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Gartner’s Jim Tully recently projected that by 2018, nearly 50% of the Internet of Things solutions would be provided by startups which are less than three years old. By 2025, crowdfunding investment market is projected to reach $93 billion. (PBS, December 2013)
Is it because we consume mindlessly?
Is it because we consume too much?
Is it because we spend all day staring at screens?
10Photo: Fast Company
Is it because we’re out of touch with how the things
we consume are made?
Is it because we don’t feel like our day-to-day efforts
result in any tangible gains?
“There is something calming or reassuring or relaxing that
happens when you build something with your hands.
You’ve just made something bigger than yourself.
You’re not just being a consumer anymore.”
– Andrew Sliwinski, as quoted in the New York Times (2011)
But there’s more to the story.
Take the personal computer.
2400 BC, Abacus. Human is in control, and can
understand and manipulate every function.
1680, Napier’s Tables. We use math to take shortcuts
(logarithms) and build devices to execute that math, but we still
control the mechanics. The idea to put these mechanics inside
a box begins; we start to lose touch with what is actually
happening. Photo: Wikimedia
1680, Arithmometre. The box gets shinier, more permanent,
making it more difficult to peek ‘s actually happening inside is
much harder to see.
1964, Olivetti Programma 101. The box is plastic now, with
more output for less input. Compared to computers at that time,
however, it can still be controlled in a fairly detailed way by the
user. Still a DIY attitude.
18Photo: Getty / IndiaTimes.com
1976, Apple I. As enterprise computers get bigger, Steve
Wozniak presents Apple I at the Homebrew Computer Club.
The box is more tactile and the innards are exposed.
2015, iPhone 6. Inner workings are invisible. The user can
interact, but the actions are abstractions of what happens on the
inside. One survey reported that most people didn’t know their
iPhone battery could be replaced.
Our fear of technology often stems from not
understanding how it works.
Photo: Huffington Post
It’s not too late. Breaking things down is the best way to
understand their component parts.
Kits like littleBits allow anyone to learn, play, and make with
basic electronics and circuits. Started by Ayah Bdeir after
quitting her job in finance, littleBits intends to create good and
help everyone have a basic understanding of technology.
With littleBits, you can build this.
It’s also low cost. The Arduino Gemma, a powerful wearable
programming tool, is just $10.
This is Raspberry Pi, an inexpensive, simple computer.
Photo: Raspberry Pi
With Raspberry Pi, you can build something as sophisticated as
this tablet (bonus points for crafting a wood case too).
Photo: flickr (michaelcmaker)
And it’s not just for coding experts. Jewelbots reimagined the
classic charm bracelet as a cutting-edge wearable to inspire
young girls to experiment with code.
“Since the first Industrial Revolution, the power to make
things at scale has belonged to those who own the means
of production, which has meant big factories, big
companies, and the mass-market goods they were built
for. But the same was true for mass media in the 20th
century, and we’ve seen what the internet and its long tail
of content has done to that. Now imagine a long tail of
things: physical goods created with the web’s digital
innovation model. That’s the maker movement.”
– Chris Anderson, WIRED magazine (2013)
Shifting the means of production. The playing field has been
leveled. Gartner projects that by 2018, nearly 50% of Internet of
Things solutions will be provided by startups less than three
Creating the modern factory. Adafruit creates small, easy-to-
use electronics for makers. Its NYC headquarters is profitable
because it is able to iterate in house, develop new products
quickly in response to the market, attract high-quality talent, and
keep shipping costs low. Photo: Adafruit
Transforming healing. This is a customizable, 3D-printed
cast. 3D printing and additive manufacturing are not new, but
the tools are miniaturizing and becoming more accessible to the
Empowering new innovators. MakerNurse invented the IV
House after watching nurses continually hack together IV
guards out of cut-up plastic cups.
Democratizing research. CellScope is a university project that
turns an iPhone into a microscope monitor.
Making fashion more functional. 3D-printed textiles represent
a new medium—this 3D-printed fabric turns a jumpsuit into an
Enabling music everywhere. Conductive paint + an Arduino
can turn any surface into a piano.
Changing how we connect with brands. Adobe
commissioned a reimagined version of its logo. Each square is
connected to an artist’s software, so whatever color they are
playing with displays on the box.
Shaping policy. In 2014, President Obama issued a call to
action that “every company, every college, every community,
every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and
doers across the country.” Here, he checks out a robotic giraffe
at the first-ever White House Maker Faire in 2014. Photo: White House
Learn more & start making
+ General. Make: Magazine. Seminal publication for makers.
+ Makerspaces. Makerspaces.com. Makerspace resources
+ Policy. Nation of Makers. An effort from the White House to
support making across the nation.
+ Education. CTE Makeover Challenge. Models for high
school makerspaces, as demonstrated through a U.S.
Department of Education prize competition.
+ Industry. Maker Faire. Meet local makers and companies
that support making at a Maker Faire near you.