New software tools and interfaces allow makers to connect their products to the Internet and begin experimenting with various types of interactive experiences.
Give a man a fish. Teach a man to fish. Feed vs. facilitate. It is often said that giving someone the skills to do something is a much higher calling than simply doing it for them. The maker movement has followed a middle path, encouraging a community of innovation through accessible resources and shared inspiration.
As Jay Melican of Intel Labs put it: “In the last few years, we have slowly exposed people to tools that lower the barrier to entry for anyone interested in making things, whether they’re art students or design students or engineering students or even entrepreneurs.” In other words, the fishing rod is within reach of the curious angler — the rest is up to him.
This is a particularly appropriate metaphor for the recent release of software and tools that make it easier for makers to connect objects to the Internet and add digital functionality to their projects. Even without formal coding skills, innovators and DIYers are tapping into the growing consumer demand for interactive features thanks to a trend we’re calling Intuitive Programming.
In a recent report on the Internet of Things, Cisco IBSG estimated that by 2020, over 50 billion “people, processes, data and things” will be connected to the Internet, yielding more than $14 trillion in revenue for companies and industries worldwide. How can makers develop products that tap the growing IoT market without programming skills?
New York-based Bug Labs developed a platform that allows anyone to easily pull in information from connected devices and compile the data for consideration, manipulation and consumption. Through their Dweet.io service, you can connect any web-enabled device and collect short reports (called “dweets”) regarding activity related to temperature, power consumption, location or any other custom criteria you set.
These dweets can then be arrayed on their Freeboard dashboard where you can see all the streams of information in one place. Thanks to readily available kits and add-on sensors, virtually anything can be connected to the Internet, which means that almost anything can dweet. On their site, Bug Labs demonstrates how their tools enable users to capture and report a variety of data with a distillery, networks of mobile air quality monitors and a range of residential sensors.
Though Arduino is loved by many for the way even novice hardware geeks can build their own DIY devices, the need to buy and add additional shields for every functionality (like Internet connectivity) can make things complicated and expensive during the prototyping stage. Enter 1Sheeld — a single add-on board that brings the power of your Android device to any Arduino project.
Gyroscopes, microphones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, accelerometers — all of these are already part of your smartphone, and with 1Sheeld, makers can add these functions to their latest device for testing and experimentation without having to build them from scratch. Your phone or tablet communicates with the 1Sheeld board via Bluetooth signal and the mobile app allows you to select from a list of your phone’s inputs and outputs to drive your fledgling creation. Even on/off buttons and game pad-style controllers can be recreated using the device’s touchscreen.
For makers who have an idea for the next killer app but lack the programming skills to build it themselves, United Kingdom-based startup Marvel has developed software to let you quickly prototype and share a tappable demo of your big idea — no code required. With the free Marvel app, you can take sketches, wireframes or Photoshop files and layer in ‘hotspots’ that work just like a clickable button to open new pages and add transitions between pages.
Any jpeg, gif, psd or png file becomes a screen in your app and can be linked to others via the hotspots. Even those doodles on the back of a cocktail napkin can be photographed via your device and instantly uploaded to become a new page in your creation.
Once you have your prototype looking and working the way you want, Marvel generates a mobile-friendly URL so you can share it with clients, friends or co-designers. And because the whole process is built on top of Dropbox, any changes you make automatically update the prototype for everyone.
The maker mentality extends to every type and style of creation. The community is unified in its commitment to seeing that anyone can grab ahold of a project and get started. With the help of specialized tools and resources, DIYers are tackling new kinds of digital innovation without having to write a single line of code. Give a maker Intuitive Programming, and his creative spirit will be well fed indeed.
Editor’s note: The ‘Maker’s Manual‘ 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. The 10-week series from PSFK and iQ by Intel explores trends and features interviews with artists, inventors and entrepreneurs who are turning their ideas and dreams into reality.