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June 2013

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An Advertiser's Take on Maker Faire 2013

by Glen Emerson Morris
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This year's Maker Faire drew an estimated 130,000 people to San Mateo. It's no exaggeration to say Maker Faire has become the Woodstock of the Maker generation. In the long run, it's likely to have far greater political and social impact. With a solid funding mechanism in place through, and the Creative Commons licensing framework in place firmly enough to defend Maker innovations from big corporations, it's not surprising that the DIY crowd is beginning to come up with some serious open source technologies. Not surprisingly, some of the Maker technologies could be very useful to the advertising industry.

If there was one single thing this year's Maker Faire seemed to suggest it's that we're about to see the end of the static display. In the very near future, nearly every display will be animated somehow, even signs painted on walls. Fortunately for us, the technology needed for animated lighting is both affordable and easy to use. In fact some of our kids may be using this technology already to animate lighting in their rooms. Not surprising. This technology is really bubbling up from the bottom, and it's finally going mainstream.

One of the most promising of the new lighting technologies at Maker Faire was from a company named Light'n Wire Products. As the name implies, they make a wire that glows in one of several colors when powered. It can be bent to form a two dimensional shape, and by combining several different wires and sequencing powering them, like with an Arduino, low cost animated lighting displays can be created. Up close, they resemble neon lights, but on a much smaller scale. The wire is available in five thicknesses ranging from 1.2 mm to 5.0 mm.

At Maker Faire they had a demo sign with an animated palm tree blowing in the wind. Nothing elaborate, but it certainly attracted attention. Light'n Wire will sell you the wire for DIY projects and they offer a full design service and conduct workshops on a regular basis. They have a sequencer kit for sale that features five 4 foot lengths of different colored wire and a basic five channel sequencer for $87.00. They have an intermediate version that includes 16 feet of wire and a computer controllable sequencer for $250. For more info see

Roy the Robot was back, with new and improved shoulder mechanisms, but ultimately, nothing finished enough for mass production at this point. Stay tuned. What could be the world's first android robot commercial star may yet take to the stage. After all, Roy is now what many would call, “…the world's most interesting robot.”

Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi gave a talk on their progress to date and their plans for the year ahead for the now 19 and soon to be 20 different Arduino models. The planned Arduino is a cloud model that includes embedded Linux and wireless connectivity. The cloud model will have the most commercial potential of any Arduino to date. They've also released a new robot Arduino, complete with wheels, now exclusively available at The Maker Shed.

Probably the most important development this year was the announcement of an expanded partnership between Radio Shack and Make media. As their press release put it, “Maker Media and RadioShack will be teaming up to collaborate on an expansive DIY product lineup, exclusively carried at RadioShack and Maker Shed, including kits, robotics and tools.” This means many of the advanced Arduino & robotic kits available from the Maker Shed Website will now be available at your local Radio Shack.

Other retail channels are opening up. This year was the first year that anyone there seemed to have a catalog besides Jameco. Three companies, Velleman, Vex and Midwest Technology Products definitely featured products of specific interest to advertisers.

Velleman is offering a full catalog of Arduino related components. They're European based and have the biggest best full color catalog available. You can download their DIY project catalog at and their full catalog at

One of the products Velleman carries is the K8062 USB Controlled DMX Interface. This includes a box that plugs into a USB socket and a program that allows you to program lights plugged into the box with the DMX protocol. DMX was developed in 1986 to control dimmers, lights and moving-head spots (like Pink Floyd used in the video Pulse). The Velleman system can control up to 512 different lights simultaneously, and should be adequate for most window displays.

The K8044 10-Channel Light Effect Generator offered control of ten 12 volt lights with 10 pre-programmed light patterns included. An intermediate approach was the K8006 Demotical Light System which uses its own protocol controlled by any of three computer interfaces.

Vex specializes in DIY robotics and offers a comprehensive robotics design system outlined in a 48 page full color catalog. They are a major player in the educational market and sponsor national high school level competitions. They're also associated with Autodesk giving their robotic design system compatibility with a highly integrated CAD system. For more information visit

Midwest Technology Products targets the educational market. Their 500+ page catalog carries 3D printers, 3D printing supplies and some robotic components, along with every tool and piece of equipment a high school workshop could ask for. Their Website is

Jameco was one of the first companies to offer Arduino products, and they remain one of the leading retailers for that platform. They currently have good selection of genuine Arduino related products (as opposed to the Chinese knockoffs available from eBay).

I'd suggest reading the Velleman Projects and Vex catalogs ASAP. Both catalogs offer products that could that be adapted to advertising. Some products, like the lighting controllers, are even specifically designed for advertising and showbiz applications.

Something truly remarkable is happening through the Maker movement. What started out as a project to make computing easy for creative types, has taken on a far greater dimension. We're returning to a society where individuals have the tools and resources to make all that they need to survive reasonably comfortably.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law.
He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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