Maker Pro News: Brain-computer Interfaces, the Importance of Intuition, and More

Computers & Mobile Internet of Things Technology
Maker Pro News: Brain-computer Interfaces, the Importance of Intuition, and More

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“Intuition is just a simulator in your brain.” – Clear Design Lab co-founder Andrew Edman

Makers For Malia

Maker Share (@makershare_) — Make:’s new community platformlaunched a fresh mission this week: to develop a way for Malia, an 11-year-old girl whose cerebral palsy makes it difficult for anyone outside her family to understand her when she speaks, to communicate with the wider world.

The project, which is featured on, is a key example of how makers of all abililties are encouraged by the movement’s collaborative and inclusive spirit to collaboratively solve problems both large and small. We’re excited to see what the scene invents for Malia.

“Not everybody knows how to solve the problems they encounter,” Make:founder Dale Dougherty (@dalepd)  wrote. “Yet more people are aware that it is possible that such a problem could be solved, even if they can’t figure it out by themselves.”

DARPA Challenges Maker Pros: Build a Brain-Computer Interface

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (@DARPA), which has been instrumental in developing such ubiquitous technologies as the internet, awarded six grants this week to an eclectic groups of maker pros who are working to build a functional brain-computer interface.

Is it the stuff of science fiction? Sure. But so were the GPS, stealth jets, and driverless cars before the agency invested resources in those technologies. IEEE Spectrum published interviews with several of the grant recipients, providing a peek into the type of unconventional, maker-inflected thinking it often takes to gain a foothold on a complex problem.

How Should IoT Connect

This week, noted IoT analyst Stacey Higginbotham (@gigastacey) scrutinized the endless tide of connected gadgets that each require their own dedicated cellular plans — and found the business model lacking from a consumer standpoint. Focusing on Tumi (@Tumitravel), a luggage tracker that requires a $50/year cellular connection, she builds to a broader critique of “security blanket” gadgets that, while providing interesting data, aren’t ultimately able to act on the data gathered.

“The sense of security you get from this connected product is somewhat illusory,” she wrote. “The ability to get a piece of data is not the final goal. Acting on it is often what matters.”

The Importance of Intuition

Last week, we visited the workshop where Franklin Robotics (@FranklinRobotic) is developing its promising Tertill gardening robot. This week, we got a chance to talk with Andrew Edman (@Andrew_Edman), the co-founder of Clear Design Lab (@ClearDesignLab) who designed the look and feel of Tertill as an outside consultant.

Edman, who has carved out a specialty by designing new categories of product, emphasized the importance of imagination and intuitive jumps in design.

“Intuition is just a simulator in your brain,” he said. “It’s a biological simulation that we can’t see the data for.”

Eye on Hardware Trends

A new analysis of data from HAX (@hax_co) points to shifts in the hardware ecosystem. In addition to the ongoing growth of China’s nimble, inexpensive manufacturing economy, consumer behavior around the smart home is confounding expectations: instead of buying whole suites of products, they’re buying single devices that do a specific thing.

An industry to watch, according to the report: projects that blur the distinction between medtech and existing categories in wearables and entertainment, like Nura (@nuraphone), a smart headphone that analyzes how a user’s ear responds to different frequencies and creates a custom listening experience based on that data.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

David Mallard (@dfmallard), the director of engineering at the accelerator Bolt (@BoltVC), argued this week that one of the most important tools for a successful hardware startup is being able to write effectively — for internal communication, effective documentation, and crafting a compelling story about why the world needs its product.

Two veterans of game maker Activision (@Activisionsnagged $7 million in venture capital this week to develop an intriguing suite of technologies around artificial intelligence, robotics, and sensors that they say will push the frontiers of gaming — though specific details are still scarce.

Make: contributor Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) profiled San Francisco’s Tinker Kitchen (@tinkerkitch), a makerspace that specifically courts amateur chefs and food maker pros. Fun fact: founder Dan Mills (@thunder) presented on the Make: Pro stage at Maker Faire Bay Area this past year.

Wearable forerunner Jawbone (@Jawbone) is being liquidated, but CEO Hosain Rahman (@hosain) has started a new company that will develop gadgets aimed at providing clinical health services.

It’s important to remember that not all sought-after hardware ventures are coastal. Denver’s (@joshdotai), a home automation system looking to compete with Alexa and Google Home, secured a respectable $8 million in private funding this week.

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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.

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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