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“I think more and more people are learning that what they get for free is not actually free.”
Helm Founder Giri Sreenivas

The Joy of the Creative Process

There’s incredible pressure on hardware startups to work efficiently toward a marketable product and firm financial goals. But a delightful new account by a maker pro named Steve August (@SteveAugust) shows how taking the time to experiment and find something genuinely artisanal and magical about hardware can carve out a different path that’s rewarding in an entirely distinct way.

Writing for Predictable Designs (@JohnTeelEE), August describes how he took some time after he sold his startup in 2014 to hang around with makers and play with creative hardware tools. He become intrigued by what MIT (@MIT) lecturer David Rose (@davidrose) calls “enchanted objects” — everyday items that respond to signals from the internet in subtle ways.

After a series of experiments, August arrived at a concept he calls “The Market” — a fusion between art and technology that uses an ornate seesaw, with a bear on one end and a bull on the other, to show the trajectory of the stock market. He’s selling it under a new company he created called August & Wonder (@AugustAndWonder).

August’s entire journey is remarkable, and it touches on every phase of the maker pro process, from prototyping to marketing. Its central message: if you periodically allow yourself some real creative leeway, there’s a possibility that you’ll dream up a product that would never come about during a more utilitarian development process.

Maker Pro Email Security

Speaking of left-field hardware concepts, Helm (@HelmSecure) is bucking the spirit of the cloud with a consumer-oriented private email server. The project isn’t just an aesthetically pleasing product, according to CEO Giri Sreenivas(@giri_sreenivas) — it’s also a political statement about how big tech uses our data.

“I think more and more people are learning that what they get for free is not actually free,” Sreenivas told Ars Technica. “They’re learning that they give up their data, and companies like Google and companies like Facebook and others are figuring out anything and everything they can do under the sun to make money with that data and the corresponding online behaviors.”

Here’s What a Maker Pro Makes for Fun

At Dragon Innovation (@dragoninnovate), Scott Miller mostly focuses on helping other people turn their hardware concepts into sellable consumer products.

That doesn’t mean that Miller doesn’t enjoy making on his own. To wit, check out this beautifully engineered dispenser for candy he created for Halloween this year — whipped together with a Glowforge (@glowforge) laser cutter and an Adafruit (@adafruit) Feather M0. It’s a whimsical project, but Miller’s methodical work and documentation is a testament to the power of an orderly design process.

Adafruit Does Halloween

Speaking of Halloween and Adafruit, Make: contributor Gareth Branwyn(@garethb2 ) published a worthwhile story this week about how the breakout maker pro company leaned into the spooky autumn season by creating the HalloWing, a skull-shaped Feather microcontroller specially optimized to run Halloween projects.

It’s a worthwhile post with a roundup of incredible Halloween projects — but there’s also a worthy business takeaway about finding niches in a crowded market even as a company grows. It worked for Adafruit: Branwyn reports that it’s been having trouble keeping the item in stock.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

heartening dispatch from Brooklyn looks at how recycling startups are using ingenious technological hacks and maker skills to increase the efficiency of the city’s recycling system. Standouts: Earth Angel (@earthangelnyc) is helping film crews lessen their environmental impacts, and Rise Products(@RISEproductsco) is turning brewing waste into edible “super flour.”

Video doorbell maker Ring (@ring), recently acquired by Amazon, says its motion-sensing doorbell can reduce burglaries. But the MIT Tech Review took a closer look and wasn’t impressed with the evidence.

ICON (@ICON3DTech), which wants to use 3D printing to construct entire homes, picked up a modest $9 million in seed funding this week. The company’s goals are huge: it wants to fabricate entire houses in less than 24 hours, for a cost of around $10,000.

An amazing roundup by IEEE Spectrum features more than 200 robots, from educational and experimental, bio-inspired bots to drones and factory machines. Some, like the baby-faced CB2, are straight-up terrifying.