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Maker Pro News: Makers at CES, the Pop-up Economy, and More

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“People want to be part of an adventure.” — Pop-Up Store Organizer Emily Isenberg

Kuri is a home robot companion from Mayfield Robotics.
Kuri is a home robot companion from Mayfield Robotics.

Startups Could Struggle at CES

The Consumer Electronics Show (@CES), which kicked off today in Las Vegas, is a complicated event for maker pros. Its main attractions tend to be ultra-established tech titans like LG and Sony — but, at the same time, experimental early stage ventures and their allies sometimes manage to carve out attention in the margins.

Take Under Armour (@UnderArmour) CEO Kevin Plank, who’ll be giving a keynote tomorrow. In a sense, Under Armour’s garment business is as staid as possible, but Plank has courted success by framing the company’s work as much around data as athletic wear. He also launched a combination makerspace, incubator, and whiskey distillery in his home turf of Baltimore last year — so we’ll be watching his CES appearance with interest.

Practically speaking, experts predict that while wearables are likely to be a deadzone at CES this year, robots could make a strong showing. Mayfield Robotics’ (@MayfieldRobot) button-eyed Kuri home robot might be a bright spot, as could the laundry-folding Foldimate (@FoldMate) and the educational, gumball-sized Ozobot (@OZOBOT).

Other spaces where maker-friendly companies could shine include smart homes, the Internet of Things, and the increasingly-contested automobile market. In that last category, no company is expected to bring as much drama as Faraday Future (@FaradayFuture), the Chinese-backed carmaker that plans to manufacture a line of high-performance electric vehicles at a plant in Nevada — though, in the face of ongoing financial woes, nobody knows for sure if it’ll manage to deliver its hotly-anticipated prototype at CES.

The Future of Consumer 3D Printing

With 2016 in the rearview mirror, Laura Griffiths (@Leanaura) took stock of the consumer-grade 3D printing industry this week. The dream of a printer in every home is fading fast, she writes, but a small segment of hobbyists are still driving the market for quality home printers.

Chief among those scrappy contenders is XYZprinting (@XYZprinting), which launched some eight new machines this past year across a broad price spectrum. Also fighting their way through these lean times, Griffiths argues, are Aleph Objects (@alephobjects), Formlabs (@formlabs) and MarkForged (@Markforged) — all of which, incidentally, will apparently be making appearances at CES.

Maker Pros Shine in Houston

If a blowout gadget show like CES sounds impersonal, local Maker Faires might be a more fulfilling destination for ambitious young startups. Writing for Make:, Mike Hinkle reported this week on the striking variety of entrepreneurs who gathered for Houston Mini Maker Faire — which, contrary to its “mini” branding, filled a bustling 120,000-square-foot exhibition floor.

The entire piece is worth a read, because the event organizers pulled together an impressive Rolodex of the city’s artisans and business leaders. In attendance was Cosine Additive (@cosineadditive) and Northworks Automation, both of which make industrial-scale 3D printers; MacroFab (@MacroFab), a cloud-based PCB manufacturer; drone racing startup Drone Park; pizza printer (seriously!) BeeHex (@BeeHex_3D); and many more.

Pop-up Stores Mature

For small businesses that want to dabble with brick-and-mortar retail, an increasingly popular option is the pop-up store. A Boston Globe profile of Emily Isenberg (@msemily), who’s carved out a career organizing pop-up shops that draw huge crowds to festive — and often lucrative — events that can last just a few hours.

In one peculiar experiment, Isenberg collaborated with an oyster supplier for a culinary pop-up in downtown Boston that drew tens of thousands of curious shoppers.

“People want to be part of an adventure,” Isenberg said.

(And a hot tip: check out Pop-Up City for more coverage of this nascent industry.)

senso

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web:

Vinaya Technologies (@VINAYAhouse), which raised nearly $300,000 on Indiegogo to fund a wearable that it said would help encourage mindfulness and fight stress, may be floundering. Business Insider reports that the company is restructuring into two separate entities — and that it’s unclear whether it will honor promises made to its backers.

Hardware startup Senso (@sensovr) is working on a glove that tracks the motion of each of its wearer’s fingers for use in virtual reality development — though, of course, Leap Motion (@LeapMotion) has already accomplished something similar without the glove.

The Shenzhen-based Dewang wowed 3Dprint.com with its fourth-generation 3D printing pen, which retails for just $100.

Speaking of imaginative fabrication techniques, check out Matt Stultz’s (@MattStultz) roundup of the holiday ornament contest submissions Make: saw this year, which were made with everything from laser cutters and CNC routers to embroidery machines and plain old 3D printers.

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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian