Makers

America’s Greatest Makers: The Next Survivor Might be a Genius

Deb Miller Landau iQ Managing Editor and Contributor

A new multi-platform entertainment extravaganza that includes TV, digital, social and mobile was announced this week at Intel Developer Forum. It will follow the drive and passion of a new wave of inventors, bringing making into the mainstream.

Taking what was traditionally the pursuit of inventors and engineers to the masses, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced an inspiring new television show in his IDF keynote in San Francisco this week. America’s Greatest Makers will catapult the garage and basement tinkerer into the hearts of mainstream America.

Building on the success of last year’s Make it Wearable competition, Krzanich announced a new partnership with Turner Broadcasting System and United Artists Media Group.

America’s Greatest Makers, a reality TV show and multi-platform entertainment extravaganza that will air this spring, pits anyone — from workshop geniuses to mad scientists and teenage wunderkinds — to come up with the next big thing in wearable technology and smart connected devices.

“The wearables ecosystem has been one of the most vibrant areas of computing,” Krzanich said. “We believe the sky’s the limit.”

The show will be produced by United Artists CEO Mark Burnett, the brains and brawn behind reality TV juggernauts like Survivor, Shark Tank, The Apprentice and The Voice. The winning “maker” will earn $1 million in prize money, plus the backing of Intel’s performance technology, resources and partnerships to take a great idea to market.

“People are fascinated with technology,” Burnett said, after his keynote cameo at IDF. “You’d be hard pressed to go out in the street and not find someone with wearable tech or smart connective consumer devices.”

America's greatest makers
United Artists CEO Mark Burnett joined Intel CEO Brian Krzanich onstage at the 2015 Intel Developer Forum.

He said that even though most people don’t understand the nitty-gritty details about how electronics work, they care deeply about how their technology is created because it matters to their everyday lives.

Burnett, of course, is no stranger to telling real-life stories. He has spent the better part of his career evoking the human experience by following the lives of everyday people.

He said that America’s Greatest Makers is an invitation to anyone, whether they’re from East LA, Poughkeepsie or the depths of North Dakota, to bring their ideas to life.

“A good idea is something instinctual, something you feel an emotional connection to,” said Burnett. “We are looking for something new, something that connects emotionally and creates value to people.”

Some 16 million people tuned in online to last year’s Intel Make it Wearable competition, where 2,000 entrants were whittled down to 10. These top 10 finalists all have made headway in bringing their visions to market.

The winner, Team Nixie, created a wrist-wearable camera that flies away, takes a photo and boomerangs back.

“Anyone who takes part in a competition like this needs to know that it takes more than just a great idea,” said Christoph Kohstall.

Kohstall, a former post-doctoral researcher at Stanford, founded Nixie with his partner Jelena Jovanovic, a former manager at Google. The two began the venture working in a backyard shack.

“Building a company involves so many aspects, from having the idea to proving consumer desire and need, raising funding and building a company and culture that can survive,” said Kohstall, adding that taking part in the completion helped them through all the steps, including constant tweaking of the technology.

Thanks to $500,000 in prize money, support from Intel and an aggressive fundraising campaign, Nixie will bring its prototype to market sometime next year.

Contestants from last year’s completion built wearable devices on Intel Edison chip; this year the show contestants will use the Intel Curie platform to create wearable tech and connected devices.

America's greatest makers
The Intel Curie module isn’t much bigger than a pencil eraser but will power the next big thing in wearables and small-connected devices.

The technology, which is small enough to fit into a button, houses the Intel Quark SE system on a chip (SOC) as well as Bluetooth low-energy radio, sensors, battery-charging and pattern-matching capabilities, integrating the power of a full-sized computer into a single chip.

“We want to give people from all walks of life an opportunity that’s not readily available to them,” said Steve Fund, Intel’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We’re giving people — whether they’re from Silicon Valley or small-town Nebraska — an opportunity to work with Intel to bring big ideas to life.”

Fund encourages anyone to submit to the competition, whether it’s a long-ruminated kernel or a fully-fleshed idea.

“There are so many ideas that never get to see the light of day,” he said, emphasizing that Intel can help bring ideas to market. “America’s Greatest Makers is an invitation to unleash the power of invention, innovation and entrepreneurialism.”

Fund’s message to the public: Bring it on.

Like all of Burnett’s shows, America’s Greatest Makers is sure to capture the drama and humanity associated with inventing, where failures are integral to success. “They will hit stumbling blocks,” Burnett said. “That’s all part of the emotional connection.”

Burnett also explained that the name America’s Greatest Makers was intentional. “There’s going to very quickly be China’s Greatest Makers, Australia’s Greatest Makers, Brazil’s Greatest Makers and Britain’s Greatest Makers,” he said.

 

Feature image by Walden Kirsch.

 

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