Maker Pro News: The Business Plan of Giant Fighting Robots, Makers in the Workforce, and More

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Maker Pro News: The Business Plan of Giant Fighting Robots, Makers in the Workforce, and More

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“Sometimes … adjustments to unexpected problems can yield a more interesting final product than what I’d planned!” –resin artist Will Atwood

Launching a Business Based on Giant Fighting Robots

Make: Executive Editor Mike Senese (@msenese) published a riveting profile this week of MegaBots (@MegaBotsInc), the East Bay startup that wants to launch a new form of high-octane entertainment centered on the spectacle of giant robot battles.

The story stands out not just for the technical details of MegaBots’ builds — its long-anticipated Mk. III is a marvel of engineering that cost a cool $2.5 million to develop — but for its insight into how the maker pros behind the company have woven business acumen together with mechanical wizardry to position the venture as a commercially viable entertainment.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. The company nabbed a small amount of angel funding, but its first Kickstarter campaign failed. The team persevered, and its second campaign successfully raised $550,000 to overhaul its prototype MegaBot for a theatrical battle with the mighty Japanese Kuratas, a similarly-sized mecha.

Now is a pivotal moment for MegaBots. Its Mk. III debuted at Maker Faire Bay Area earlier this year, where it flexed its power by beating up a Prius and staging an elaborate marriage proposal, but the battle with Kuratas — and the struggle to build an audience for giant robot shows — loom large on the horizon.

Avnet to Consolidate Maker Resources with AI

Electronics distributor Avnet (@Avnet), which operates maker standbys including Hackster (@Hacksterio) and MakerSource (@maker_source), showed us a preview this week of a tool it wants to use to connect its growing hardware ecosystem.

It’s called Ask Avnet, and it’s a sort of chatbot-meets-command-line that will show up on every Avnet web property. The idea is to connect existing user bases, according to Senior Vice President Kevin Yapp; a Hackster devotee might not know about the company’s deep catalog, but the company is hoping Ask Avnet will provide a conduit between existing resources. Judging by the live demo we saw, it looks like a promising tool.

“They didn’t want all the info available,” Yapp said, speaking of Avnet users as he showed us the tool. “They wanted the very most relevant material.”

Full disclosure: Avnet has sponsored Maker Media events in the past. You can sign up to become an Ask Avnet beta tester here.

Maker Pros in the Workplace

Matter Hackers (@MatterHackers) ran an engaging post this week about manufacturing professionals who are leveraging maker skills in the workplace by 3D printing the ubiquitous jigs and fixtures used to position and guide machinery in factories.

We want to see hear more about ways workers are bringing their maker skills and mindset to their jobs in all industries. Got any examples? Send us an email at

The Hazards of IoT in Healthcare

Online security firm ZingBox (@ZingBoxSecurity) released a gloomy survey this week. Querying IT decision-makers in the healthcare industry, the survey found that while 90 percent of healthcare networks include IoT devices, few departments are aware of the special security measures recommended to protect those devices from outside threats.

“The results of the survey were sobering,” said ZingBox co-founder May Wang.

Takeaway: When you’re designing a connected product, don’t assume all your users will be prepared to take additional steps to secure the hardware, even if they’re working in a life-or-death field.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Maker pro Will Atwood’s beautiful resin statues seem to suspend paint in dreamy, mid-air swatches of color and shape that at once evoke a cyberpunk future and old-fashioned artistic technique.

Photo courtesy of Will Atwood

Formlabs (@formlabs) released the third episode of its Digital Factory podcast, which features an interview with nTopology’s (@ntopologyinc) Spencer Wright (@pencerw) about his work generating specialized lattices to solve unique design problems.

Metal printing startup Desktop Metal (@DesktopMetal) has Silicon Valley power players eating out of its hand with a $115 million funding round with contributors including Alphabet, BMW, and GE. But remember that similar luminaries were drawn to the much-hyped Juicero (@juicero) — which just laid off 25 percent of its staff after a dispiriting year.

Speaking of funding, augmented reality startups seem to be in great demand lately. In addition to the rounds we reported last week, WaveOptics (@Wave_Optics) nabbed $16 million to develop its hologram technology while Reach Robotics (@ReachRobotics) brought home $7.5 million for its augmented reality robots.

And Make: contributor Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) interviewed Elaine Kung (@kung_elaine), an environmental engineer working on +farm (@PlusFarm), an open source vertical farming system she hopes will help individuals become amateur farmers and food hackers.

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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