Over the past couple of years, Intel has been making itself known in the Maker community, releasing products like the Edison single-board computer, and contests aimed at the DIY electronics market. During his keynote at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced a new TV show, America’s Greatest Makers, produced by Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, Survivor, The Apprentice). The show will air in the spring of 2016, but first, 20 Makers will be selected to compete for fame and a $1 million prize.
After last year’s successful “Make It Wearable” competition, you must have decided to go bigger. Why?
Actually, the idea for a TV show was spawned by my wife and daughters. One of their favorite shows to watch is Shark Tank. When I came home from last year’s competition, they said our wearables event was as interesting as Shark Tank. “Why don’t you see if you could take the competition to TV,” they suggested.
It started a yearlong effort for us. We wanted everybody to see how the whole making process works, how to build something that becomes a real product. This isn’t something to be afraid of. We hope to get people from all different backgrounds, all different levels of capability, and show that they are all able to come together and build a product.
What did you learn from last year’s competition?
We learned a lot on the product side. It was a bit more difficult than we wanted for people to build with Edison. We are targeting Curie [Intel’s new button-sized compute module with the Quark System-on-Chip, Bluetooth radio, and a six-axis sensor] for this competition, and we’re really making sure all the software is ready. This platform will be much more robust.
We’ve improved Edison quite a bit between when it first came out and now. We’ve tried to take all that learning and carry it forward into Curie.
Makers won’t know much about Curie before submitting their concepts.
I don’t think in six weeks anybody could build something for the competition. We’ve asked people to submit a concept in written form, along with a video. That concept could be mocked up in paper or cardboard or whatever. The whole idea is to describe what they want to build and bring to market. Then we’ll pick the 20 best.
This program looks to showcase innovation, and Makers as creators of innovation. How can we get more innovators to take advantage of the opportunities that technology is giving us?
Part of what we want to show is how the process works. This isn’t something to be afraid of. We hope to get people from all different backgrounds, all different levels of capability and show that they are all able to come together and build a product.
Are there things that you learned from Mark Burnett in talking over this project?
What I’ve learned is that putting out a TV show is not that much different than building a product. It’s going to be a mixture of linear TV and digital episodes that update how the team is progressing in between the broadcasts.
You yourself are a Maker. People who work with you tell me that you talk about more than electronics, that you enjoy woodworking and welding. But this isn’t just about your own interest. There’s got to be a good strategic fit for Intel.
Well, there is. We want Intel to be an invention hub, whether you’re building a server to power a big data application or the most low-end device with Curie. However, if we were to try to predict what people would do with new technology, we’d miss out on maybe half, or more, of the best ideas. So this kind of competition can help us see where things could go and what people want to have made. We can learn a lot. It pushes us into new areas and gets us into new partnerships.
For example, we originally built the RealSense camera so that you could step away from your PC and control the screen. Nobody who created RealSense thought we’d be using it on the top of drones to fly them autonomously through a forest. It wasn’t until a bunch of people were goofing off, and they started saying, “I’d sure like to be able to fly this drone in follow-me mode and not have to worry about all the trees while I mountain bike.” So it’s not until you create things and unleash them do you see what the possibilities are.
[Editor’s note: A version of this article was published in Make: Volume 47 which states that 32 Maker teams would compete. That number has been corrected above.]