Alt.CES: Chris Walker at the show

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Alt.CES: Chris Walker at the show

Chris Walker, of Secret Labs/Netduino fame, was kind enough to agree to do some snooping around at CES for MAKE, too. Here’s some of what he found interesting. Thanks, Chris! — Gareth


Orbotix brought their Sphero robotic balls to CES 2011. Attendees were able to drive Spheros live using an iPhone app. Sphero uses the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile for communication, and Sphero has promised to publish an open API in the next few months. Spheros are not yet available, but the company expects to ship some to developers soon and have them available through retail channels later this year.


Two years ago, Marvell introduced their open source plug computer. At CES, they unveiled a new version with powerline-based networking instead of an Ethernet jack.

2009’s plug computer was used by maker Gary Briggs for his Mini Cooper location and performance logger. With this new version, perhaps some makers will build networks of powerline-connected projects within their homes.

More information, schematics, and reference Gerber files for the plug computer are available on


iRobot’s director of product management, Gerry Caron, posing with AVA

iRobot was on-hand with a concept robotics platform named AVA. Like the iRobot Create, AVA ( “AVAtar,” not EVE from WALL-E) is designed as a chassis on which makers can build bots. Telepresence is an obvious commercial application, but several makers reportedly expressed interest in building robots that could fetch drinks or perhaps open doors. AVA consist of a drivable base which provides basic stability, along with laser, sonar, and Kinect-style PrimeSense gesture recognition.

iRobot AVA is currently a concept. If built as a production device, it could be controlled by a custom iPad, Galaxy, or other tablet-powered application.

Bio: Chris Walker is the founder of Secret Labs LLC and inventor of the Netduino open source electronics platform. He lives in New York City.


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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn