Maker Pro News: Pebble and Battlebots Are Back, Launch Pad Starts Up

Maker News
Maker Pro News: Pebble and Battlebots Are Back, Launch Pad Starts Up

“There are many robots under development that are intelligent but can’t do anything” — Yaskawa Electric chairman Junji Tsuda

From the editors of Make:, the Maker Pro Newsletter is about the impact of Makers on business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends. Please send items to us at

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Pebble Comes Back to Kickstarter


In a pre-emptive strike against the yet-to-be-released Apple Watch, hardware startup Pebble Technology launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the new version of their popular smartwatch. The timepiece, which features a color e-paper display and built-in microphone, follows Pebble’s first crowdfunded watch, which has become the stuff of Kickstarter legend and inspired many DIY alternatives.

This week’s Pebble Time raised nearly $7 million from 32,500 backers in its first 12 hours.

Ledger Raises $100K

Bitcoin hardware wallet Ledger, which plugs into a USB port to give you access to your digital funds, raised more than $100,000 this week in a seed round led by French VC fund XAnge Private Equity. Though cryptocurrency writ large remains little more than a proof of concept, the race toward a secure, affordable hardware wallet could lower barriers for access to Bitcoin and other digital moneys, and help them gain a foothold in everyday transactions.

BattleBots To Return to TV


BattleBots will return to television this summer, this time on AMC—though the relaunch may be a response to the ongoing success of similar fighting-robot competitions inspired by BattleBots’ original run, including RoboGames, Bot Bash, and events at Maker Faires. Hollywood films Real Steel and Big Hero 6 have also helped cement fighting robots’ place in pop culture in recent years.

Launch Pad Hardware Startup Challenge at MakerCon


MakerCon announced a new startup competition for hardware companies called Launch Pad. The addition underscores the number of companies that have increasingly tapped MakerCon as a platform to announce new products, programs or initiatives, from startups to large technology leaders launching new products aimed at Makers. The Launch Pad submission criteria targets young companies less than three years old with late or closed-Beta products. Fifteen finalists will be selected to exhibit at MakerCon Bay Area on May 12th and 13th at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and pitch their product for a chance to win a cash prize.

Not quite ready with your product but have a great prototype? Enter the Pitch Your Prototype contest!


Robots vs. Jobs

Junji Tsuda, chairman and president of Japanese industrial robotics maker Yaskawa Electric, has a message for futurists who predict that robots will bring about the end of human labor: look at your hands. There are over 10,000 sensors in there, he says, and we’re a long way from developing any robotic hardware that can compete.

“There are many robots under development that are intelligent but can’t do anything,” Tsuda said. “They’re not going to develop on an exponential curve, like computers. It’s going to be linear, steady growth.”

Sensorial Bliss 

The Maker world is teeming with wearable sensors, but which ones are right for you? Check out this excerpt from the sensors chapter of Make: Wearable Electronics for a rundown.

Droning On

Made In America


Just eight years ago, Jordi Munoz was without a green card after immigrating from Tijuana to Southern California. Unable to work, the model plane enthusiast started building drones in his garage, posting his progress on the web. Now, Munoz is co-founder and president of 3D Robotics, the largest manufacturer of commercial drones in the United States, with over 300 employees, swiftly climbing revenues, and an enduring commitment to open source development.

“I come from a generation where we have Google PhDs, we can virtually figure out everything by just Googling around and doing some reading online,” Munoz told the BBC.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Meanwhile, the FAA’s proposed drone regulations—which would require a stringent line of sight for commercial units—have aroused a chorus of domestic dissatisfaction. Certain well-funded proponents are reportedly now considering packing up shop and relocating to the looser regulatory domain of Western Europe.

An Eyeful at the Eiffel

Elsewhere in Europe, unidentified drones were spotted this week hovering late at night around the Eiffel Tower and other sensitive sites in Paris, where they caused some alarm. Last month, mystery drones were spotted flying over French nuclear facilities and military sites. And in the snow-pummeled Boston area, drones were flying over schools and municipal buildings in the city of Somerville, which hired a drone startup to check flat roofs for dangerous snow levels.

3D Printing Frontiers

The MacGyver of Historical Dioramas


If you find yourself with a fused deposition 3D printer (from MakerBot, Printrbot, RepRap or similar) you might end up wishing you could print smaller objects. Instructables user Bruce Kinsey has documented a method to use those types of printers for injection molding, a process that renders greater detail at a smaller scale. To demonstrate, he produced a miniature Civil War cannon carriage.

3D Counterfeiters, the New Pornographers?

Illicit activity has often driven the adoption of new technologies. On Wired’s Innovation Insights blog, Joshua Greenbaum (@josheac) argues that 3D printing will be no different. Greenbaum writes that “when it comes to 3D printing, that unwholesome and downright illegal activity called counterfeiting is likely to become one of the major reasons why 3D printing will be a major growth industry in the coming years.”

Innovation in Singapore


Less than a year ago, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University announced the launch of its Additive Manufacturing Centre. Earlier this month, a team of students at the university printed a breakthrough solar concept car. Now, a startup founded by one of its graduate students has shown up in San Jose to unveil the Blacksmith Genesis, an ambitious all-in-one scanner and 3D printer.

The Week in Crowdfunding

A Better Tomorrow

As crowdfunding platforms continue to explode in popularity, Forbes recently identified three areas in which the industry is most likely to see growth.

  • Television is likely see growing participation in crowdfunding, according to the report, especially from viewers who want to become real-time investors in product marketing-oriented shows like Shark Tank.
  • Existing online communities, such as Reddit, may integrate crowdfunding into their systems as well, in an effort to increase in-house revenue and keep members engaged on the site.
  • Customizing brands by known manufacturers is also a possibility; two years ago, the Chrysler Group piloted a program in which users could customize a Dodge Dart design online, then use social media to raise the funds to buy the custom car.

Global Crowdfunding: The Middle East


According to another report, crowdfunding is making inroads in the Arab world, where regional crowdfunding sites, including front runner Aflamnah, are being used to fund films, entrepreneurship, and social projects.

Another service, Yomken, connects industrial projects to innovative thinkers—students, designers, and Arab diaspora.

Maker Pro Tool of the Week

The ELEV-8 Quadcopter


This quadcopter is just right for Maker Pros: challenging, but rewarding; large enough for outdoor flight with room for payload and attachments.

The kit includes: frame, mounting hardware, motors, speed controllers, propellers and the control board for flight stabilization (the only things you need to provide are the R/C radio equipment and battery).

Reminder: This kit is not for beginners, it takes a moderate amount of mechanical skill for building and flying. The ELEV-8 quadcopter kit requires an average of 8 hours to assemble; RC experience and a crash pack is highly recommended!

Buy it in the Maker Shed. Was $599.99; now $460.99!

Upcoming Maker Faires

Maker Faires ramping up!

What’s ahead further down the road? Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest Faire to you.

Hat tips to this week’s contributors: Dan Raile and Jennifer Nowicki.


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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian
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