Yesterday I spent a very tiring but entertaining day back in my home from home, Newcastle. The reason being to attend the 2nd UK Maker Faire organised by Make Magazine. My legs have just about recovered from all the standing up and walking I did so I thought I’d do a post about some of the more interesting things I saw.
Around Newcastle for the past few days knitting has been appearing attached to railings and signs, this was organised as part of the Newcastle Science week and really does look pretty cool, I especially liked this example above outside the Discovery Museum and the one below in the Centre for Life. This seems to be part of a larger movement, known as Guerilla Knitting which aims to bring a smile to peoples faces by placing art in somewhere unusual (from here – the most sensible explanation I can find).
Sugru has rapidly become a bit of a cult material recently and having been publicised by mentions in Make and Wired is now very difficult to get hold of. It seemed to be just as popular in the flesh as online and the stall always seemed busy throughout the day. Sugru is an unusual material, much like a grown up version of play dough which hardens into a grippy silicone rubber when left to set. It’s also self adhesive so it can be used to fix and modify items as far as your imagination allows. I had the chance to meet two of the people behind it – Jane (it’s creator) and James(? if that’s wrong I’m sorry I really should remember after specifically asking!) :
The Rubot II is a robot which can solve rubick’s cubes in a maximum of 50s. It was probably the most impressive example of robotics on show and I found it particularly interesting having worked on computer vision systems for my MSc. thesis. Having said all that I felt it a little lacking compared to many other stalls as it’s a bit of a one trick pony and I think I like things with more of a reason for being.
.: oomlout :.
Oomlout is a name I’ve mentioned several times on this blog and is my preferred retailer of arduino type things, they had all the usual things on show but what particularly caught my attention were some juicy looking robot kits not yet for sale:
Another thing they had was the twypewriter which uses and arduino to receive and then printout tweets, however along with many other network connected devices on show, it was having troubles with the wifi network! This the whole stall captured in this rather unflattering shot:
My delight for free stuff was also indulged and I got a free keyring, something I’ve wanted since I saw photos of them at the 2009 Maker Faire.
Well known hardware hacker and creator of the TV-B-Gone Mitch Altman gave a couple of talks (which I managed to miss because I was distracted talking to other people) and could be seen hanging around the hardware hacking workshop area where people were also trying out these cool looking self hypnosis glasses:
I wasn’t aware that the bbc did cool stuff like this but they were exhibiting a number of ‘inventions’ from thier labs. Including a camera system which takes high resolution images with a very deep depth of field and then allows adjustment of the depth of field afterwards. A physical remote control with echoes of retro tv remotes where the controller was wired to the tv and allowed users to more easily take control of the tv (I’m really not sure of the point…). More interesting was a system designed to allow families to choose what to watch democratically, based on the game Guess Who, however here players would flip down all the tv shows they didn’t wish to watch and the system would generate a playlist of shows which were liked by all:
Yet another twitter and arduino powered device which simply blows bubbles when tweeted to/about:
Also on the same stall a system for monitoring the running of the Mersey Ferries using AIS positioning (which seems to take inspiration from Andy Stamford Clark’s twittering ferries):
Musical Tesla Coils
A common feature of maker and science faires across the world are singing tesla coils in this case designed by Karim Ladha. They were quite impressive, allowing music to be played from a keyboard or guitar which modulates the output of the coils and makes a very loud (and rapidly annoying noise):
A group of guys from Ipswich, probably best known for walking to the Faire via Amsterdam (athough those who were doing that currently hadn’t arrived when I spoke to them!). They had some cool map visualisations and also an experiment into how accurately people can draw a map of the UK from memory.
The mbed microcontroller board with an ARM chip looks very attractive to me. I had a nice explanation of it’s finer points from one of the guys there but I’m still slightly unhappy about relying on an online compiler for some hardware to function, in a similar way to me not having bought a PS3 due to its need to be online. We’ll wait and see, if I have some spare cash to splash I might get one soon.
I also met people from openenergymeter, sonodrome and hackable devices, all of which had some cool things on display. Hackable devices had some cool open source devices on show like the Neo Freerunner, makerbot and other bits and pieces sadly we couldn’t play with them. They also suffered after their stall collapsed half way through the morning.
All in all a very enjoyable day talking to some very nice people and learning lots. I also had chance to revisit some favourite Newcastle haunts including the Baltic and the Side gallery both of which had good exhibitions. I got an amazing bargain from the Oxfam bookshop: A new hardback copy of “The C++ Programming Language” for £3.99 rather than the usual £40-50. My legs now ache terribly from carrying it around all day in addition to my camera, lenses and laptop!