Maker Movement Mania

Maker Faire 2014: The Greatest Internet of Things Show on Earth

Maker Faire sign

Mechanic giraffes, a 3D-printed car, trips to mars and humanoid robots at Maker Fair NY 2014 demonstrate how the Maker Movement is inspiring all ages.

It’s not your father’s Internet of Things. What came together — through the laws of physics or theories of chaos — at the Maker Faire in New York this past weekend might have seemed like a circus, but for many it was a place where the maker movement took a leap ahead.

People of MakerFaire collage

Building electronics that work on the Internet is no longer something limited to professionals and seasoned DIYers. New technologies such as Intel Edison, Intel Galileo and Connect Anything open-source software are allowing novices to become inventors of devices that bridge computing, Internet of Things, cloud computing and even wearables.

This collection of computing hardware and software is becoming more affordable and easier to use, allowing almost anyone to become a maker. Tools used by well known product makers are increasingly available to students, hobbyists and almost anyone with an idea and urge to fiddle with electronics.

Access to these technologies can be traced to the rapid rise of the open-design movement, which is defined as the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information.

3D printing sparked some of the best conversations during the event, especially around the 3D-printed car by Jay Rodgers, founder and CEO of Local Motors, which is a micro-factory for makers who want to work with others to create innovations for automobiles.

3D-printed car

“We look the entire open-hardware movement and maker movement.” said Rogers. But Local Motors has it’s own unique twist. “TechShop is a place where you can pay a monthly fee and work on anything you want, keeping it a secret or making it as public as you want,” explained Rogers. “Local Motors is different than that. It is still a collaborative makerspace, but it is free for people to use but they need to work on vehicle innovations and openly share them.”

At Maker Faire, attendees saw the continuing evolution of 3-D printed robots, which are attracting even more attention because consumers can now create their own. The first robot kit modeled after Jimmy the Robot became available for sale at the event.

3D-printed robots

Modeled after Jimmy, the HR-OSI Humanoid Endoskeleton with Intel Edison Inside now sells for $1,600. An earlier version of Jimmy used an Intel Core i5 processor and came with a $15,000 price tag. These 3D-printed humanoid robots are walking, talking Internet of Things.

Even if a 3D printer doesn’t become ubiquitous in the average family home, the tool can be a game changer for businesses big or small, said Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and the author of “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution,” in an interview with Public Radio International.

“[Getting] from idea to prototype used to be super hard,” Anderson said. “It used to require machine skills and expensive equipment, and now it really is no more complicated than a regular paper printer.”

3D printer

Both amateur and professional makers are exploring space. NASA launched the Mars Balance Mass Challenge to encourage participation in future Mars missions, as well as a citizen science a companion website, NASAsolve. It’s no wonder more people are exploring space using spacecraft they create with their bare hands. While there were some intellectual property concerns expressed at Maker Faire, the maker movement encourages cooperation and collaboration.

Dale Dougherty

“Making is a social activity, not just something you go off and do on your own,” said Dale Dougherty, CEO and founder of Maker Media, which puts on the Maker Faire.

“We’re all makers,” he said in an earlier interview with iQ. “I don’t know where that comes from but it seems to be a very fundamental human quality. If we don’t develop it, we’ll lose it. That’s what I see happening today. We have the opportunity to develop this and gain the opportunities that come through making.”

Dougherty said that when Maker Faire first started in 2006, there were 200 exhibits. This year’s Maker Faire NYC had 1000 maker exhibits. One of his top concerns is that while Make magazine and Maker Faires can help distribute technology kits, more needs to be done to combat what he called “the Monday Problem.” This is what happens after people return home from a Maker Faire and put aside their new-found interest or don’t have makerspaces in their local communities.

Maker Faire logo GIF

Dougherty encourages innovators to keep plugging away and keep sharing their passion and knowledge with children. “Engaging [children] in the physical world and with physical things is really important,” he said. It can lead them to new, satisfying discoveries that just might change the world. One of those interesting creations was by littleBits, which won an Editor’s Choice blue ribbon for their color-coded, modular circuit designs. It allows everyday objects, such as fans or doorbells, to connect to smartphone apps so homeowners can turn things on and off while away from home. The technology can also send an alert whenever the doorbell rings. From Nova Labs, Bob Coggeshall’s Raspberry Pi Teletype won an Editor’s Choice award. The past-meets-present creation allows a tablet or computer keyboard to wirelessly interface with a 60s-era teletype machine. The smartphone or tablet-app controlled robot ball Go Sphere, a favorite for Maker Faire goers, was on the scene. In addition to the popular ball, Go Sphere showed their new dual-wheeled device Ollie, which spins, flips and can reach speeds of up to 14 mph (6 m/s). These are great fun, and good toys to introduce kids to the world of robots.

Ollie and Go Sphere

The zaniness often followed people around in the form of a giant robot giraffe. Lindsay Lawler, maker of the crowd-pleasing Electric Giraffe robot, took time out to ponder the new functions Intel Edison technology might bring to his creation.

Intel Edison board

Looking to connect with makers after the Maker Faire? Step Inside the Blue, an online community for makers working on Intel Galileo technology-based projects. Also, check out the “Maker’s Manual.” Its spotlights the do-it-yourself Maker Movement and how new computing technologies are helping democratize the creation of things once limited to craftsmen and professionals.

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