“Honestly, if I had to pick one bug to find in Pi 2 at this stage, an excessive sensitivity to paparazzi would probably be it” — Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton
From the editors of Make:, the Maker Pro Newsletter is about the impact of Makers on business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends. Please send items to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RadioShack Files for Bankruptcy
RadioShack, the 94-year-old chain of electronics shops where generations of Makers have rifled through brightly-colored drawers for resistors, capacitors, and LEDs, has filed for bankruptcy protection. It’s not entirely clear what will happen next: about half of current RadioShack locations will remain open under the auspices of shareholder Standard General, and it’s likely the brand name will carry on even if the current franchise folds.
Y Combinator Partners With Bolt
Prestigious Mountain View incubator Y Combinator announced this week that it will partner with Boston-based hardware accelerator Bolt to broaden its support for hardware startups. Bolt also announced that it has raised a new $25 million fund for hardware investments, and that it will provide prototyping and manufacturing space on the San Francisco waterfront in the Autodesk Pier 9 Workshop.
DJI Drones Go Inside Volcano, Live On-Air
Shenzhen-based aerial photography drone outfit DJI teamed up with Good Morning America to create Maker history last week, by broadcasting a livestream from two DJI Inspire 1 quadcopters as they made a flyover of an active volcano in central Iceland. It’s not only the first livestream of an active volcano to be broadcast, but also one of a only a few times that drone footage has been broadcast live on national TV.
Don’t Shoot, or Your Pi 2 is Dead
As we noted last week, the Raspberry Pi 2, Model B is finally available for pre-order and a lucky few have had a chance to goof around with them. Some early users, though, noticed a glitch: The Pi 2 is camera shy.
Make:’s Alasdair Allan (@aallan) confirms that the defect is the result of the photosensitivity of the switched mode power supply chip, causing the board to power off instantly when a flash photograph is taken. It’s a timely discovery – the bug can easily be fixed in future production runs, and there are simple measures one can take to mitigate the problem in existing Pi 2 boards.
Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton (@ebenupton) seemed unruffled by the revelation: “Honestly, if I had to pick one bug to find in Pi 2 at this stage, an excessive sensitivity to paparazzi would probably be it,” he told Make:.
The Week in Wearables
Top Body Tech Tools
Kate Hartman (@katehartman) and Boris Kourtoukov (@boriskourt), of OCAD University’s Social Body Lab, rounded up 12 indispensable tools they use to prototype wearable electronics projects. From their shortlist:
- Sparkfun’s LilyTiny board, which pairs with LED strings to create dynamic lighting patterns
- LightBlue Bean, an Arduino-compatible microcontroller with wireless functionality and an accelerometer that can be powered by a single coin cell battery
- The Muscle Sensor V3 Kit, also by Sparkfun, which uses electromyography to detect your body’s movements
- Spoonflower, an online service that creates custom printed fabrics — including $5 swatches
Wearables May Bring Online Dating Back to the Real World
Monica Porter , writing for Newsweek, reports that innovators in the online dating industry are intensely interested in harnessing wearable tech for future matchmaking services. Match.com has already launched an app for Android smartwatches, and design studio Lunar has developed a concept for a pendant that scans for nearby users with similar taste in music, movies, and other social metrics — and pulses to let you know they’re near.
Under The Skin: Wearables Meet DIY Body Mods
Most wearables stay outside the body, but some Makers are working on gadgets to wear inside your flesh — neodymium magnets, embedded in fingertrips to sense magnetic fields, or RFID chips to interact with electronics.
Bo Moore (@usebomswisely) rounds up three biohackers whose work goes even further afield: Neil Harbisson (@NeilHarbisson), who attached a camera to his head which translates the visible spectrum into sound and plays it to him via bone conduction; Tim Cannon (@GHWetware), who embedded a chargeable, smart-phone sized device in his forearm for a year, and is now working on a more advanced prototype; and Rich Lee, who implanted two magnets in the tragus of each ear so that he can listen to music through an electromagnetic coil.
3D Printing Frontiers
Make:’s Caleb Kraft (@calebkraft) details an Old West-style showdown between a scrappy $600 Printrbot Simple Metal and a $22,000 Stratasys Uprint SE+ in a filament-slinging contest to print a coffee cup. Both produced quality cups, but the one made with the Printrbot cost far less to print.
3D Printed Cars Come Around the Bend
PC Magazine’s Angela Moscaritolo (@amoscaritolo) reports on two teams of students at Singapore’s Nanyang Technical University who have developed a pair of 3D-printed concept cars: an “urban solar electric car” and a sleek 3-wheeled racer. The teams, sponsored by Stratasys and Creatz3D, will race their creations later this month in the Philippines, at the Shell Ecomarathon Asian.
For another 3D printed car, check out Make:’s cover story on Local Motors’ Strati.
Inspiring Mentors Make Young Inventors
Make: founder Dale Dougherty (@dalepd) profiles Maker Tenaya Hurst (@LininoWoman), with an eye toward the importance of mentorship. “I wanted to help people realize that after they do a few experiments, they begin to figure out what they want to do,” Hurst said.
Robot Clown: Your Nightmares Will Never be the Same
Do your kids love balloon animals but freeze in speechless terror at the sight of a clown? The Highly Dexterous Manipulation System, from robotics outfit RE2, might be just what you need. The prototype, which is controlled remotely by a human operator and designed for military and rescue operations, demonstrated its eponymous dexterity by crafting some nifty balloon art.
In Science Crowdfunding, Communication Trumps “Sexiness”
Researchers at the University of Santa Barbara studied which factors help science-based crowdfunding campaigns succeed, and found that communication and enthusiasm are more essential than a project’s “sexiness.”
The key is for project founders to build an initial audience, and then consistently engage with participants to keep their attention. Then, they need to use social media to share their passion with potential investors. Most important: they should explain why a project is relevant, in accessible terms.
Sustainable 3D Printing Filament
A crowdfunded filament by Dimension Polymers (@3Dpolymers) aims to tackle one of 3D printing’s biggest problems: the use of virgin, non-biodegradable plastic that releases toxins from petroleum-based production. The goal? To produce an engineering-grade filament made primarily out of recyclable plastic.
At press time, the campaign was about a quarter of the way to its goal of $20,000. Pledge $300 or more and you’ll get one of the first cases of Dimension’s spools.
Maker Pro Tool of the Week
EZ-Robot Developer’s Kit
This unassuming collection of parts comprises a powerful system with the potential to bring your robotic dreams to life! This newly revised Developer’s/DIY Kit has hundreds of features including object and face recognition and tracking, voice control, advanced collision detection, and much, much more.
The kit includes the EZ-B v4 Wi-Fi robot controller, EZ-Robot camera, servos (standard and continuous), battery holder, ultrasonic sensor, camera, and other various bits to allow you to build your own robot from the ground up.
Once your robot is assembled, just drag-and-drop behaviors using the included software and adjust them for your robot, or write your own scripts if you’re into that kind of thing. There’s even a 3D Robot Designer with 3D Printing support built right in!
Detailed tutorials are available to make sure you get the most from your EZ-Robot Developer’s kit.
Buy it in the Maker Shed for just $229.99.
Upcoming Maker Faires
Maker Faires ramping up!
- Kalispell Mini Maker Faire (MT): February 28, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- Cairo Mini Maker Faire (Egypt): March 7, 2015 – Premiere!
- New Orleans Mini Maker Faire (LA): March 7, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- NoVa Mini Maker Faire (VA): March 15th, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- Jalisco Mini Maker Faire (Mexico): March 27-29, 2015 – Premiere!
- Benicia Mini Maker Faire (CA): March 28, 2015 – Premiere!
- Kent State Mini Maker Faire (OH): April 10, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire (France): April 11, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- Fresno Mini Maker Faire (CA): April 11, 2015 – 3rd annual!
- Greater Newark Mini Maker Faire (NJ): April 11, 2015 – 2nd annual!
What’s ahead further down the road? Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest Faire to you.
Hat tips to this week’s contributors: Jon Christian, Dan Raile, and Jennifer Nowicki.