Category Archives: makers

World Maker Faire 2014, New York Science Park

World Maker Faire
Yay, arrived at New York Maker Faire :-)

I was really excited to be in NYC in September to attend and do a presentation on my wearables work at my first US Maker Faire. Having exhibited at four UK Maker Faires in Newcastle, plus Brighton Mini Maker Faire and visiting both Elephant and Castle Maker Faires (where at the most recent I wandered about soliciting feedback on my EEG Visualising Pendant), I was full of anticipation for the World Maker Faire weekender at the New York Hall of Science, in Queens, New York.

Maker Faire
World Maker Faire is totally vast!

I had heard it would be big, but I wasn’t prepared for the hugeness of it, or that it would mainly be an outside event! It was comprised of several fields of stands and presentation stages, plus the entirety of the New York Hall of Science, which isn’t a small building. Because I had a big list of places I wanted to visit in Manhattan, I had intended to spend half a day on Saturday and Sunday at Maker Faire, but due to the vastness of World Maker Faire I spent two whole days there till closing each day and I still didn’t see everything or meet up with or find all the friends I had intended to say hello to.

Maker Faire is large!
Map of hugeness of World Maker Faire!

On day two (Sunday), on the Electronics Stage, I gave a presentation on my own work, primarily my Baroesque Barometric Skirt and EEG Visualising Pendant, which I wore around World Maker Faire, that incited much curiosity and feedback – which was a fun way to meet people! It was lovely that friends were in the audience and afterwards we had much fun wandering about and catching up. The talk slot was a bit short for me as I usually have a lot to say, so I had to wind up before my slides ran out, but I enjoyed the opportunity immensely.

Presenting on visualising physiological data
Me, presenting my wearable technology work at the Electronics Stage

Ivaylo, Mandy, Ran & me
Was fabulous to catch up with and hang out with Ivaylo, Mandy and Ran, plus thank you for coming to my talk :-)

In terms of what was on show, it wasn’t very different from what I’d been used to seeing at UK Maker Faires, i.e. lots of electronics, crafts and technology stalls from individual makers, hackspaces and organisations, but there were loads more large stalls from the big players such as Atmel, Intel and Arduino.

Signpost
Just one of the signposts around World Maker Faire!

It was great that there were many presentation stages and a multitude of talks to choose from, my favourite talk of the weekend was by one of my favourite inspirational wearables creators and thinkers, Kate Hartman, who spoke about the work her students have been up to at OCAD University in Toronto. I went up to Kate at the end to say hello, which was lovely. Check out her conceptual wearables, they’re very cool and have a look at the Social Body Lab and projects, which she runs at OCAD.

Kate Hartman talk
I really enjoyed Kate Hartman’s presentation on wearables

There were too many great stands and projects to document, but one of my favourites was the glorious Sashimi Tabernacle Choir, consisting of a car covered with over two hundred and fifty computer controlled lobsters, bass, trout, catfish and sharks. The Choir performs a choreographed repertoire of songs from pop songs to classical opera. It’s fabulous – enjoy the videos and info on the website!

Very amusing Sashimi Tabernacle Choir
The wonderful Sashimi Tabernacle Choir

A highlight of World Maker Faire was finally finding the OpenBCI stand. I had been conversing with Conor via email about their modular sensing kits that they had recently successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund. To emphasise the vastness of World Maker Faire, it had taken me two days to find them. After asking at multiple help points, studying the map and wandering around and around the fields, I finally found the OpenBCI on the last day by grabbing a kindly information stand helper, who on hearing my plight, wandered around with me to find their stand! I’m really glad I persevered, as it was lovely to meet Conor and Joel and fascinating to chat about and view their OpenBCI wares being demonstrated, plus they had a special discount offer for that weekend, which I took advantage of and can’t wait to get my own OpenBCI kit soon!

Conor & me
Great to finally meet Conor from OpenBCI

Another highlight of World Maker Faire was bumping into inspirational electronics engineer and entrepreneur Limor Fried AKA Ladyada, and Phil of Adafruit. I have been following Limor’s work since I got my first LilyPad Arduino back in 2008, which I bent her ear about and also showed her my EEG Visualising Pendant. When I got back to the UK I sent details of the pendant to Adafruit and fab fellow wearable creator, (whose work I’ve also followed for years) Becky Stern put up a page up about it on the Adafruit Wearable Wednesday blog – thanks Limor and Becky!

Limor Fried (Ladyada) & me
Yay, thanks Limor for allowing me to bend your ear on my EEG Visualising Pendant :-)

To sum up, World Maker Faire was huge, amazing and inspiring – I’d love to go again – thanks for having me!

Metrocard Man & Doge
Metrocard Man and Doge!

Mushy Daleks
Even at World Maker Faire there’s gotta be Daleks, especially knitted ones!

Giraffe
One has to say hello to the iconic Giraffe!

Strange and wonderful retro music makers
Strange and wonderful upcycled music machines

Drawing circuits
Ivaylo drawing a circuit with a conductive pen

Curreh vegan goat & other delacacies
Curry Vegan ‘Goat'(TVP) and other vegan delacacies were on offer!

Don't wear your EEG headset for too long!
This skellington is wearing their EEG headset wrongly!

OpenBCI stand
This skull is wearing their OpenBCI headset appropriately (I think)!

Posing with Make Robot
Posing with the Maker Faire Robot

Makers’ Guild: Making and Wearable Technology, C4CC

Fiddian welcomes everyone

I had a great evening at Makers’ Guild meet-up on Making and Wearable Technology at C4CC in Kings Cross. As the event title suggests, it was an evening of talks around various aspects of wearable technology. Fiddian Warman was our genial host on one of the hottest days of the year and kept us cool with a selection of chilled beverages.

Camille Baker presenting on 'Hacking the Body'

First up was Camille Baker, who is a media artist, curator and researcher, currently lecturing at Brunel University. She gave a compelling talk on ‘Hacking the Body’, a project that looks at the convergence of biosensors, wearable technology and performance. Her research looks at repurposing hacked data from sensors on around the body for performance and installation. Camille also showed some other examples of research, such as the Phillips SKIN project, which looks at emotional sensing via ‘soft technology’ garments.

Me presenting 'On Wearable Technology, Makers & Making'

Second up, was myself. I gave a rambling introduction to wearable technology from early examples, such as abacus rings of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) to the influence of science fiction, with some ideas from Star Trek that have come to fruition in real life, to cyborgs and ethics. I also spoke about how Makers have become involved with wearable tech in terms of making and also teaching and passing on skills. Finally I showed examples of my two latest wearable tech projects, the Baroesque Barometric Skirt and EEG Visualising Pendant.

Third up, was Alex Glowaski, who is a curious Hacker and Maker from San Francisco, she gave a great talk about ‘NFC (Near Field Communication) for Wearables’. Alex compared the technologies of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC for using in wearable tech, plus also gave some info on other tech such as Bluetooth and QR codes. The highlight of Alex’s talk (for me) was a user case and video demonstrating her Cheer Follower fitness tracker which uses NFC – I’m looking forward to hearing news on how this exciting project progresses.

Alex Glowaski presenting on 'NFC for Wearables'

There followed some interesting Q&A before decanting to the pub for excellent conversations and swapping info on projects and ideas. Thanks very much to Fidd for organising, Camille and Alex for being fabulous, to C4CC for hosting and to all the lovely people who came along.

Alex Glowaski's video on Cheer Follower wearable tech

The business of Making / Makers’ Guild at the Crafts Council

For most inventor / makers taking the decision to move from being creative in one’s spare time to doing it for a living is a bit of an expensive gamble and rather daunting. If you’re self employed for the first time, providing a service or going into product manufacturing there are so many questions to ask when taking those first steps, such as: how much should you charge and how does one factor in all the research and development time, what about all the cost of all components, tools and kit (like those giant tin snips)? Plus legal headaches around contracts, agreements, insurance, liability and IP, oh and don’t forget sustainability, thoughts around open source, robustness, longevity and fit for purpose-ness that fun new technology practices bring… Arghh *brainspoldes*! And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, there’s yet to evolve a go-to resource for UK Makers get the answers or advice to these pressing questions.

Components

Personally, I’ve been following links and tips from the myriad of inventors sites (& ignoring ‘inventor promoter’ scams!). For standard business info there’s Business Link & HMRC. I’ve also found my local business enterprise club has some good workshops and seminars on sole trader issues, tax and marketing. Plus if you’re close to London, the British Library Business Centre has some really good free and paid for workshops, seminars and surgeries. There’s also funding and support from initiatives such as the Technology Strategy Board, NESTA and Kickstarter.

Starting a Business for Dummies

So in July I was really pleased to hear about the launch at NESTA of Makers’ Guild ‘a membership organization to support and promote ‘Makers’ of all flavours from artists to technicians, from coders to crafters’, which has been founded by Rachel Coldicutt and Fiddian Warman. It was good to go along and hear talks from fellow makers, inventors and founders, plus chat to like-minded people. They have a website and I’m looking forward to when they have time to populate it with some more info – that wasn’t sarcasm, it takes time to build these resources up, what with having a life, etc, so I wonder if it might be an idea to give a shout to the maker community to get behind it and to submit their fav links, biogs, articles and some guests on the forum to get the ball rolling? [Gah, that’s me with my ex-BBC senior producer hat on]

Anyway, last Friday I went along to the Maker’s Guild’s next event: ‘Makers’ Money – the business of making’ at the lovely Crafts Council offices, where the Makers’ Guild put on three talks by inventors/makers who were getting on with the business of commercially making or supporting makers.

It was really inspiring to hear some personal stories, so if you’re an inventor, a maker or interested is what’s going on in this area, look the following entrepreneurs up!

First up was Jane ní Dhulchaointigh of sugru (patented as Formerol) which is a multi-purpose variant of silicone that is rather like modeling clay and can be used for making, modifying and fixing things – I’ve seen it at Maker Faire, but haven’t had a play with it yet. It’s had rave reviews, TIME Magazine listed sugru alongside the iPad as one of the top 50 inventions of 2010. Jane is as former product design student of the Royal College of Art, where she experimented with mixing various materials together such as bathroom sealant and sawdust, which lead to her realising the potential to develop a useful substance. NESTA Creative Pioneer and angel funding gave her the opportunity to start a business, fund development, design and do user trials. The first 1000 packs sold out in 6 hours and now sugru has customers in 76 countries and a factory in east London. Jane hopes to break even in a year or so.

Jane ní Dhulchaointigh of sugru

Up next was Christopher Pett of Makersco, who realised there was a niche for uniqueness and smaller scale production. This service grew from a postgraduate innovation research project at Goldsmiths College. His company makes life for makers and designers easier by taking ideas and designs from concept and working them up to prototyping, testing, analysis, production and supply chain management. They don’t take any IP from makers and work with UK manufacturers and suppliers. Makers also help with marketing strategy, brand guidelines and sales materials. Christopher also runs Pli Design – a sustainable furniture design company, specialising in bamboo.

Christopher Pett of Makers Co and Pli Design

Last but not least, was Mark Champkins, an inventor who started making things for his family business when he was a schoolboy. His company, Concentrate, is all about making accessories that help children concentrate and be more productive at school, such as a pencil case / water bottle hybrid and a bag that also drapes across a chair to make it more comfortable. He was lucky to build up a good relationship with a buyer at John Lewis who helped him hone his product ideas for their customers. Mark went on Dragons Den, not to get money, but for publicity, but he still got funding. He is also the Science Museum’s Inventor in Residence where he is doing a product range based on their archives. He’s also written a book on celebrity inventions!

 Mark Champkins of Concentrate Design

After the individual talks a panel Q&A discussion followed where topics such as open product licensing: digital to physical came up and the Awesome Foundation money awards were discussed (there’s a London chapter). A few people stood up and introduced themselves and their ideas, which was very relaxed, followed by a bit of saying hello to friends & making new ones before hometime.

Thanks to Maker’s Guild for organising & Crafts Council for hosting. I’m looking forward to the next event.