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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.)


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.