Tag Archives: global maker movement

Hackerspaces: A prelude to the Maker Movement and today’s Maker culture

So, what exactly is the Maker Movement? Do you remember that ever so distant yet memorable quote by Michelangelo? “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” 

Now, to further set this, [white fuzz] the channel just switched, we are tuned. Things will change right? They have changed. We have the Internet; we will have one layer more, eventually the arrow of technology will continue. There is one congruent dataset, which manifests all things to a new exponent. It’s the pulses and signals resulting from the exterior world meshed with the existing datasets of infrastructure, enterprise, and the consumer. Let’s speak of this layer. It will be filled with sensors, microcontrollers, and code. Already, we learned this from the app revolution and we are not going to remain in just this stage right? The code will be leaner and smarter. Coupled by the signal readings from millions of device upon device, node to nodes, nodes to node, the true power of distribution and networks will again marry now with other application recorded data in a mosaic of diversified integrations resulting from the intersection of data easily bridged from the cloud apps. Yes, the ones we are already familiar today touching from screen to screen to anticipate the next arriving notification.

The arrival of this integration of data will help filter and augment the world before us. Let’s reset to the modern era, thread modern computing to this notion, [for technology’s sake] we have also seen the Gartner quote by Jim Tully stating, “By 2018, 50% of the Internet of Things solutions will be provided by startups which are less than 3 years old”.


The Digital Renaissance and the Maker Movement

Together with the accessibility and progress of open source and availability of community and embedded development boards [specifically wider use of Arduino Maker class boards], the times have certainly changed. A great deal of the complexities of these development boards are relaxed with onboard abstraction layers to loosen the programmatic rigidness of “hardware,” combined with the collective tuning of the community toward its development software.

Arduino IDE is now quite anchored into well-received feedback/contribution loops supported by the open source model — crowdsource progress and joint development roadmaps. Let’s not forget all the risky and obviously passionate Makers out there doing and bringing ideas to the forefront. The timing is right — found in the appetite to feed the market, the maturing cloud, the developed community, parity in prototyping, and the global production.


Globalization of Hackerspaces and the Maker Movement | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As a whole, and to its sum of its parts, all community members are participants in the evolution of the ecosystem and community effort of “Making” with ease. At all aspects of the innovation engine cycle, the open source community couples quite well with hackerspaces, where one can congregate to surface ideas and mature them to fruition.


Open Source Community and Hackerspaces | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

This is especially true where it applies to the mere process of creating a product. In fact, it’s now true to building things that 10 years ago you needed to be in a big company to make innovating things, but now it truly possible from an individual. Made possible to said horizon, there are the hackerspaces. It’s a place that shows signs of innovation and development, infusing wider spread of technology and community across all economic classes or cultures. In these facilities, these are technical and creative social clubs facilitating activities that include tinkering, machine tooling, 3-D printing, coding, open source, collaboration, and sharing. Some hackerspaces market themselves under the more benign-sounding label of “maker space”. More bluntly, this is really drawing attention as private incubators such as hardware accelerators fueling entrepreneurship and startups [an emulation of an innovation success formula taken from the original hackerspaces.


There is something about hackerspaces that brings people together that are made of some pretty awesome stuff. Call it “Voltron” if you will, why not? With drones rising and Maker Faires (or similar) blooming all around us, it all seems like the perfect unison of having people interlock together. As the notion of building robots continued to unwind, one fellow by the name of Chris Anderson saw that it would be much easier to have robots fly first than walk bipedal. More simply, it just felt and saw it to be much easier. Perhaps, something even more achievable and widespread adopted as the next step to bring about the age of drones.


But still, wait, there’s even more to how this started. We also owe the spawning of drones to a unique origin where a group of people, hive together pursuing one ultimate quest.

Call it social science and synergy if you will. Something happens when a group gets “too large” and suddenly it all transforms from a conversation into a cacophony and a team into a mob then something incorporated too soon begins may wield the ugly cues of politics. Yet, going it alone is usually impossible if the task at hand is at all sometimes complicated [maybe the next best thing for technology]. Assembling IKEA furniture is probably best done as an individual, but things like raising a family, having a stand-up meeting, or shipping a meaningful product is definitely a team sport…


For hackerspaces, one of these unique values is in having opportunities to meet different people from all sorts of backgrounds. Combined in a common pursuit of sharing and making, there is a common thread of being willing to be giving their time and talents to others. Note, it was in what’s said as “giving” as the common notion in hackerspaces are the more you give, the more you get back, helping to change the course of things to come [individual pairing of ideas to the intellectual hackerspace benefit of networking ingenuity]. It’s all about the community. This is the hallmark of the Internet. The Internet started as a community in its deeper past with ARPANET. We are all reaping those originally rooted benefits today [first operational packet switching networks implementing TCP/IP] creating layer upon layer new industries, service models, and ecosystems (ie Apps, Cloud, M2M, IoT, etc). Now what we are seeing today sprout from city to city are hackerspaces. In fact, we may begin to see every community in a city drawing upon good reason to incubate and nest new hackerspaces. Perhaps, it’s a progenitor to something more in the next trend of innovation.

The digital life now is a result of the collision of software and hardware. Technology is fashion. Fashion is Technology. Both are now intertwined together in the speed and making of culture. Have you ever tried leaving your home without the mobile touch screen device or everyone has out grown to wearing the old flip analog/cdma phones of the past. Digital influence upon culture and self move along prevalently—the desire for hackerspaces are becoming more acquainted in many metropolitans.

There’s a secret sauce to the structure of the hackerspaces. Unravel this structure. From within, it reveals a true community based packed with peer-to-peer involvements. People with skills converge in distinct trades upon others with other skills. Combined, they make this union, transforming their once ideate policy of making, broadening their abilities coupled by a giving and sharing of others to expand the design envelope of possibilities.

Surely, one may see it as a digital and hardware renaissance, comparatively from the distant spark of the past. The foundries of artistry in Florence and Rome once prevailed, urging communities of artist to congregate and make creative expression toward emulating realism via sculpture, oil and canvas. Well, now it’s about achieving a more meaningful product. The canvas has changed, coalescing digital and hardware. Giving rise to an idea where the ideas mature into a minimal valuable product that is mapped to some form of developed connectivity. This some form of developed connectivity is what we call the Internet of Things or many of the products sprouting from emergent crowdfunding rooted by makerspaces or hackerspaces.


A common construct. Make Ideas, Make Genuis, and Make Things | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

Now, let us imagine a place where people get together without a common construct or preconceived established code, they then converse, and collaborate. It is filled to the brim with entrepreneurs and inventors of all types working on projects that they hope will change the world or at least convinced to usher an adoption to things making what we usually do more easier or enhanced.

Many of them are on laptops or standalone computers frantically typing business plans or hacking out code; others are making phone calls while trying to set up connections wherever they can.


Hackerspaces have an environmental core that keep ideas flowing | Photo Credit: Mitch Altman

As all the chaos goes about, one can see that in this space is an environmental core that keeps the magic flowing around innovation. It is the center foundation of what the area will turn into. While the outer linings are being fine-tuned and polished, the inner workings remain relatively unchanged. The concrete has been laid; the electrical wires have been strung throughout the wooden frames and the insulation and drywall is mostly there, all while a wireless network is hangs throughout the air. Projects can begin even if the air conditioning isn’t hooked up yet.

As long as there is a good foundation, people can get stuff done. The rest of the work on the outer edges will always be changing. Paint will cover the walls in different shades and dust will always need to be cleaned up. However as time goes on and unless a major change happens, all the people running the space will need to do is adjust the dials of the environment (when needed) and continue progressing the community. Once the foundation is done first, the rest will fall into place.

Next up, read the 1:1 interview with Mitch Altman, co-founder of Noisebridge San Francisco as we dive deeper into hackerspaces, the Maker Movement and more



ATmega32u4 powers these wearable turn signals

Metasphere, who recently created a motorcycle remote started using an Arduino and a smartphone, has transformed a once-ordinary biker accessory into a “smart riding jacket.” The garment displays right and left light-up turn signals synced with the bike’s own blinkers via the ATmega32u4 powered FLORA wearable platform and NeoPixels sewn into the jacket’s fabric.


Metasphere — a responsive platform that acts as mission control for Makers’ programable hardware and software projects — allows the data to be instantly relayed from the bike to the jacket, creating a real-time integrated product that communicates a rider’s intentions clearly and safely.

The Metasphere SDK enabled the Atmel based Arduino board within the motorcycle and the FLORA microcontroller embedded in the jacket to communicate with the iPhone via Bluetooth.

Adafruit NeoPixels were then lined up in a symmetrical pattern on a fabric swatch, sewn with conductive thread and sealed on the back with sugru to preserve the connections. Once completed, corresponding holes were cut into the jacket lining. A SparkFun LilyPad Vibe Board, which was stitched into the inside collar, produces a small vibration whenever the jacket comes within range of the motorcycle and completes the connection.

According to the team of Makers, a FLORA Lux Sensor was added to the outer shoulder area to sense outside light intensity and adjust the brightness of the NeoPixels accordingly. Once these NeoPixels were secured into place, the FLORA and XBee LilyPad were tucked securely into a closed inner pocket, keeping them from getting tangled or interfering with the function of the jacket.

To read more about the wearable turn signals, zoom on over to Metasphere website here.


On the road from Makers to consumers

It’s time to break with conventional thinking. For decades, the measure of success for semiconductors has been OEM design wins. Most consumers haven’t known, or cared, about what is inside their electronic gadgets, as long as they work. That may be about to change, because a new intermediary is finding its voice – and being heard in high places.

Intel and Apple, in different ways, began challenging the norm by pursuing consumer branding and developing pull-through demand for their parts as drivers of the overall experience. Coupling what people “feel” about their devices with the technology powering them creates an almost unbreakable bond, akin to a religious response. Reaching billions of people has required billions of dollars and high profile advertising campaigns – out of the question for most embedded semiconductor companies.

A new road is being carved across the landscape, paved not with gigantic chips packing billions of transistors delivering a cascade of social chatter and streaming entertainment content. This road is built with ideas carried on small boards and open source software, and a sense of wonder about how the world works, and what we can do to shape it.

Somewhere on that road right now is a big truck, captured in pixels at a stop in June 2014 that may go down as a turning point in the annals of semiconductor evolution.

Overstated? The truck tour is a tried-and-true mechanism for reaching industrial OEMs, taking hands-on demonstrations to cities far from the sources of silicon and software innovation. If we were only talking about embedded design and the industrial IoT, it’d be business as usual, and this would be just another truck with a fancy paint job and a couple of FAEs inside.

But, it’s not. The industrial IoT is wonderful and welcome, however by and of itself it won’t generate the billions of units needed to drive a recovery and restart growth in semiconductors and the economy at-large. That will only come from reaching and capturing consumers with IoT technology, in a big way.

And that, so far, has proven difficult. After all, even industry experts are feverishly debating the name IoT, questioning what applications really fall under the moniker, or what exactly it means. Much like “smart grid” and “mHealth” before it, the term IoT means something in the developer community, but not so much to consumers who don’t yet see a connection between the Internet and how they use everyday things.

A recent SOASTA survey suggests 73% of the US has never heard of the IoT, at least until an interviewer explains it to them. (I’m curious why that number always seems to be 73% no matter the topic, but let’s just say 3 out of 4 – I believe it.) When hearing oral arguments in the Aereo case earlier this year, several US Supreme Court justices issued queries indicating a limited grasp of technology. (Cut to Keyrock: “I’m just a caveman … your modern ways frighten and confuse me.”)

This isn’t a lack of intelligence on their part; it’s a lack of generating the needed visibility on our part. These are the people we all must reach if we have a hope to succeed. Who is going to reach them? Makers, armed with our tools and their ideas. Atmel and other tech firms reaching Washington and the first-ever White House Maker Faire, side by side with people like the star of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show, was a milestone in delivering the message to the masses. This goes way beyond the T and E in STEM; remember, the social transformation was driven by youth, and young makers are going to drive the uptake of the consumer IoT.

Why? Well, frankly speaking, they don’t think like engineers – they think like actual, real-life users. I made the comment recently that we need to be careful, the people we are trying to reach can drive smartphones, not (name of other popular maker module redacted … sorry, Arduino didn’t rhyme.) Don’t be distracted by a 17-foot tall mechatronic giraffe with lava lamps for ears and a penchant for partying, or by the Obama crack about we don’t spell “fair” with an ‘e’ in this country. These are people designing things they, and people like them, want to use. More importantly, they will provide the translation of what the new technology can do, renarrating the story from the language of semiconductor companies to the wants of the average consumer.

Makers are the people we need to win with. That idea isn’t lost on Chrysler, who has co-opted the maker movement as their idea in 2014 commercials. Makers care about what is inside, and they are choosing Atmel in droves – in part because Atmel has redirected technological and social media energy into nurturing them, away from just talking to the button-down, risk-adverse, safety-is-job-one industrial community. Intel and other chip suppliers are feverishly trying to catch the wave with makers, moving away from the “e2e” stance that only takes us so far in this next phase.

It’s not for the faint of heart, or the impatient. The industrial IoT is safe, somewhat predictable ground for experienced firms, whereas the consumer IoT still borders on bubble in many minds. The maker movement is now what the university programs were back when to semiconductor firms, taken to the next level and reaching an even wider audience. Design wins with makers now likely won’t show up in the volume shipments column right away – but, they will show up as consumers get the IoT over time.

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Don Dingee is a featured blogger. It first appeared there on June 19, 2014.


Making space available to everyone

I’m Brian and one of the Founders of Infinity Aerospace. In 2012, our company developed and marketed an Arduino powered platform for easily conducting custom experiments autonomously on board the International Space Station. We called it Ardulab and it was well received in the space industry. In essence, the Ardulab is a small microcontroller with an Atmel chip as the brain that’s enclosed by a space ready aluminum chassis. The Ardulab is an Atmel powered machine that’s won the faith of organizations like NASA and Stanford because of its advanced capabilities in a small form factor and its reliability.

Brian Rieger

Brian Rieger, Co-Founder of Ardulab (Source: Infinity Aerospace)

The microcontroller is heavily modified from a basic Arduino to be compatible with the Space Station computers, and the chassis adheres to a compliant form factor (10cm cube). The microcontroller only uses about 10% of the internal volume of the chassis, leaving the rest for an experiment to be installed.


Powering your Ardulab up for the first time, then get to know all the features and functions. (Source: Ardulab.com)

Fast forward to present day; Ardulab users include prominent space organizations like NASA-JPL, NanoRacks, and Stanford University. In addition, the overseer organization of the International Space Stations’ National Lab, CASIS, created a program called the National Design Challenge that funds k-12 schools to use Ardulabs in their science classrooms to build an experiment and then launch them to the Space Station. We couldn’t be more proud that the Ardulab product has catalyzed so many positive activities within the space community.


The Ardulab Chassis. (Source: Ardulab.com)

Up until today, the Ardulab had a minimum purchase price of $2,000 and was sold directly from us. This allowed us to recuperate the cost of design and development of the Ardulab as well as the incremental manufacturing cost of each unit. Unfortunately, this limited who could use the Ardulab and gain access to its features – features that make it very easy to conduct experiments autonomously on the Space Station. We realized this was a departure from the fundamental philosophy behind Ardulab; to give as many people as possible the tools and information they need to be successful in space.

The overseer organization of International Space Stations' National Lab, CASIS, created a program called the National Design Challenge that funds k-12 schools to use Ardulabs in their science classrooms to build an experiment and then launch them to the Space Station. (Source: Wikipedia)

The overseer organization of International Space Stations’ National Lab, CASIS, created a program called the National Design Challenge that funds k-12 schools to use Ardulabs in their science classrooms to build an experiment and then launch them to the Space Station. (Source: Wikipedia)

We are so excited to share that the Ardulab is now completely open-source. To support this, we’ve launched a brand new website (www.ardulab.com) where anyone can learn about Ardulab, download the plans with a click of a button, and follow the provided guidance that will take anyone from idea to space experiment. A middle school class in Houston Texas used the Ardulab to create a space ready experiment in 6 months, I can only imagine what the space community at large will create with full access to the Ardulab technology.

Interested? You can explore Ardulab in more depth on its official website.


Makers tap into China’s open hardware scene

Writing for CNBC, Lynn Lee notes that a grassroots innovation movement centered around open hardware and Maker culture is evolving in China.

“Where high-tech research and development was once seen as something only large companies could afford, more and more individuals are going it on their own,” Lee explained.

Image Credit: CNET China

To be sure, hackerspaces, which Lee describes as “key” to a booming DIY or Maker Movement, were non-existent in the China of 2010. However, the global concept has quickly taken off in a number of Chinese cities such as Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing.

“There are people here who are passionate about the maker culture and innovation. There is an open hardware scene in China tapped into the global maker movement and it is growing,” Dr. Silvia Lindtner of the University of California, Irvine and Fudan University in Shanghai told CNBC.

Image Credit: CNET China

“In recent years, China has become an essential enabler in the global maker movement. That’s because many factories in Shenzhen have long adopted a system of open-source sharing in order to lower production costs.”

Lee also highlighted the Shenzhen-based Seeed Studio founded by Eric Pan, which works to combine the potential of open-source hardware with opportunities offered by Guangdong’s electronics supply chain.

“Makers looking to produce prototypes of their designs and small batches of samples can turn to Seeed for help,” Lee noted. “The company also hosts an active community on its site, where proposals are pitched and projects with the most support are manufactured and made available for sale.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Eric is understandably enthusiastic about the open source movement, as he also organized the Shenzhen Maker Faire and established the hardware incubation project “HAXLR8R” with Cyril Ebersweiler.

“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 crowdfunding,” Pan told Bits & Pieces during a recent interview.

Shenzhen (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

“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.”

Interested in learning more about China and the Maker Movement? You can check out our article archive on the subject here.