Tag Archives: Chris Anderson

Hack the world: How the Maker Movement is impacting innovation

In March 2011, an earthquake and following tsunami rocked Japan, culminating in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. While the government focused on stabilizing the situation, the people of Japan were terrified of radiation, unaware whether it was safe for their families to stay in their homes.

(Source: Sean Bonner)

(Source: Sean Bonner)

A group of Makers out of Tokyo Hackerspace found a quick solution to lack of information by building a cheap and easy-to-use pocket radiation detector using an Arduino (a pint-size computer that’s relatively easy for anyone to program). They began making them, and most importantly, sharing the instructions online for anyone to reproduce. Through a partnership with Safecast, they were able to get the radiation data off of people’s phones and onto an online platform. Within a month, thousands of data points had been picked up, and people could determine whether they should evacuate. Even today, people all over the world are building these radiation detectors, iterating on the original design for new purposes. Fikra Space, a hacker group in Baghdad, has amended the design to track Depleted Uranium pollution in their region.

I use this anecdote as an example frequently as a glimpse into the power of the Maker Movement. A term that’s been widely popularized by technologists as of late, Makers are not necessarily persons with huge engineering prowess. Neither are they hackers with malicious intent. Instead, the term Maker defines a movement combining simple technology with the right culture of innovation and collaboration, to have impact at a scale that most startup founders, corporate innovators, and city legislatures only dream of.

What is a Maker?

Makers represent a subculture of tinkerers, artists, and engineers. It’s a culture that is akin to punks and Goths – it represents not just a style, but a lifestyle. It has crossed decades and countries effortlessly. It is an ethos: a fundamental belief that the world is made better by building, and taking things apart.

(Source: Kyle Cothern)

(Source: Kyle Cothern)

Makers thrive on several things:

1. Finding novel applications of existing technology

They are interested in breaking or hacking things to make them better, more efficient, or just more fun. ArcAttack is a band of musicians using massive Tesla Coils, alongside live and robotic musicians to create a spectacular show of musical prowess and technological innovation. Anouk Wipprecht, fashion designer and former Autodesk Artists in Residence created a Faraday Cage dress for this past Maker Faire in San Mateo, and people watched in awe as she performed alongside ArcAttack as bolts of lightning struck her on all sides without doing any harm.

2. Exploring the intersections between seemingly separate domains

Because the barrier-to-entry to be a Maker is so low (read: nonexistent), new domains of expertise and collaborations are the process on which they thrive. 3D printers, once an expensive technology allowed for the elite few companies that required them and those who knew how to operate them, is now at a price point and skill level that many can afford. Similarly, this technology is being used for everything from printing clothing to live organs and skin. The opportunities are endless.

3. Curiosity and voracious appetite for continued education and Do-It-Yourself

Why buy something when you can build it? Why not learn how to solder? (Think of the possibilities!) These are the fundamental questions that drive Makers. From craftsmanship to electronics, Makers build things that are inherently valuable to them at that moment, whether it’s building a smart coffee maker to building a table. The pride that you feel from learning a musical instrument or a new language is the high that drives Makers to learn more, and do more.

Community (Makerspaces, Hackerspaces, FabLabs, Oh My!)

(Source: Mitch Altman)

(Source: Mitch Altman)

Makers rarely work alone. Instead, they interact with an ever growing global community of hackerspaces, makerspaces, fablabs, and other collaborative spaces to share ideas and resources. Makerspaces have cropped up all over the world to give people access to tools, education and collaboration normally reserved for universities and corporate environments. These membership-based organizations range in size and structure, but share common tools such as 3D printers, CNC machines, electronics components, and more. These gyms for your brain have grown from several hundred to over 2,000 globally in a few short years.

(Source: MakerBot)

(Source: MakerBot)

Makers in collaboration can lead to some advantageous financial results. In 2008, Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer and Zach Smith schemed up a small, inexpensive and easy-to-use 3D printer within New York’s hackerspace, NYC Resistor. Later that year, they released their first version for consumers. 6 years later, MakerBot has sold over 44,000 printers, built a leading brand, and was recently acquired by Stratasys for $403M. A company born out of the Maker Movement, MakerBot has ushered in a new industrial revolution, characterized by collaboration and open-source culture. They’re not alone in this endeavor, companies like Adafruit IndustriesArduino, and countless others are blurring the line between play and profit.

The Art of Playfulness (or, How to Fail Often)

When communities are built on resource-sharing and experimentation, there is considerably less stigma around failing. You simply try again, plus some well-earned knowledge and battle (soldering) scars, along with the thousands of others within the community.

The Power Racing Series understands all too well the educational benefits of failure and have embraced it with a friendly competition. Power Racing Series was schemed up at Chicago Hackerspace Pumping Station: One by Maker and designer Jim Burke. The challenge: build a working electric vehicle, starting with a kids Power Wheels and $500. Race it against a dozen others at Maker Faires all over the country, and compete for both technical prowess and “moxie” points awarded by the crowd for the most creative and ridiculous teams. Chassis’ fly off, cars catch on fire, and general, hilarious mayhem ensues.

(Source: Anne Peterson)

(Source: Anne Peterson)

This race has gained tremendous traction as a friendly competition between makerspaces all over the globe , as a learning tool for engineering and imagination. Makers have competed from i3 DetroitNIMBY, and even MIT. While the teams are competing against one another, they also share knowledge, tools and tech between one another during the race. Currently the races are held at 7 Maker Faires in the US, and they are opening up a high school league to encourage use of the races as a STEM education platform for students.

Companies like Power Racing Series have grown organically from embracing the inherent silliness that is a result of constant, quick-fire iteration. They also understand that it offers a unique hands-on way to learn engineering sans classroom or textbooks. Similarly, littleBits has found a way to teach the basics of electrical engineering with magnetic Lego-like blocks that can produce anything from musical instruments to internet of things devices with a few snaps. Sugru has made an entire business out of fixing broken things with a fun new material with the texture of Play-Dough that fixes everything from soldering irons to motorcycle windshields.

Impact (Produce Locally, Share Globally)

Makers think big. They don’t think in terms of revenue or projected growth, they think in terms of impact. Unburdened by fear of failure or lack of resources, they make things because they are useful, or present a unique challenge. Because of this, and ingrained roots stemming from the open-source software movement, the technology created has the ability to be adapted and used all over the world, outside the bounds of traditional gatekeepers.

(Source: Eric Hersman)

(Source: Eric Hersman)

Makerspaces have permeated every corner of the globe, from Nairobi to Nicaragua, allowing access to shared resources not just within their individual spaces, but across borders. Just as Bre Pettis and team sought to solve the problem of expensive 3D printers, Makers are building things that are equally useful to them, and their communities.

BioCurious, a community of biohackers (yes, that’s a thing) in the Bay Area has found a way to make real vegan cheese by engineering yeast, raising over $37k on Indiegogo to fund the project. Two years prior, 4 girls in Lagos debuted a urine-powered generator at Maker Faire Africa, which provides 6 hours of electricity for every Liter of urine. While both projects are prototypes, both are reactions to clear, yet strikingly different needs of the individuals and communities involved.

Arduino, the pint-sized computer from Italy, is a tool for making an open-source micro-controller board and development environment that was inexpensive, cross-platform, and easy-to-use. Founder Massimo Banzi has succeeded in this endeavor, as Arduino boards have become the micro-controller of choice for Makers, and are used to power a variety of devices, from the previously mentioned bGeigie Nano to a variety of internet-of-things devices. The fact that Arduino is open-source allows anyone to iterate on the boards, whether creating smaller versions for wearables, or printing your own on paper.

DIY Drones, a website started by former Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson, sought a way to bring UAVS (Unmanned Arial Vehicles) from military to hobbyists. In a few years he’s been able to bring together an impressive community of Makers building drones and drone parts for a variety of purposes. Matternet has taken this movement and applied it to a very specific problem: the 1 billion people in the world that do not have access to all-season roads. This means, even though many of them have advanced telecommunications infrastructure, they cannot get food of medicine during an emergency. Founder Andreas Ratopolous saw the potential in UAVs far beyond what was being explored by hobbyist and has turned it into a viable business with massive impact.

What’s Next for the Maker Movement?

The Maker Movement has garnered a lot of attention over the last 5 years, but it’s not without it’s flaws. Hackerspaces and makerspaces, though great places to learn and innovate are difficult to scale, and can come with a host of organizational and cultural problems. Though there are a whole host of success stories of profitable business by Makers, most of the innovation is still culturally insulated and doesn’t ever make it to a business. Large brands have been attempting to leverage the Maker community to encourage internal innovation, but with little success. Why? By being exactly what the Maker moment loathes: large, secretive, and profit-driven.

The Maker Movement needs bridges, people who are passionate about everything that is at the core of the culture who are able to connect Makers to each other, and to the resources to translate ideas into tangible products.

As humans, we’re made to make stuff. It’s a fundamental part of our survival. The Maker Movement has built a culture on that core belief, and the creativity that it has unleashed has massive potential for the future of innovation across all domains, turning anyone from an engineer to a large organization into an entity capable of astronomical innovative potential.

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Written by Madelynn Martiniere, this article was previously published on October 27, 2014 on Medium. 

Video: Chris Anderson talks drones, Makers and the next Industrial Revolution

Earlier this month, 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson took center stage at ARM TechCon 2014 to share his journey from mere Maker to mass market, highlighting unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), robotics, and of course, the “Next Industrial Revolution.”

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During his 40-minute keynote presentation, the former WIRED editor-in-chief shared his original “flying robot” (or, a Lego autopilot), as well as reasons for establishing a social network catered to those looking to experiment with autonomous aircraft.

“I didn’t know what the big thing was. And so, I created a website specifically to ask dumb questions in public,” Anderson explained. “Great things happens when you ask dumb questions in public. First, people answer your dumb questions, and second, it liberates people to ask their own dumb questions.”

Shortly thereafter, the DIY drone community — many of which powered by AVR MCUs — began to experience tremendous growth. For those who still need convincing that DIY drones are set to soar, Anderson revealed that DIY drone community is 60,000+ strong with over 2 million page views per month, 10,000 blog posts, and 150,000 comments per year.

“I was stunned first time I used the web. The same thing happened when I made my first drone.”

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According to Anderson, 2007 was a pivotal year in taking making mainstream. This was the time when “everyone was walking up…” as hints of it were seen in WiFi controllers, Lego Mindstorms, Atmel based Arduino and RepRap printers, and other elements of the modern-day Maker Movement.

Anderson shared his thoughts at that time, “There’s something going on here. I’m not sure what it is but I got to be a part of it.”

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“It later turned out what that something was was basically a convergence…. a democratization of technologies like MEMS sensors, ARM processors, etc. Suddenly things that were expensive got cheap, things that were hard got easy, things that were closed became open.”

This led to the boom of Internet of Things, wearable tech and other markets connecting once-ordinary objects to the web.

Chris even reminisced the days of 2009 with the debut of Blimpduino, a “company” he launched with his children on the weekend. Despite not actually being an operating business, BlimpDuino was a very low-cost open-source autonomous blimp consisting of an Arduino-based blimp controller board with on-board infrared and ultrasonic sensors.

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From there, Anderson took the audience through his progression from prototype to mass production — with the formation of 3D Robotics and his latest ventures.

Intrigued? You can tune-in to his entire session below!

 

Drone leaders form small UAV coalition

Amazon is going on the offensive as it seeks federal approval to test its planned Prime Air drone delivery system, USA Today reports. Though you may not receive a drone-delivered package this year, the online retailer is making moves to spur development.

To facilitate drone use, Amazon recently came together with several makers of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create a coalition. Writing for USA Today, Mike Snider explains that such efforts are necessary given the fact that the advancement of commercial drones spans across several federal agencies including the FAA, which governs airspace, and the FCC, with oversight of communications frequencies drones would use. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also has rules in the works regarding privacy.

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“Amazon Prime Air is participating in several groups… that share Congress’ goal of getting small UAVs flying commercially in the United States safely and soon,” said Paul Misener, Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy.

For many, the term “drone” seems to conjure images of military use and war weaponry. As a result, the mere thought of these futuristic flying devices tends to pose security and privacy concerns to several people. When, however, UAVs used for defense purposes and those that may one day may buzz around the skies are quite different, and in fact, may change the world — for the better. According to ex-Wired editor and 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, the (AVR-powered) DIY drone community will soon have more than 15,000 drones flying, compared to some 7,000 drones in use worldwide by military forces. Martha Stewart, known by many for her expertise in and around the home, has also shared her love for these flying robots in an essay that appeared on TIME Magazine’s website on July 29th, writing that drones could be “a useful tool.”

“This is uncharted territory,” says Anderson, Co-Founder of 3D Robotics. His firm recently announced that it had joined Amazon, Aerialtronics, AirwareDJI InnovationsGoogle[x]GoPro and Parrot in founding the small UAV coalition, which aspires to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology. “They [Amazon] have a well-established presence in Washington and they were able to kick-start the mechanics of this coalition so we could quickly join and get moving.” Anderson added that companies need a “safe sandbox” to begin testing applications.

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Globally, drone spending is expected to increase from $6.4 billion this year to $11.5 billion annually a decade from now, as projected by aerospace and defense industry research firm the Teal Group. Both Amazon and the new coalition have retained Washington, D.C. law firm Akin Gump to assist in lobbying efforts. The online retail giant is already among two dozen other companies that have sought exemptions from the FAA to begin tests with drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet, USA Today reveals.

In its filing to the FAA, Amazon said that so far it has only been able to test its drones inside its Seattle R&D lab or in other countries. Its goal is to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less via the rotor-powered flying machines. “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks,” wrote Amazon’s v Misener in the filing.

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“A number of companies are looking at getting into philanthropic purposes,” explains Michael Drobac, one of the lobbyists at Akin Gump. “They’re also looking at recreational uses, mapping and aerial photography — the possibilities are limitless.”

Drone potential goes far beyond package delivery; in fact, we recently listed 18 amazing ways the aerial vehicles are already being used today. Interested in learning more about drone use and the formation of the coalition? Read the entire USA Today article here.

 

 

18 awesome ways drones are being used today

For many, the term “drone” seems to conjure images of military use and war weaponry. As a result, the mere thought of these futuristic flying devices tend to pose security and privacy concerns to several people. When, however, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used for defense purposes and those that may one day may buzz around the skies are quite different, and in fact, may change the world — for the better. According to ex-Wired editor and 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, the (AVR-powered) DIY drone community will soon have more than 15,000 drones flying, compared to some 7,000 drones in use worldwide by military forces.

Martha Stewart, known by many for her expertise in and around the home, recently shared her love for UAVs in an essay that appeared on TIME Magazine’s website on July 29th, writing that drones could be “a useful tool.” So without further ado, let’s take a look at just some of the many ways these flying apparatuses are already revolutionizing the world around us.

1. Farming is tough, and drones are making it easier. With their aerial abilities, farmers can now see if their irrigation systems are working, how their crops are growing, even see if any of the plants are sick by using infrared technology. This enables farmers to make critical decisions about where and when to fertilize, plant or water. Though these observations and improvements may only equate to cents per acre, when practiced over thousands of acres, that can translate into much greater amounts.

2. Going to Hollywood! UAVs have already been adapted by a number of film makers looking to capture more innovative shots with less limitations. Think about it, drones are enabling creators to achieve the effects that would otherwise require wires, spider cam rigs, dollies, cranes, and crane operators. “You can innovate in a number of different, interesting ways to shoot a scene [using unmanned aircraft],” Howard Gantman of the Motion Picture Association of America recently recently urged the FAA.

3. Capturing the beauties life has to offer. Given its aerial abilities, drones have been able to capture things in ways never before seen. The result? Something truly breathtaking. Take for instance, Dave Anderson. The charter captain runs whale-watching charters out of Dana Point, California. He recently used a small camera-equipped drone to capture video of a “mega-pod” of hundreds of common dolphins as well as three gray whale migrating off the coast of San Clemente. In a separate venture, the drone returned footage of a family of humpback whales off of Maui. Then, there’s Nashville entrepreneur Robert Hartline, who decided to capture the city’s 4th of July fireworks show from the air using a drone-and-camera apparatus.

4. Trying to sell your house? Drones can help. Once reserved for luxury-home listings, aerial photos and videos are popping up in ads for moderately priced places, thanks to the use of relatively inexpensive drones — a method that grown incredibly popular throughout California, where the hills, beaches, water and vineyards can enhance even the most mundane home. Move over still photos and open houses, the next real estate listing may be accompanied by a drone tour.

5. Weaving high-rise structures: A team of researchers at ETH Zurich recently programmed drones to build and weave high-rise structures. While the test was relatively simple, the idea of choreographing drones to act as aerial construction workers is pretty fascinating. In spider-like fashion, the drone spools cable behind it as it zips between supports. It is weaving a structure high above where ordinary building equipment can easily reach. The team is also teaching drones to build towers from foam bricks. “There is no physical connection with the ground, so they can move construction elements to any location, and fly in and around existing structures,” explained Federico Augugliaro of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich.

6. Covering the news. When it comes to reporting, there’s nothing more important than catching the action as it happens. In what may become the next trend in journalism, students across the country are already learning how drones could help them be better reporters, and some reporters have already begun using UAVs to capture the day’s news.

7. Putting out wildfires. Drones are becoming an incredibly useful tool for firefighters, especially those who have the seemingly impossible task of putting out wildfires. Not only are the aircrafts being used to spot the fire and tracking its movement, but they can actually fight fires as well, ultimately keeping people out of harm’s way. Take for instance 2007′s Southern California wildfires, UAVs equipped with infrared sensors penetrated walls of smoke to relay information about the size of the blaze. After Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, the Air Force dispatched its “Global Hawk” drone to map the damage in Port-Au-Prince so NGOs could establish target areas for their relief work. And even more recently, drones were deployed after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Unlike helicopters, which can take up to an hour to arrive on the scene and gather information, drones are operational within three minutes.

8. Preventing endangered species. Tracking endangered is not an easy feat; however, with its unparalleled aerial abilities, drones may become the next tool in preventing poaching. Take for instance the team of Indonesian scientists, who have been using drones to keep track of a population of endangered Sumatran orangutans by floating above the treetops and watching how the apes are dealing with deforestation.

9. Saving the world. From authorities potting environmental violations to the EPA testing air quality, a wide range of scientists are using drones to keep tabs of the environment. NASA is even using drones to test the makeup of the ozone. Drones used for environmental monitoring is already the topic of many an academic paper, and the trend is only supposed to get more popular. Even in Italy, drones have been used to monitor illegal dumping for years.

10. Saving lives, too. A graduate student from Austria recently took life-saving equipment to the next level. Stefen Riegebauer devised a system whereby drones could deliver defibrillators to heart attack victims much faster than it would take an ambulance to get there. UAVs can prove to be an asset in time-critical situations, such as ski patrollers using beacons on small drones to search for buried avalanche victims.

11. Helping in disaster relief. “Drones don’t just end human life, they also save it,” tech journalist Matthew Harwood previously told Security Management Magazine. As extreme weather becomes increasingly severe, technology will play a critical role in monitoring and response and the Air Force, NASA, and several NGOs all agree that drones are becoming indispensable in disaster relief operations. Natural disasters and other times of emergency call for timely distribution of medication and aid. Fortunately, drones can make this more efficient. A company called Matternet is using drones to drop food and drugs right where they’re needed in remote African villages. Drones have the ability to ensure access to basic needs in places where roads become impassable in rainy seasons, or where they might not exist at all.

12. Getting into the sports action. Not only is it entertaining to watch games from above, it also can provide coaches a unique and valuable perspective on how their players are doing. Sports teams are already doing just that, using the UAVs to develop everything from game strategy to analyzing athlete performance. Drones have even made an appearance at the Olympics, where they were used to film ski and snowboarding events in Sochi.

13. Fighting crime in the neighborhood. Police departments across the country are buying drones that they can use for surveillance and other protection-related activities. Even the FBI is using them.

14. Inspecting oil rigs. Offshore oil rigs are notoriously tough to maintain, which as we know can be potentially dangerous. Given their ability to fly into hard-to-reach places, UAVs are able to better monitor oil fields and pipelines, which can be vast and tough for a human to track.

15. Creating art. Graffiti artist KATSU recently devised abstract paintings using drones with spray cans.

16. We’re going to finish the article, but first let us take a selfie drone…

17. Delivering pizza: Domino’s Pizza recently turned some heads and opened up some eyes when they posted a video of a drone delivering a pizza. The idea was that drones could get the pizza to your house faster so it would be hotter and more delicious.

18. Delivering other things, too. The easiest way to order the shopping is to simply load up a shopping app for next-day delivery, but drones mean you could end up having items the same day. That brings us back to Amazon and its plan to deliver your purchases with drones. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says, “It will work and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.” UPS followed suit this week and revealed that they, too, were working on a drone delivery system. Will it work? China has already gotten into the drone-delivery game with  Shenzhen-based courier service, SF Express.

So, as you can see, as drones continue to become more affordable, accessible and easier to use, we can expect a future that’ll be both autonomous and airborne.

Report: China invests heavily in Makers



China’s Communist Party government has reportedly endorsed the country’s burgeoning DIY Maker Movement.

“Innovation is no longer only promoted by the top-down initiatives of the world’s biggest companies,” reads a recent article in the state-run Liberation Daily newspaper.

“[Rather, it] is being built from the bottom up by countless individuals such as amateurs, entrepreneurs and professionals. As [Chris] Anderson says, we are born Makers… The future of China’s maker industry will be very competitive.”

Another state media article expresses similar sentiments, recommending that authorities “seize the current opportunity to introduce plans as soon as possible to support the development of the maker movement.”

As Emily Parker notes in Slate, both the United States and China are embracing the Maker Movement’s potential for entrepreneurship, viewing this kind of grass-roots innovation as essential for staying competitive in the 21st -century economy.

“The 2012 Shanghai Maker Carnival had the support of the Communist Youth League. Shanghai officials proposed 100 government-supported ‘innovation houses.’ Beijing’s Tsinghua University embraces Maker-inspired education,” she writes.

“Some hackerspaces in China get official support in the form of equipment, or help with paying the rent.”

Eric Pan, the Sichuan-born founder of Seeed Studio, explains why.

“Innovation can lead to start-ups. Start-ups can solve the problems of unemployment, and start-ups also have potential to become technology and design-intensive companies.”

Indeed, as Pan told Bits & Pieces earlier this year, MakerSpaces will likely enable a new wave of tech startups in China as in the US.

“To be sure, Makers working with their peers are now able to more easily realize their goals, while bringing products to market with new platforms such as e-commerce sites and crowd funding… For now, MakerSpaces are gradually helping Chinese tech companies discover additional possibilities, although the Maker role is likely to increase, with participants in the DIY culture setting technology trends in conjunction with major industries,” he adds.

The full text of Emily Parker’s “The Chinese Government Is Investing Heavily in the Maker Movement” is available on Slate here.

Why Makers are the new Industrial Revolution



Writing for OpenSource.com, Luis Ibanez offers a succinct review of “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution” by Chris Anderson. 

As Ibanez notes, Anderson is a former Editor in Chief of Wired and no stranger to the economic paradoxes of peer-production and open source. He is also the CEO and co-founder of 3D Robotics, a company dedicated to producing kits for the DIY drone community.



”In his most recent book, Anderson examines the historical parallels between the Maker movement and the second Industrial Revolution [which] took place between 1850 and the end of World War I,” writes Ibanez.

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“While the first Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) was based on large factories and expensive means of production, the second was characterized by the development of small machines (in particular the spinning wheel and the sewing machine) that democratized the means of production, leading to the proliferation of home-based micro business and cottage industries.”

Anderson then explains how the advent of the Maker Movement and 3D printing ecosystem will prompt a second Industrial Revolution which is expected to unfold at the speed of the information age. More specifically, Anderson discusses the Atmel-powered MakerBot 3D printer, noting that the platform is not just a tool, but rather:

  • 

A plaything
  • Revolutionary act
  • Kinetic sculpture
  • Political statement
  • Thrillingly cool

Of course, the above-mentioned description applies to other 3D printers as well like RepRap, along with the rest of the DIY Maker Movement.

“Open source is not just an efficient innovation method—it’s a belief system as powerful as democracy or capitalism for its adherents,” Anderson emphasizes.

The author also offers a closer look at a number of Maker-related business stories, including Local Motors, SparkFun, Kickstarter, Etsy, MFG and OpenPCR.

“This book, Makers, helps us put into perspective the impact that the maker culture will have in the following years on the renaissance of manufacturing, while showing us how we can apply to the new revolution, the lessons that we’ve learned from the second Industrial Revolution of 1850 and the lessons from the more recent emergence of desktop computers in the 1980’s,” adds Ibanez.

Interested in learning more? You can pick up Makers: The New Industrial Revolution for $11.84 on Amazon Kindle here.

Open Sauce

By Steve Castellotti

CTO, Puzzlebox

North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood, is famous for the quality and wide variety of its many restaurants. From colorful marquees scattered up and down Columbus to the hushed, more dimly lit grottos hidden down side streets and back alleys, there is no lack of choice for the curious patron.

Imagine then, having chosen from all these options, you sit down and order your favorite dish. When the plate arrives the waiter places next to it a finely embossed card printed on thick stock. A closer examination reveals the complete recipe for your meal, including hand-written notations made by the chef. Tips for preparation and the rationale for selecting certain ingredients over others are cheerfully included.

Flipping the card over reveals a simple message:

“Thank you for dining with us this evening. Please accept this recipe with our regards. You may use it when cooking for friends and family, or just to practice your own culinary skills. You may even open your own restaurant and offer this very same dish. We only ask that you  include this card with each meal served, and include any changes or improvements you make.”

Sharing the “Secret” Sauce

Having been raised in an Italian family myself, I can assure you that there is no more closely guarded secret than the recipe for our pasta gravy (the sauce). But I can’t help but wonder how such an open sharing might affect the landscape of a place such as North Beach. If every chef was obliged to share their techniques and methods, surely each would learn from the other? Customers would benefit from this atmosphere of collaboration in terms of the taste and quality of their dinners.

These many restaurants, packed so tightly together as they are, would still be forced to compete on terms of the dining experience. The service of their wait-staff, the ambience, and cost would count for everything.

For the majority of customers, knowledge of the recipe would simply be a novelty. In most cases they would still seek a professional chef to prepare it for them. But to the aspiring amateur, this information would contribute to their education. A new dish could be added to their repertoire.

An experienced restaurateur could no doubt correct me on any number of points as to why such a scenario would be a poor business model and never could or should be attempted. But just across town, throughout Silicon Valley and indeed across the globe, in the realm of technology, this exact model has been thriving for decades.

Open Source in the Software World

In the software world, developers have been sharing their source code (the recipe for the programs they write) under licenses similar to the one outlined above on a grand scale and to great success. The Internet itself was largely constructed using open platforms and tools. Mobile phones running Google’s Android operating system are now the most popular in the world, with complete source material available online. And in 2012 Red Hat became the first open source company to achieve a billion dollars in revenue, with customers from IBM to Disney and Pixar among their roster.

The benefits are many. Developers can leverage each others’ work for knowledge and time saving. If you want to build a new web site, there’s no need to write the web server or common routines such as user management from scratch. You can take open versions and start from there. Even better, if you have questions or run into trouble, more likely than not someone else has, too, and the answer is only a search away. Most importantly, if the problem you found indicates a flaw in the software (a bug), then a capable coder is empowered to examine the source and fix it himself or herself. And the result can be shared with the entire community.

There are parallels here to several fields. Similar principles form the basis of the scientific method. Without the sharing of procedures and data, independent verification of results would be impossible. And many discoveries result from iterating on proven techniques. A burgeoning do-it-yourself community, a veritable Maker Movement, has grown around magazines like Make and websites such as Instructables.com. New inventions and modifications to popular products are often documented in meticulous detail, permitting even casual hardware hackers to follow along. Electronics kits and prototyping boards from companies like Arduino are based on Atmel microcontrollers  plus open circuit designs, and are often used to power such projects.

Puzzlebox Brain Controlled Helicopter in Flight

Brain-Controlled Helicopter

Recently, our company, Puzzlebox, released the Orbit, a brain-controlled helicopter. The user begins by setting a display panel to the desired level of concentration and/or mental relaxation they wish to achieve.  A mobile device or our custom Pyramid peripheral processes data collected by a NeuroSky EEG headset. When that target is detected in the user’s brainwaves, flight commands are issued to the Orbit using infrared light. One can practice maintaining focus or a clarity of thought using visual and physical feedback.

Puzzlebox Brain-Controlled Helicopter with Atmel AVR

Puzzlebox Brain-Controlled Helicopter with Atmel AVR

Beyond novelty, however, lies the true purpose of the Puzzlebox Orbit. All source code, hardware designs, schematics, and 3D models are published freely online. Step-by-step guides for hacking the software and electronics are included. Methods for decoding infrared signals and extending mechanisms to operate additional toys and devices are shared. Creative modification is encouraged.  The goal is to promote the product as a teaching aid for middle and high school sciences classes and in university-level programming and electrical engineering courses.

Puzzlebox forging Classroom and Early Adoption of Technology for Education

This business model is itself a bit of an experiment, much like the restaurant described above. There is little preventing a competitor from producing a knock-off and leveraging our own recipes to do it. They might even open their doors just across the street from ours. We’ll need to work hard to keep our customers coming back for seconds. But so long as everyone abides by the rules, openly publishing any modifications of improvements made on our recipe, we’re not afraid to share the secrets of our sauce. We only ask that they include the original material with each dish they serve, and include any changes or improvements made along the way. We’re willing to compete on cost and dining experience. In this way we hope to improve the quality and flavor for everyone.

Puzzlebox with Arduino and Atmel AVR

Puzzlebox with Arduino and Atmel AVR

Puzzlebox Software IDE Interface

Openness and The Internet of Things

Today, communities such as Kickstarter and others tapping into the power of openness and crowd-sourcing are fueling a lot of technological innovation.  The next era for enterprise is revolving around The Internet of Things (#IoT), machine-to-machine (#M2M) communications and even the Industrial Internet (#IndustrialInternet).

One strong proponent of innovation and thought, Chris Anderson, is renowned for having his fingerprints and vision on trends as they bloom into movements.  Anderson is committed and energized in this Make-infused world. His latest book, “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution”, eloquently outlines the “right now” moment with makers. “Hardware is the new software”, opening up the brink of the next age of the Internet, where devices and machines become connected. Cloud, agile apps, and embedded design hardware (systems on chips, microcontrollers, or smart devices) are converging and  paving the next generation of integrated products across the fabric of devices.

“The real revolution here is not in the creation of the technology, but the democratization of the technology. It’s when you basically give it to a huge expanded group of people who come up with new applications, and you harness the ideas and the creativity and the energy of everybody. That’s what really makes a revolution.

…What we’re seeing here with the third industrial revolution is the combination of the two [technology and manufacturing]. It’s the computer meets manufacturing, and it’s at everybody’s desktop.”

Excerpt credited from Chris’s Anderson’s “Maker: The New Industrial Revolution”

With that said, we enter the next age, where hardware is the new software.