Maker Pro News: Salad Robots, Fish Hackers, and More

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Maker Pro News: Salad Robots, Fish Hackers, and More

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“Software is eating the world, and the world is hardware.” – HAX’s “Hardware Trends 2017” report

Maker Pro Stories: The Google Chef and the Salad Robot

These are salad days for Chowbotics (@chowbotics), a Redwood City startup working on a compact, 3D-printer-shaped machine — appropriately dubbed “Sally” — that spits out on-demand salads from quality ingredients.

Make: contributor Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) profiled the venture this week, focusing on the role of Charlie Ayers, the former executive chef at Google’s headquarters. In the kitchens of the search giant, Ayers became intrigued by the intersections between food and technology, and now he sources ingredients and designs the pre-loaded salads that Sally dispenses. It’s an intriguing example of a maker pro leveraging deep artisanal knowledge to give a tech project farm-to-table gravitas.

(Nota bene: not everyone sees mobility between the service and tech employees at Silicon Valley tech ventures. A gloomy Guardian feature this week explored the yawning class divide between cafeteria and knowledge workers at Google competitor Facebook, and it’s worthy reading for anyone interested in the culture wars of big tech.)

HAX: The World is Hardware

That HAX (@hax_co) report we covered last month was released to the world at large this week, and it’s a strident read that goes beyond funding news and market analysis to make sweeping arguments about the future of connectivity and commerce as the world moves inexorably toward universal connectivity.

The report’s leading case study was the humble steam engine, which existed for many years — more than a millennium, counting ancient Greek efforts — before improvements in efficiency primed the tech to profoundly change the social and economic structure of civilization. Now, the authors argue, a “perfect storm” of factors from rapid prototyping to the cloud and crowdfunding is poised to deeply restructure the landscape again.

“Software is eating the world,” they wrote, “and the world is hardware.”

The Road to Maker Share

Speaking of product launches, Maker Share platform manager Clair Whitmer (@clairwhit) published a terrific history of the recently-launched community, from its ideological roots to its earliest site map and mockup to soliciting feedback at Maker Faire and finding its first cohort of users on the open web.

It’s a worthwhile read not only because it’s a cool project but also because it’s a peek into the startup mentality that often accompanies dynamic projects inside established companies as they work to find a footing. You can check out Maker Share here.

Security on the Internet of Fish

There’s something fishy about how hackers recently broke into an unnamed North American casino’s computer system and purloined data from its network — in fact, according to cybersecurity firm Darktrace (@Darktrace), the computer criminals gained access by exploiting the controls to a web-connected fishtank.

Connected devices are coming under increasing scrutiny. Earlier this month, the FBI warned parents about the risks of letting children play with internet-enabled toys.

There’s an important lesson here for hardware startups and sysadmins alike, according to Darktrace Cyber Intelligence Director Justin Fier (@nerdtux): with heavy financial incentives to steal political and corporate data, attackers are exploring new attack vectors — so users and manufacturers alike should be prepared to deal with that reality. Another risk: even if attacks remain rare, stories like this could cast a dark cloud over the IoT sector.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkraft) wrote this week about Lit Liao (@LitLiao), a Chinese maker who runs the makerspace Litchee Lab (@Litchee_Lab) in Shenzhen. Liao previously worked for Seeed Studio (@seeedstudio), and her reflections on the connections between that startup work and her new position are worthwhile reading for anyone interested in open source hardware.

Philadelphia accelerator NextFab (@NextFab_PHL) is seeking applications for its next RAPID Hardware Accelerator cohort. Each winner will receive a 12-week training program and a $25,000 investment.

In another great foodtech story this week, Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) visited Mediamatic (@mediamatic), a makerspace for food design in the Netherlands where members have explored projects ranging from a gastronomic collaboration with IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence to edible crockery made from fungi and legumes.

Consumer VR is struggling, but Maker Pro readers have probably noticed an uptick hardware startups trying to crack the technical and logistical hurdles that have mired Oculus and Sony. Case in point is VX Inc, a stealthy early-stage venture with the lofty goal of integrating augmented reality tech into a standard pair of glasses.

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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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