Maker Pro Newsletter – 03/13/14

Maker Pro Newsletter – 03/13/14

“Materials are becoming media.”

From the editors of MAKE magazine, 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.

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In 2011, Team Blacksheep’s lead pilot Raphael Parker flew his drone over the campus of the University of Virginia. Today he faces the first-ever legal battle with the FAA regarding civilian drone flights because of it.

Team Blacksheep’s lead pilot Raphael Parker flew his drone over the campus of the University of Virginia and incurred the first-ever FAA fine for civilian drone flight. Last week, a federal court ruled in his favor.

* A U.S. federal court ruled in favor of civilian drone use. Lawyer (and MAKE contributor) Brendan Schulman (@dronelaws), who won the case, discussed this latest legal development with Mike Senese (@msenese) at SXSW.

* What do you get when you combine manufacturing and the Internet of Things? The ability to servitize products, and factories that can make themselves better. GE is a believer, with its new Brilliant Factory initiative.

Janus Friis, the Danish founder of disruptive startups like Skype and KaZaA, is getting into hardware with a wireless music player: the Aether Cone.


Aether’s new Cone.

Amazon is starting to add 3D-printed products and marketplaces.

Inventables has released a new software program, Easel, to make CNC’ing easier.

Google will release a wearable SDK for Android in the next few weeks.

* The Chinese government is planning to carpet bomb their cities with makerspaces, according to a University of California researcher.

* The indie game console Ouya is giving up its hardware ambitions.

* Analyst Michael Wolf (@nextmarketco) breaks down Apple’s long term “connected life” strategy into four zones: home, car, work, mobile/public.

* A third major flagship Maker Faire is coming… to London, in summer, 2015.

* Next week, while the editor of this newsletter is on a high-altitude vacation, we will have a special edition devoted entirely to the upcoming MakerCon event on May 13–14.

Submit a proposal to speak at MakerCon today!



Portrait of a Kickstarter Success: Pocket Drone

AirDroids Pocket Drone can carry an HD camera or any payload up to a 1/2 pound. Photo: AirDroids

AirDroids Pocket Drone can carry an HD camera or any payload up to a 1/2 pound. Photo: AirDroids

A few days ago, Pocket Drone’s Kickstarter campaign came to a close, exceeding its orgininal $35k goal, by, oh, about $900k.

How did they do it? MAKE has been following the project for a few months: Andrew Terranova talked to a member of the team, Timothy Reuter, back in January; Justin Leto caught up with another principal, TJ Johnson, just last week.

Among the takeaways: the team had a very specific goal — a compact drone just big enough to carry a high quality action camera. They also tapped drone user groups for knowledge and a local makerspace for tools. And then they went through 87 prototypes and 40 designs.

Watch for a new chapter as the team tackles their next big challenge: delivery dates early this summer.

AirDroids Pocket Drone is super compact. Photo: AirDroids

AirDroids Pocket Drone is super compact.
Photo: AirDroids

Maker Pro Update: Susan Taing


Then: the evolution of the bheard phone amplifier.

3D design firm bhold made a splashy debut at World Maker Faire New York last year with two talks by founder Susan Taing (@staing), and an exhibit in the 3D Printer Village.

That was the first time the startup displayed its product designs. Since then bhold has launched 4 new products and 2 new product updates.

Along the way Taing & co. have been figuring out how to go through the creative design process more efficiently and scale to involve more testers to get better usability feedback.

One approach that has worked: “wild ideas and shapes” brainstorm rounds have allowed the team to explore a wider range of options at different stages of development. The bheard phone amplifier, above, took 1.5 months to design from beginning to end, a month faster than the the time it took the team to produce its first product.


Now: the current version of bheard.

Since last fall’s World Maker Faire NY, Susan has spent a few weeks as the Shapeways Designer in Residence at the Museum of Arts and Design, where bhold’s products are currently being showcased. Earlier this year, bhold joined design incubator NYDesigns in Long Island City, a location backed by the State of New York and then-Mayor Bloomberg to be a new tech and innovation hub.

We asked Susan to share other lessons learned. Her response:

  • Engage customers and followers wherever possible. At bhold we involve a community of testers in our design process through our labs program, which lets us quickly iterate on product designs based on their feedback.
  • Rough is okay when testing. We can launch quickly because we don’t wait for something to be perfect before printing out the prototype, or sending to our labs testers. It’s a huge part of the fun we have as makers, to play with something in its early stages even if it doesn’t work well! Once the product has gone through this process, it’s a quick polish and on to final form.
  • As a startup, prioritizing may well be the number one most difficult thing to do. Saying no to what doesn’t make sense will free up time for what’s important. We’ve retired a number of products that didn’t pass the labs testing program when we saw that the timing wasn’t right.
  • Communicate often. Let your team, your friends, your supporters know what you’ve been up to and where you’re looking to go next, so that they can go there with you! You never know when someone will have a helpful suggestion.

The bhold team at their new headquarters at design incubator NYDesigns in Long Island City, Queens.

Fashion Pushes the Wearable Future


When the sun is shining, the solar panels come out on Pauline van Dongen’s Solar Wear coat, right. (The model’s mood, however, does not appear to improve.)

Intel has launched a Make It Wearable challenge, a year-long initiative to support the evolution of wearables. The program has two tiers and multiple award levels from $5k to $500k.

The Wearable Futures series in the London-based online design magazine Dezeen has some inspiration for entrants, including a video segment on designer Pauline van Dongen’s “wearable solar” fashion line which incorporates flexible solar panels. One hour in full sun, and van Dongen’s creations can generate enough energy to charge a typical smartphone by 50 percent.

Also featured in the Dezeen series: Francis Bitoni, founder of New York luxury fashion studio Francis Bitonti Studio, who told the magazine, “One of the things we’ve been noticing is that materials are becoming media. I’m not operating on materials, I’m operating on animations, I’m operating on video, I’m operating on pixels and polygons. [The design process] is a lot closer to creating a Hollywood film than it is making an aluminium cylinder,”

The Verge and Wired have also recently surveyed the nexus of fashion and wearables.

BodyHub, the tool “for recording, tracking, and analyzing 3D body shape,” will make sure everything fits.


Maker Pro Tweets of the Week

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Maker Faire Bay Area & MakerCon


The 9th annual Maker Faire Bay Area, our “home game” that started it all, is taking place May 17 and 18 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds.

And, hey, Maker Pros! MAKE is hosting its first MakerCon, May 13–14, the week of Maker Faire Bay Area. MakerCon will look at the impact of makers and making on education, the economy, and emerging markets. It offers makers of all stripes — from hobbyists to makers pros — a chance to discover new tools and technologies; available resources and services; and learn more about topical trends and new markets emerging from the maker movement.

If you are interested in submitting a presentation proposal, please visit MakerCon 2014.

MakerCon_Banner_500x125_v1 (1)


Mini Maker Faires

Here’s what’s coming in the next few months:

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

GPU Technology Conference

NVIDIA is hosting its annual developer event, the GPU Technology Conference, March 24-27 in San Jose. Developers from all over the world gather at GTC for tracks on Computer VisionMachine Learning and AIVirtual and Augmented Reality, and much more. MakerPro members can register today with GM20MKR for a special 20% discount.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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


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