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We are living in the age of the iPhone, yet the architecture and construction industries are still in the Walkman phase. – UNSense founder Ben van Berkel

The Joy of Whimsical Hardware

The maker pros at Lunavity are working on a backpack-mounted array of rotors, like the tiny props that keep drones aloft. The goal isn’t for the wearer to achieve flight, but to jump much higher and further — and perhaps execute more slam dunks — than they’d be able to without the extra lift.

Slate published a joyful paean to the gadget, which was on display last week at SXSW (@sxsw). Instead of aiming to solve a specific problem, like the endless parade of laundry-folding and vegetable-juicing hardware startups we see at SXSW and CES (@CES), Lunavity stands out because it’s simply trying to be awesome — or, in the words of company project manager Takumi Takahashi, it would make the world “a more interesting place.”

Slate quipped that Lunavity was “amazing and entirely silly,” which is a wonderful way to describe much of the spectrum of delightful startups, some lifesaving and others marvelously pointless, that you can find in incubators, hackerspaces and maker faires across the world.

Do whimsical startups have a role in the competitive world of hardware? Tell us your thoughts: [email protected].

Cyberpunk in the Age of Maker Pros

The 80s-inflected cyberpunk aesthetic dreamed up by William Gibson (@GreatDismal), Neal Stephenson (@nealstephenson), and Mamoru Oshii has been a major artistic force in shaping our technological present, from consumer drones to the rise of YouTube stars.

In a new storyMake: Photo Editor Hep Svadja (@makerhep) explains the cover and centerfold images in the magazine’s latest issue, both of which hearken back to Mondo 2000’s (@2000_mondo) much-loved “R. U. a Cyberpunk?” poster — and ruminates on how the genre has influenced her interest in on-the-go computing and the core maker pro notion that consumers should have deep access to the inner workings of their devices.

The FCC is Cracking Down on Unlicensed Spacetech

Back in December, the Federal Communications Commission denied permission for a small space tech startup called Swarm Technologies to launch four of its tiny satellites, which are just four inches long. But the company went ahead with the launch anyway — which, CNET reports, may be the first time a company has defied the FCC’s space communications guidelines.

It’s not yet clear what the repercussions of the spat will be in the spacetech industry, but the tiff is notable for its star power: Swarm Technologies is headed by Sara Spangelo (@sara_spangelo), who has previously worked for both NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and for Google’s spacecraft concept.

Food Maker Frontiers

Make: contributor Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) published a terrific roundup this week of emerging food tech pioneered by maker pros — from DIY aquaponics outfit Your Simple Garden (@ursimplegarden) to The Hive Co, a Hong Kong-based “makerspace for farmers” where participants can prototype and produce new types of farming equipment, to Montana-based edible insect startup Cricket Cowboys.

“Edible insects are one of the most promising sustainable food sources available today and they are set to become even more popular in the future,” said Kathy Rolin, the co-owner of Cricket Cowboys. “We rolled up our sleeves and worked towards this direction!”

Also in the agtech space, startup Reservoir, which is working on a wireless irrigation system for landscapers, pulled in a seed round this week

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

A new startup called UNSense (@UNSenseTech) wants to usher in the city of the future with a range of smart sensors for interiors, exteriors and city-wide data collection. “We are living in the age of the iPhone,” said founder Ben van Berkel, “yet the architecture and construction industries are still in the Walkman phase.”

A cautionary tale for the 3D printing crowd: a blogger posted a harrowing accountof a Anet A8 that caught fire, seemingly from an overheated hot end.

Blockchain tech is exciting, but it’s also often the domain of scammers and also-rans. Case in point: a cryptocurrency hardware wallet called Giza vanished this week, along with $2.4 million in funding.

Check out this profile of Landvaettr, a YouTuber who creates beautiful miniatures — racks of swords and shields, castles and towers — to use as props in tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons.