned the skills he would later need to build his ideas. He leaned CNC machining, laser cutting, metal cutting, as well as many more skills.
It was also during this time that he met Brandon Rogers, who would become one of the first co-founding members of M33 Labs.
Spring 2015: the First 3D Model
Brandon did not revisit the sketch he had made for several months, until one particular night he had noticed it in a pile of papers on his desk in his bedroom. While enjoying a bottle of wine he began to look it over and muse about it. It was then that he made a crucial phone call.Ignoring the fact that it was nearly 3AM in Michigan at the time, he called an old friend of his named Lorenzo Arce, an engineer at Kettering University. Lorenzo picked up and after much angst about being called at 3AM, he was convinced to help Brandon create a 3D model of the sketch in question.
The model would become the blueprints on which the whole SPACE Project would be based, and can be seen below:
Summer 2015: The Early Versions
Soon after the creation of the first 3D model Brandon realized that it was too complex to make a reality with his own skills. He also realized that since he himself was not a practiced designer, it would be a good idea to get feedback on the design to use to ensure that it followed the rules for good design.
It was during this time he decided to take a trip back to Michigan for a month to seek design inspiration on materials, as well as processes to make his idea into a reality. He started looking heavily at well designed machines, the most popular of which were cars such as the Mercedes SL 63. Paying close attention to details such as the soft leather and the bold colors, Brandon soon commissioned an old friend, up and coming designer Brandon Leathead, to draft the first pencil drawings of a buildable version of the desk. These early sketches utilized these same materials to maximize comfort, style and function.
Upon returning to Arizona after his one month trip, Brandon got right to work on building his newly designed desk. He utilized the startup Labs at ASU Polytechnic to CNC pieces out of wood, and learned how to assemble them. Early versions were hand built, and did not feature any outer material in an attempt to nail down the frame design.
Soon after the completion of Version 1.0, Brandon began work on Version 2.0. Brandon Rogers, having returned to the Polytechnic Campus for the summer, ran into Brandon Smith in the metal cutting labs. Seeing that he needed some help, he decided to join in lending a hand. Little did he know this would be the start of their journey together in building the first versions of SPACE. Version 2.0 was similar to Version 1.0 in the sense that it was a frame prototype, and did not have the facia of a fully assembled product.
After completing version 2.0, the duo started work on bringing the whole design together with Version 3.0, the very first complete prototype of the future smart desk.
Fall 2015: Version 3.0
Version 3.0 was a daunting task. A first complete model that could be used for testing. It required advanced engineering skills beyond that capable of the two Brandons. To solve this problem, Brandon Smith recruited someone who attended a get together at the Start-Up Village located on the ASU Polytechnic Campus. That person was Omar Akasheh, one of the original co-founders of M33 Labs and a brilliant engineer who would make this endeavor possible. Having a specialty in mechanical engineering, he helped solve some of the complex engineering challenges that Version 3.0 posed, and by October 2015, they had build it. It was the first version of a desk that contained all of the electronics in a fully enclosed package, and featured a touchscreen as its main input device. It was rough in terms of design, but the idea was complete enough to know that they were on the verge of something big.
Spring 2016: Version 4.0, SPACE
The first desk to bear the SPACE badge was Version 4.0, and was an entire design overhaul. Sensing that they needed to take a different, more industrial, direction for the project Brandon did something unconventional. He knew a design school existed at ASU on the Tempe Campus, but had other knowledge of how to reach someone there. So on a Friday evening after his last final, be boarded the last inter-campus shuttle to Tempe and snuck into Herberger Institute of Design. It would be here that he would meet and recruit not one, but three designers to re-invent the desk.
Version 4.0's design overhaul was a total, gone was the leather and wood replaced by soft touch metal and stylistic curves. It was the very definition of modern design, with inspiration from luxury car grills, Dieter Rams radio from the 1950's, and even Apple's Mac Pro from the year 2010. It marked a turning point in M33 Labs Design, and become the foundation for the desk as it stands today.
During this time M33 Labs grew exponentially, adding to the already growing number of talented people working there. Among these were individuals specialized in Business, Marketing and Engineering. All of these members contributed to the growth of Version 4.0, and contributed to taking M33 Labs from a project, to a full fledged startup.
On April 1st, 2016 Brandon introduced SPACE to the world at a keynote event at the Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus.
Spring 2017: Blast Off
In early January 2017 The M33 Labs Team, now comprised of over a dozen members who were all specialist in their fields, gathered for their annual retreat in northern Arizona. While there they discussed where to take the SPACE project, and how to grow from a newly formed startup into a full fledged business.
Among these topics was the unveiling of the newest design for SPACE, Version 5.0 This would become the final version of the desk bearing the SPACE logo, and would become the standard that M33 Labs Would strive to achieve in all of their products. It was a more refined design than Version 4.0, adding more perforated metal and sleeker material. It also introduced two new colors, SPACE Grey, and Champagne.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of SPACE is the design standard it set for a desk and desktop computer. Its refined and smaller handle allowed it to be picked right up from the box, and folding legs allowed it to be setup in just under 5 minutes. SPACE Version 5.0 also introduced the touch panel in place of the existing control panel that housed the power button and usb ports. Pop-ups were also introduced to allow for multiple monitors while minimizing cable clutter.
The last SPACE was built in October 2017, It would be replaced by M33 Labs latest product, LunaDesk, in January 2018.