Barbara Hanna – “3d Printing Could Be Not Just a Functional Technology but One That Can Support Communication, Imagination and Expression”

By on March 15th, 2017 in interview


 Barbara Hanna
Barbara Hanna

This article originates from Women In 3D Printing and is part of our effort to support the use of 3D printing technology by women. The article is re-published with permission. 

Barbara is the Founder of Cyant, a startup that connects art and technology, to foster learning, creativity and engagement. Barbara is a Technologist and Entrepreneur passionate about fostering technology that educates, empowers and/or connects individuals. We were lucky enough to have her as a guest speaker for our inaugural Women in 3D Printing meetup earlier this month.

Nora Toure: Barbara, Cyant is about connecting art and technology. The company offers tools and experiences that help your users to make this art and technology connection. Could you explain us how you proceed?

Barbara Hanna: First, Nora, thanks for inviting me to participate in this Forum: it was a pleasure and an honor to be the inaugural speaker for the Meetup.

Technologies such as 3D printing are still not very accessible to most people. To them, a 3D printer is exciting, but they are not sure what to do with it quite yet, how it works, and more importantly how to intuitively connect to it. In addition, an important, and very talked about issue at this time, is this is all the more true for a lot of women and girls. And I have mentioned 3D printing, but this is not the only area. By focusing on the art+technology connection (and I mean arts in the wide sense of the word), Cyant can help address this: the arts offer an inviting, gender neutral, often ludic playground, and provide an essential context for STEM fields.

For example, our first product invites people to do something very simple: drawing and writing. This is something people, from all genders and backgrounds, can easily relate to and typically enjoy doing. The tool turns those drawings and writings into 3D printable models. The models can be printed in a relatively short amount of time, and in a variety of materials. So this tool is particularly conducive to building engaging, interactive and creative experiences in educational settings. Or at events where there is an increasing need to include something fun and engaging for attendees to do at a time where their attention is often grabbed by many external distractions. The experiences can enable meaningful connections and produce tangible outcomes. One example is building a collective artwork that integrates the 3D printed pieces for fundraising. And we are seeing a number of other applications for the tool in education and other domains too.

Nora Toure: Cyant also offers workshop. Why did you decided on this activity?

Barbara Hanna: Yes. There has been a compelling demand and I agree that nothing beats the face-to-face experience, especially with children. And the same way as it is easier to learn to read and write with fun and engaging stories rather than focusing on the basics of the abc, it is easier to engage in a tech workshop if there is a fun project one can work with. Our art-meets-tech focus is perfect and naturally suited for that. The current workshops help participants acquire a level of literacy and/or engagement around technology, 3D printing currently, while being guided through creative and art related activities. Another aspect of these workshops is to encourage teamwork. Ultimately, workshop participants go home with something made, something learned and fun had ☺.

We are going to continue offering workshops at the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA)  in Oakland in the Fall, and are looking to offer or support more events and workshops in the months to come. To stay tuned, readers can visit our website where we will be posting updates, and/or sign up for our email updates.

Nora Toure: Is there anything we can do to help you with those workshops?

Barbara Hanna: As part of this activity, I am currently growing our partnerships and am open to working in new venues. I don’t believe in operating in silos, and it is essential for businesses to seek mutually beneficial ways to partner and work together so we can all provide the best experience for customers, end users and employees. I am interested in working with all types of organization, but I am particularly committed to finding collaborations with other women-led organizations, may it be to work together on workshop offering for girls and women, or to be partners on synergistic projects. I also welcome working with organizations interested in activities that can foster diverse team building. Finally as I mentioned, we are also seeing other areas where our tools could be used. So I invite interested readers to get in touch via the contact form on Cyant’s website.

Nora Toure: I may not be the only one wondering about Cyant’s name origin. Could you let us know why the name “Cyant”?

Barbara Hanna: The name Cyant is itself a story of connections and play on letters. First, art and technology: cyan is a blue-ish color from the CMYK model used in printing and in web technologies, but it is also found referenced in a number of other domains, including art, science and nature. Meanwhile, the t, was short for technologies. This being said, the connection that got me to think about this name in the first place are the letters of the city and state I have particular links to: NY(C), and CA! So I liked that this name inherently embodied this connective essence of the company. And one of the underlying premises of this work is that creative people who can naturally connect the dots between diverse fields of knowledge and know-how will have better economic prospects. So I hope Cyant can help fostering and enabling these “cyantists”.

Nora Toure: You have an extended background in science and technology: you have a Ph.D in Computer Vision, and had quite an experience with science-related companies, from being Technical Lead on several tech-projects to being the CEO of a neurotechnology startup. Is it a lack of art in your past experiences that led you to start your own Art & Tech-related company?

Barbara Hanna: I think there are several parts to answering that question. First, I have always had an interest in the Arts (again in a wide sense), creativity and design. There is certainly a satisfying degree of creativity and design in technology development (e.g. a piece of code can be deemed elegant and beautiful just like a piece of art). However, to quote Steve Jobs’ famous quote which I particularly resonate with: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, […].” Well to reframe this, it is in everyone’s DNA, and mine included. So I felt I wanted to pursue the development of a tech company that was committed to this intersection. I also view 360 degree and creative thinking as essential to recognize, state and solve problems, and I hope that the work Cyant produces in the education domain can encourage that.  A third more practical consideration, particularly when it comes to 3D printing, was our relationship to digital vs physical. There is a lot of emphasis on the digital realm, which I certainly appreciate, but we also live in a sensory world. So I also wanted to work on something creative and fun, in a way that connects back to the physical world, and links to traditional arts that everyone can see, feel and touch. I liked that 3D printing in this context could be not just a functional technology but one that can support communication, imagination and expression.

Nora Toure: You are a French-bor
n woman, who studied in the UK and has an extended work-experience in the US (both on the East and West coasts). As a female technologist, how have these experiences shaped your perspectives?

Barbara Hanna: I have indeed been fortunate to live in these 3 different countries, and in quite different parts of these countries, over the years. And I have been equally lucky to travel to other countries. This has given me a good perspective on three different educational systems. And this has been a tremendous opportunity for recognizing parallels and differences in how people approach all sorts of things, including technology. This type of perspective helps working with a diversity of people, building empathy and intuition, and seeing how connected everything and we indeed all are. So I hope I can bring all these perspectives to bear at Cyant.

Thank you Barbara!

If you’re interested in learning more about Cyant feel free to visit them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

And don’t forget to join the Women in 3D Printing group on LinkedIn, click here to join!

Via Women in 3D Printing