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“It eliminates the need for a doctor altogether.” – Teen hearing aid hacker Mukund Venkatakrishnan

Connectivity Bedevils IoT, but Maker Pros Could Solve It

The old is new again in a playful Wall Street Journal feature about how cable-cutting millennials are rediscovering that the humble TV antenna can pick up free broadcasts. Sometimes, it seems, a viable market niche is just a new twist on an old idea: the WSJ points to Carlos Villalobos, who sells artisanal bunny ears at swap meets, and Richard Schneider, a St. Louis founder who’s built a career on airwave tech at Antennas Direct (@Antennasdirect).

As we’ve pointed out before, connectivity still beguiles the IoT industry: mobile internet hardware is cheap, but pricey service plans are still a huge barrier to adoption. In an interview this week, Hologram (@Hologram_io) founder Ben Forgan (@bforgan) told us how he believes that highly granular pricing — his company offers data sales down to the individual kilobyte to customers in agriculture, petroleum, and more — will help the internet spill into the physical world. Most exciting? Forgan wants to explicitly court a community of maker pros around the platform.

“We’re really trying to lower the barriers to developing and prototyping these products, and also to actually rolling them out in the field,” he told us. “We see it as inevitable and beneficial that data costs will fall over time. We want to encourage that.”

Adafruit Highlights Women in Hardware

The maker pros at Adafruit (@adafruit) launched a new interview series this week about women maker pros. The series, which is supported by Microsoft, Autodesk, and Qualcomm, premiered with a discussion between Adafruit founder Limor Fried, Community Director Jessica Califano (@jesscalifano) and littleBits (@littleBits) CEO Ayah Bdeir (@ayahbdeir). Needless to say, we’re looking forward to seeing the rest of the series.

Speaking of documentaries, energy drink maker Red Bull debuted a YouTube series about makers in Baltimore, from underground performers to pro-social hackers working to help the homeless. Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkraft) has more on the project and its participants.

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Could Let Maker Pros Help

The Senate defied partisan gridlock in a 94-to-1 vote that would allow consumers to purchase hearing aids over the counter, without going through a specialist. Proponents say the law, which the president is expected to sign, could lower costs and improve access. It could be also be a boon for hackers working on their own accessibility tech.

Take the teenage Mukund Venkatakrishnan, who last year invented a hearing aid that tests a user’s hearing to compensate for his or her specific needs.

“It eliminates the need for a doctor altogether,” Venkatakrishnan told CNN.

The medtech field remains an exciting space for innovation — like the ongoing Maker Share (@TheMakerShare) challenge that’s looking for solutions to help 11-year old Malia, who has cerebral palsy, communicate with people outside her family — but there’s sometimes tension between freedom to experiment and worthwhile government oversight.

Chinese Engineers Reconnect with Maker Spirit

Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkraft) wrote this week about Airlab, a project by materials engineer Tommy Lin that aims to provide a community and resources for professional Chinese engineers who want to experiment with maker ideas outside the purview of work.

The project has already paid social and business dividends: its members developed a more environmentally-friendly technique for manufacturing LED circuit boards, a new method for painting cars that produces fewer pollutants, and more.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

SparkLabs (@sparklabs) launched its latest accelerator this week in Taipei, where managing partner Edgar Chiu will help ready Taiwanese hardware startups to go international.

What are investors looking for in a robotics startup? TechCrunch asked three prominent VCs, who said that above all they want to see ventures with creative business models — and that are run by complementary founding teams that can communicate their vision not just to potential investors but also to customers.

Make: Executive Editor Mike Senese (@msenese) profiled TekSpacy (@tekspacy), a women-only makerspace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. TekSpacy is funded by Saudi tech incubator Badir (@Badirprogram).

Sarah Al-Dosary, the TekSpacy founder

And for the hungry, two food stories this week: Make: contributor Goli Mohammadi (@snowgoli) highlighted the wide diversity of foodtech — including edible circuits — at Maker Faire Tokyo; and contributor Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) wrote about an experimental, autonomous soda-making robot.